What mysterious alchemy happens at the former tramway junction of Malden and Prince Of Wales Roads?
If you head south to Ferdinand Street, within seconds you’re outside characterful dive bar Spiritual Caipirinha in the bump of Camden Town; go east and you’re at verdant Talacre Gardens; west is just a hop to the grandeur of the Zabludowicz Collection; and yet north, once a footpath to Gospel Oak, and what should be now a majestic rise towards Hampstead, is the rather dispiriting thoroughfare that is Malden Road, self-proclaimed ‘legendary’ live venue Fiddler’s Elbow on its corner.
So we were surprised to see Thai restaurant Spice & Rice open on its lower slopes. The decor is a bit half-finished (and no, not in a Russell Norman way), with exposed dark wood tables and cheaper ones covered in tablecloths. It’s too bright. And vast windows overlook the towerblocks opposite, rather exposing the diner to the sometimes high-spirited comings and goings beyond the thin pane of glass.
And yet. The food is pretty good. We expected nothing and, on a rainy Tuesday, were rewarded with fresh, vibrant cooking. And it’s far from pretentious (although they do a tasting menu at a steepish £22.95 per person).
A chicken stir fry with roasted cashew nuts balanced the crunch of the vegetables with the heat of dried chilli and a rich soy sauce. But the Thai green curry, often a sorry excuse for pub food or watery cliche, impressed us more: cooked with aubergine, peppers and sweet basil, it was aromatic, creamy, with a pleasant kick and decent hunks of chicken.
The young waiter explained how he and his family had just moved here and were living in Soho, commuting to the restaurant every day. Everything is prepared from scratch, and they use local ingredients where possible. He suggested we return to try some seafood, their speciality. This may be one to watch; a low-key experience for a pleasant midweek treat. We hope it works out for them. But dim that lighting and get some candles out, quick.
Words & Pictures: Stephen Emms