Back in the dark days of the early-’90s, the restaurant at this address – Sri Siam City – blew a breath of fresh air into a dull local dining scene. It offered quality Thai cuisine at good-value prices, and in a handy location too. Ultimately, it formed part of a successful group, Oriental Restaurants.
In recent times, however, standards at Oriental Restaurants – whose other Square Mile locations include Imperial City and Pacific Oriental – had drifted, and, earlier this year, it was gobbled up by Orchid Group. At the same time, Orchid – which is backed by US venture capital – acquired the lacklustre Jim Thompson outfits and the undistinguished Yellow River Cafés.
Orchid has quickly set about re-launching the entire Oriental portfolio. Sri Siam City is first to ‘benefit’. It now has a new name, new (not especially inspired) contemporary décor and a new menu style. The chef from the old régime remains, but the menu is now characterised as ‘Pan Asian’.
A sample meal, reflecting the somewhat miscellaneous style of the cuisine, was: Japanese Sushi, Thai soup and Mongolian lamb, finishing up with a chocolate tart with ice cream (from the French bit of Asia, presumably). For nearly £50 (including crackers, rice, a glass of wine and a coffee) you might think that sounds like a bit of a muddle, and – though the individual dishes were good enough – that’s rather how it tasted.
The original Sri Siam concept – of doing one cuisine well, and at reasonable prices – was really not such a bad one. Let’s hope that, for future re-launches, the Orchid Group bears in mind that to be all things to all men is a rare knack. And not one it’s yet shown that it has mastered.