TOM PARKER BOWLES lives the Thai life in West London

The West London Thai restaurant that can match Bangkok’s finest for £25 a head is revealed by TOM PARKER BOWLES


Tom lives the Thai life at a little West London restaurant to match Bangkok’s finest

Phet mak mak. Three words to use with immense caution. Unless, that is, you’re after thrills of a decidedly incendiary hue. Because this seemingly innocuous Thai phrase, meaning ‘very, very spicy’, can get one involved in a whole world of pain. 

Just a few weeks back, I returned to my Bangkok hotel, perhaps a touch merry, and ordered a som tum salad from room service. ‘Not farang hot,’ I chirped. ‘Phet mak mak.’ 

Had I been a little more on the ball, perhaps I would have heard the chef’s delighted cackle from 30 floors down.

It arrived, and was shovelled down in about three bites. Next thing I knew I was on the floor, curled in a ball, moaning softly. 

Goong gata: sizzling freshwater prawns with garlic, chilli and onion. What makes Fitou’s stand out is not only the quality of the ingredients but the fact that they make all their pastes fresh

My lips were engorged, my tongue reduced to a throbbing mass of gristle, the pain so intense that even thinking hurt. But my god it was good.

And so to Fitou’s, a small, family-run Thai place on the edge of Little Wormwood Scrubs. You bring your own booze, at no extra cost, and gaze out over dog walkers, hikers and an armada of prams.

If the menu seems standard, the cooking is anything but.

We order, asking for extra prik nam pla (fish sauce with fresh chillies). Everything ‘phet mak mak’ too, please. 

Tom yum is crisp and fresh, zinging with joyously sprightly acidity – and chillies, lots of them, enough to bring beads of sweat to the brow. My only complaint is the lack of dried shrimp.

Larb gai (minced chicken salad) is as invigorating as you’ll find anywhere, the heat, which builds slowly, like a relentless flow of lava, coming from both frazzled dried chilli and a generous dose of fresh, too. 

There’s crunch from the roasted rice powder, and sweet verdancy from the herbs. Sticky rice helps quell some of the fire.

What makes Fitou’s stand out, though, is not only the quality of the ingredients (goong gata – grilled freshwater prawns – are magnificent), but the fact that they make their pastes fresh. It’s the all-important understanding of balance – sweet, sour, salty and hot.

And it’s not just about heat. Ped tekrai – roasted duck, stir-fried with lemongrass and onion – is rich, mellow and softly sweet. 

With plenty more dishes for those less in thrall to the pungent pod, in short Fitou’s is a blessed escape from the drab, deep-fried, sickly sweet norm: a pulse-quickening taste of true Thai delight.

About £25 per head. Fitou’s, 1-3 Dalgarno Gardens, London W10;

DRINKS: Charlotte’s afternoon tea tipples

The best Pinot Gris Alsace 2021 (12.5%), £11, Morrisons

Egg and cress finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, fruity mini pastries… 

But which wines best match this classic British ritual? I vote for fizz and less dry styles to complement all those sweet and savoury treats.

The best Pinot Gris Alsace 2021 (12.5%), £11, Morrisons. 

 Here’s a Pinot Grigio all dressed up and fancy. The style is different, slightly sweet, from Alsace in France, with peach, pepper and plenty of poise.

Famille Bougrier Rosé d’Anjou 2022 (11%), £8.25, 

Try this off-dry French rosé with a sprinkle of sweetness on the finish. It’s delightful with jam- infused pastries.

Famille Bougrier Rosé d’Anjou 2022 (11%), £8.25,

Real Drinks Peony Blush Sparkling Tea (0%), £13, 

The nostalgic aromas of fresh berry fruits in this remind me of childhood summers. It’s a sophisticated alcohol-free option that hits the spot.

From left: Real Drinks Peony Blush Sparkling Tea (0%), £13, and Maison du Vin Crémant NV (11%), £11.75, Co-op

Maison du Vin Crémant NV (11%), £11.75, Co-op. Fresh and playful, this quality bubbly from the Loire Valley, made in the same way as Champagne, is creamy and citrussy, with a mineral finish.

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