Mike enjoys the food but resists the dance at Kra Pow London’s rooftop tasting.
I meet Dav (short for David, he’s French) outside a handsome brick four storey Shoreditch building. As we ascend to the top we agree a rooftop event is an appealing prospect as it’s always good to get above city street level.
The weather is also an essential ingredient for Al Fresco food but this is April in England so, although the weather is pleasant and sunny now, weather-wise, nothing is off the menu.
Gaggles of people drink, eat and hubbub on the roof. A large griddle sizzles with rows of chicken thighs and little veneer baskets await them. We are here to celebrate a new collaboration between Eat First, an online food delivery outfit and Kra Pow, who bring Northern Thailand street food to hungry Londoners.
Thai garden Punch is flowing, a mix of gin, orgeat syrup (almond and rose water), black walnut bitters, lemon juice and soda water with a dusted rim of cayenne pepper. All of the ingredients are doing their job as it’s super tasty. I notice, but ignore, dark clouds gathering over the distant city skyline.
Platter-wielding waiters move amongst us and we quickly realise that to remain standing, drinking cocktails, holding food and eating it with chopsticks would require circus training, so as we claim the first morsels we shuffle ourselves onto a nearby table laid out with banana leaves.
First up is Gai Yang; barbequed chicken thighs marinated overnight in coriander root, lemongrass and garlic. The meat is more succulent than I’ve ever managed to get my thighs at home and the sticky rice looks brown, so that’s five minutes added to both our lives.
Dav particularly likes the side salad with it’s fresh intense acidic sharpness. It cuts through almost as well as he does, diving back into the throng after noticing we have both inhaled our cocktails.
He reappears with a pair of Singha Beers as the waiters slide more dishes our way, a prawny looking pink mince on lettuce leaves turns out to be chicken served cold with fresh mint, herbs, shallots, toasted rice powder, dried chilli, lime juice and fish sauce.
This Laab Gai dish has some welcome spice after the chicken’s gentle start and more herb salad of coriander, cucumber and fresh mint tossed with lime and chili sauce is deliciously fresh and fragrant.
Dav is acting as my photographer for the night and he suddenly climbs up on top of the table to get some overhead event shots. It’s fine I think, he’s just getting into his role, but then he begins to dance. I try to stay calm and be more French, but I actually remain British and remind him that’podium dancer’ is in no way part of his job description.
We keep seeing a dish with a little egg on top fly past and as it’s the only thing we haven’t had, I go to hunt it down. I meet Ben, the head chef from EatFirst as he orchestrates his griddle staff.
He tells me it’s Kra Pow the signature namesake dish and reassures me that more is coming. He helpfully takes note of where we are sat to bring it over (and thankfully Dav is now sat down).
Within minutes Ben appears with the final dish saying Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mr KraPow!Ã¢â‚¬Â I don’t know whether he means me or is announcing himself, but I’ve only been addressed with the first four letters of that before. We tuck in. This is the best food yet, delightfully spicy northern Thai pork mince with basil, chillies, ginger, onion and garlic, served on more life prolonging brown jasmine rice and finished with that perfectly poached oozy egg.
As the sun hides behind the clouds we decide it’s time to mingle and track down Paul from Kra Pow. He developed a taste, while travelling, for the fiery street food of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, with it’s Laos and Burmese influenced cuisine. This collaboration is partly aimed at the office lunch market and it’s easy to see how it would make a large step change up from a dreary bap.
Paul works in finance, something of a clichÃƒÂ© among those who can afford to start a business. However, alongside partner Ritchie he has earned his credibility with regular 4am ingredient runs and hard work at several London weekend markets.
In fact, Kra Pow got too popular so they scaled back to now only appear at Druid St market in Bermondsey while they concentrate on scaling up through this collaboration.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mr KraPow!Ã¢â‚¬Â Ben’s back and tells us how his team of thirty chefs churn out up to seven thousand meals per day with Kra Pow’s offering alone using 9 kilos of ginger and 10 kilos of basil (equalling the cost of the pork it flavours). He is an Aussie so he knows good Asian food and conversely recognises that the Thai food over here is Ã¢â‚¬Å“not authentic, expensive and f**king s**tÃ¢â‚¬Â.
We’ve certainly had authentic tonight but nothing like Thailand’s heat and humidity here in London’s concrete jungle. A chill wind picks up so after a thoroughly enjoyable evening myself and Dav must abandon our new friends as spots of rain are finally felt. We head for any of Shoreditch’s cosy bars (without a dance floor).
Paul’s dream is to give up the finance job and his current company know this. What’s more they actually support him on his food adventure. In fact, they encourage all of their senior staff to do something else as a creative release Ã¢â‚¬â€œ perhaps high finance bosses are not all total bankers after all.