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Here's Where You Should Eat In London This Week

Where will you find the most authentic Thai food experience in the capital? Why, in a basement karaoke bar in Paddington, of course...

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You're not going to find better Thai food in London than at the Heron.

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As hard as it may be to believe, this unassuming (OK, ugly) pub just off Edgware Road is host to one of the most exciting and authentic Thai restaurants outside of Bangkok.

First things first, head downstairs.

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Ignore the ground floor boozer with its Sky Sports, sticky carpets and faded posters of Hollywood stars. The real magic all happens downstairs, in a dimly lit basement bar staffed – and largely populated – by ex pat Thais.

How's your Thai?

Chris Pople / Via cheesenbiscuits.blogspot.co.uk

Don't worry – it's true that in the early days there was no English translation of the menu. On my first visit I took along a printout from a Thai-speaking blogger who had helpfully translated all menu items into English. But these days there is an English menu available and there's always been the incredibly friendly staff to assist.

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Even the snacks pack a punch.

Chris Pople / Via cheesenbiscuits.blogspot.co.uk

You'll rarely find pub nuts like these – toasted to a delicate brown, nestled amongst spring onions and shallots and studded with sharp chunks of kaffir lime, it's a colourful, playful dish to get things off to a zing. Watch out for the chilli – the Heron doesn't hold back on those.

Then onto the soup.

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Tom Yam is a Thai food staple, and there's every chance you've had a timid, watered-down version of it in your local High Street Thai restaurant or chain. But this is the real deal – spicy, richly flavoured and served in a gas-fired container ensuring not only that it stays hot to the last mouthful but also that the ingredients continue to cook and evolve during your meal.

Then let the games begin.

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Kai yeaw mar ka pow krob is the closest the Heron has to a signature dish. Century Eggs – eggs preserved in ash and salt so that the white turns solid and translucent orange and the yolk a dark, funky green – are perhaps best known as a Chinese speciality. But here, matched with minced pork, plenty of chilli and crunchy Thai basil they are most definitely of Thailand, complex and exciting.

Everything is special.

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The best Thai food has always been about freshness and colour, and yet in this country we've become used to soggy fishcakes and sickly sweet chilli sauces besmirching Thai cuisine's good name.

The Heron challenges our preconceptions with dishes such as this sea bass, poaching in a shallow bowl of garlic and coriander soup. The flavours intensify as the soup evaporates, and the chillies and chunks of garlic work their magic.

Try the laab – with caution!

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The Heron serves truly authentic Thai food, as you'd find in the North-Eastern region of Thailand in whose cuisine it specialises, but be warned – such authenticity applies to the levels of chilli heat too.

I'm no stranger to chilli but their laab ped (duck salad) had me reaching for a beer with tears in my eyes as the first morsel hit the back of my throat. Staff are willing to reduce the chilli levels, but where's the fun in that?

What's the damage?

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Perhaps we're too used to paying rock-bottom prices for Asian food in London, but the Heron isn't super-cheap. Still, £25 a head for what is unquestionably one of the city's most exciting restaurants is still a bargain in my book, and is a lot cheaper than a return to Bangkok – surely your only other way of eating truly authentic Thai any time soon.

So next time you're Paddington way and feeling peckish, don't forget to look under that shabby-looking pub on Norfolk Crescent. A little slice of Thailand in West London.

Looking for more recommendations? I've just released an app, Where To Eat In London 2016.

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