"New location has a fantastically serene atmosphere and great views"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Blue Elephant’s London restaurant has a 25 year history, however earlier this year it upped sticks from its home in Fulham to relocate to the curiously new Imperial Wharf, Chelsea’s latest bolt-on.
We exit the station, disorientated and amid hoards of Scandinavians clutching trolleys – has the Crossrail been inaugurated here? Rows of identikit luxury apartments à la Canary Wharf seem to have sprang up out of nowhere, as if they could all be flat-packed and transported elsewhere once the Olympic Games are done with. It’s Friday lunchtime and eerily quiet as we stroll towards the river, so either they are still largely uninhabited or everyone is out at work.
The first thing we notice about Blue Elephant is the seductive scent of jasmine hanging in the air. Exotic looking plants have been freshly arranged; corners are filled with cabinets and columns made from dark wood which we expect to start creaking any minute, but sadly they don’t. Large French doors give away the sweeping views of the river (and of the adjacent helipad we’re fortunate enough to see in use during our meal – there must be some incredible soundproofing in place, as we don’t hear a thing). Someone has put a lot of effort into the décor here, and the result is that it doesn’t feel like London at all.
The menu is huge, divided into dishes from the past (complete with historical anecdotes), today and tomorrow. A selection of ‘Thai cuisine of today’ starters includes juicy prawns with minced chicken and crushed peanuts, wrapped in very crisp rice paper. A seafood salad with clear vermicelli is wonderfully zingy, by contrast the deep-fried fish cakes are a little on the stodgy side, and the sweet and sour sauce a bit too cloying.
Blue Elephant’s very own chef Nooror’s ‘Ma Auan’, dating back to the 19th century, is a tasty dish of breaded dumplings made from minced chicken and crab, flavoured with foie gras; the meaty flavour is subtle, the dipping sauce is intensely fiery.
The black cod, another dish from the past, flakes nicely when prodded, and pairs well with a syrupy tamarind sauce. Vegetable Pad Thai is hearty and filling thanks to strips of tofu, crushed peanuts, gingko nuts and crunchy vegetables stirred into the rice noodles.
For dessert we try the jasmine cake, a lightly flavoured, fluffy sponge with a dollop of whipped cream. The caramelised coconut flan is rich and coated with flaked almonds.
In-keeping with the surroundings there are summery cocktails like the pomelo martini, which arrives in a glass the size of my head, quantity aside, it’s a rather mighty combo of vodka, limoncello and Cointreau - oh and there’s grapefruit juice of course.
While food is good it may be a bit too fusion-ey for some, and there are certainly cheaper options (a meal for two is around £100), but the new venue boasts a fantastically serene atmosphere which hopefully won’t be disturbed if the river-facing terrace becomes a hit on sunny days.
Leila reviewed The Blue Elephant on Thu 24 May 2012