Last Updated on October 16, 2021
New fast casual Thai restaurant arrives in London
Pitaya, the Thai fusion fast casual restaurant group, launched in London last month. With locations in France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the first UK site is a landmark moment for Pitaya, allowing Londoners to experience an immersion into Thai street food culture.
We visited the 108 seater restaurant located on the Strand, a stone’s throw from Charing Cross station and an ideal location for pre and post theatre dining. As we walked in, the scent of Thai dishes sizzled as traditionally trained chefs combined fresh ingredients, noodles or rice and tossed their woks over open fire. This simulated the street dining atmosphere in Thailand albeit behind a glass partition for safety.
The menu at Pitaya features well balanced dishes adjusted for the British palate made with fresh locally sourced vegetables, fish and halal meat which arrive from wok to plate in minutes. Similar to other fast food set-ups, there is a till where you order everything at once and dishes are brought to your table when they are ready.
For starters, we ordered the garlic and pepper prawns and the Thai salad. The prawns had a good texture, not too tough, soft or watery, which is impressive for fast casual dining. The dish tasted flavourful but not overly peppered like some Asian street food dishes. Meanwhile, the Thai salad tasted of freshly prepared vegetables topped with marinated sliced beef. The Thai vinaigrette also had a lightness to it which complemented the herbs, onions and lemongrass in the salad.
To accompany our food, we also ordered the Arizona Green Tea Peach, Mogu Mogu Lychee and Mogu Mogu Mango. All the drinks come in plastic bottles ready to take away in case you are in a rush and haven’t finished them.
We got a selection of signature Pitaya dishes for our main course. One thing to note is that the main protein in all dishes can be substituted for your choice of either beef, chicken, prawns or tofu. There are also options to add extra protein, carbs, sauces, vegetables and toppings so you can make the dish to your liking.
The first main we tried was a yellow curry made with chicken, green curry with coconut milk, Thai white rice, wok-fried peppers, courgette, bamboo shoots and Thai chives. Suited to a more Western palate, this version of curry was quite light and holds back on the spice level. If you prefer a spicier version, you are welcome to add some extra chilli peppers as an extra topping. The chicken was very tender, sliced very thinly, and served straight out of the wok that steam was still coming out.
Next, we tried the bo bun Thai made with beef marinated in lemongrass stir-fried in a wok with cold rice vermicelli, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts and aromatic herbs and fried onions. Again, the flavour was quite light for an Asian dish but just enough to savour every bit. The beef and rice vermicelli were the right texture, which is not always easy to control in a fast-food setting. Pitaya cuts fresh chicken and beef in thin slices to achieve a fast cooking time without the risk of undercooking the meat.
Finally, we had to try Pitaya’s take on the classic Pad Thai with shrimp and flat rice noodles.
As someone who loves the authentic version of Pad Thai and tried to perfect a version of the dish as a lockdown project when restaurants were closed, Pitaya’s version did not taste like an authentic Pad Thai to me. Fish sauce was notably missing in the dish. However, my companion, who isn’t partial to the authentic version of Pad Thai, loved this version. As the dish had a generous portion size, there was some to take home. When I ate it back at home without any preconceived taste expectations, it tasted like a great Asian noodle dish, I just wouldn’t recognize it as Pad Thai. Essentially, if you are craving the taste of a traditional Pad Thai dish, this isn’t a way to fulfil that craving. However, I would happily recommend this if you want a milder version of the Pad Thai without the pungent and umami flavour from the fish sauce.
Finally, we ordered a dragonfruit sorbet, white chocolate matcha cookie and a few macarons for dessert. The Kalamansi, Thai Tea and Mango Sticky Rice flavoured macarons have a unique flavour that combines both Thai and French cuisines beautifully.
Pitaya also has a Little Pitaya Menu for kids which features a mini bowl, classic drink and dessert. If you are short of time for dinner before your next West End outing, definitely give Pitaya a try.
419-420 The Strand
Monday-Sunday: 11.00am to 11.00pm
Looking for an alternative? We also love Thai Square on the south side of Trafalgar Square