Menuwatch: Speedboat Bar, Soho, London

03 January 2023 by

In a pedal-to-the-metal Soho restaurant, Luke Farrell serves up Bangkok-esque flavours combining all of the chef's favourite dishes

As the name suggests, Speedboat is fast-paced, noisy and great fun. The new restaurant from Luke Farrell, partnering with JKS, is a full throttle experience, focusing firmly on the food served in Bangkok's Chinatown. Where Plaza Khao Gaeng in Arcade impressed in its authentic fiery southern Thai flavours, Speedboat is arguably even more focused, given Farrell's familiarity with the two streets that make up the Thai capital's culinary melting pot.

Each dish on the menu comes from a shophouse restaurant in the area occupied by Thai Chinese traders on the Yaowarat and Charoen Krung roads. "You can actually do a tour of Chinatown at the restaurant," Farrell explains. "It was very important to me to pay homage and try to do the best we could with those dishes. All those restaurants do only one dish, but we've compiled them to develop our menu. When I see these dishes on a menu in London it makes me very happy."

Tom Yum Mama
Tom Yum Mama

The 86-cover restaurant is designed to resemble a shophouse with stainless steel tables, tiled walls and mounted fans downstairs, while what would traditionally be the living quarters upstairs is more vibrant, with soft furnishings, Thai-themed pictures, a pool table and speedboats hanging from the ceiling.

"A complete curveball was the upstairs clubhouse for the speedboat racers," Farrell adds. "We like the comparison of the high-octane thrills as well as the tiller being much like the wok handle. I'm interested in speedboat racing and we had the boat made in Thailand and shipped over."

The menu itself is split into snacks, salads, stir-fries, specials and curries, with three or four options for each. Dishes are predominantly cooked using Chinese techniques – speedy wok stir-frying – but with Thai ingredients, such as galangal, green pepper and various herbs, many of which are grown at Farrell's Ryewater Nursery in Dorset, situated within his father's butterfly conservation area.

Jelly Bia
Jelly Bia

From the snacks, sweetcorn fritters (£7), clam and mussels with a dipping sauce (£11), and chicken skins with zaep seasoning (£5) are a great foil for the three-litre beer towers that are a feature of many tables.

"They go down pretty quickly and are an absolute winner," says Farrell. "It's also a good thing for the staff because they don't have to keep topping people up with beers all the time."

The most popular dish is the stir-fried minced beef with holy basil (£13.50), which is flash fried with pepper, chillies, fish sauce and oyster sauce. Those that have eaten Farrell's Khua Kling Muu dry fried pork at Plaza Khao Gaeng might be braced for raging heat, but here with the Chinese influence it is tempered and sweetened by the holy basil.

From the specials diners are drawn towards the Tom Yum Mama noodles with squid, pork and prawns (£25). Served to share at the table in a chafing dish, the fragrant soup is thickened with egg yolk and served over instant noodles, as they do in the restaurant the dish originated from, Jeh O Chula in Bangkok, where it is a late night speciality.

Pad Grapao Neua
Pad Grapao Neua

Curries include crispy pork and black pepper (£13) as well as an unctuous beef tongue and tendon dish (£14), softened in the pressure cooker and cooked with red curry paste from Thailand and curry powder. It is mild and rich and, though not the most photogenic dish, is served with a colourful ajaad relish on the side, which includes chilli, cucumber, onions and vinegar.

There is only one choice of dessert and it's a take on the pineapple pie (£8) that is served at molten temperatures from microwaves in 7-Elevens across the country. This is a more refined take, with a fried dough wrapped around apples cooked in rum, tamarind and palm sugar.

With a 13-strong brigade cooking a total of 21 dishes, led by head chef Christmas, Farrell says his main task is to keep the dishes firmly fixed on this small corner of Thai cookery. "Thais are incredibly hospitable and want to give people what they think is familiar,"

Farrell says. "So to do something different and take the risk is a hard thing to do. It quickly can change to a neighbourhood Thai restaurant if you're not serious about the ingredients and the correct Thai taste."

It's fair to say Farrell is absolutely serious.

From the menu


  • Pickled sour fruits with chilli salt £6
  • Prawn ceviche with seafood dressing£12


  • Pickled mustard greens and Chinese sausage £11
  • Cashew nut, pork crackling and dried fish £10

Stir fry

  • Noodles with chicken, lard and red roast pork sauce £14
  • Bottle gourd with chilli and Thai basil £12


  • Drunkard's seafood and beef noodles £21
  • Roasted poussin with soy bean, ginger and chilli sauce £20


  • Ash melon and eggplant £12

30 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DL

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