Features Leytonstone

Leytonstone Thai finally outgrowing hidden gem status

Zoe Dowsett speaks to Singburi’s head chef after the family business won multiple awards last year

Gio Nahm Moo Dang (crab wonton and barbecue pork noodle soup) (credit: Singburi)
Gio Nahm Moo Dang (crab wonton and barbecue pork noodle soup) (credit: Singburi)

“It was great to get recognition for what the restaurant does,” says Sirichai Kularbwong, head chef at Leytonstone Thai restaurant Singburi, which was named Time Out’s 2021 Restaurant of the Year. Along with this accolade, it was also named Eaters’ best takeaway, something only discovered when the restaurant received a trophy in the post. While Sirichai is “chuffed” by both honours, he admits the sudden wave of attention, more than twenty years after Singburi first opened, is unexpected.

The restaurant opened its doors in 1999, when Sirichai’s parents took a punt on a former fish and chip shop in the High Road. At least to start with, they hedged their bets – the business was a greasy spoon during the day and only served Thai food in the evening, eventually switching to an exclusively Thai menu as this side of the business proved popular. Sirichai has arguably been training to take over his entire life, having spent his childhood helping out in the kitchen, and even sees the restaurant as an extension of his home.

Singburi in High Road, Leytonstone (credit: Singburi)

“We live above the restaurant so I’m really used to the business,” he explains, “I see the dining area as an additional living room and I think this helps people to feel welcome when they come in.”

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This warm welcome is mentioned frequently in the business’ glowing Tripadvisor reviews and can largely be credited to Thelma, Sirichai’s mother, who still works front-of-house. Sirichai explains that the family’s aim has always been to create a restaurant that feels relaxed and embracing, holding up the Cheers tagline of “where everyone knows your name” as a benchmark for the vibe they wanted to create.

Customers can’t eat smiles, however, and it’s clear that Sirichai’s constant innovation and ever-changing menu is a big part of why people keep coming back. After learning classic Thai dishes growing up, he began to experiment with his own recipes. “When I’m creating new recipes they normally just pop into my head,” he says, “I cook as I go along and when I put a spin on something that works, it’s a happy discovery.”

Asked about his favourite dish, he instantly picks Kuaytiew Nua, a beef noodle soup that returns to the menu every so often. “It reminds me of home and when I go back to Thailand to visit family,” he says, “It is one of the first meals I’ll gravitate towards when I land in Bangkok.” Other popular dishes that pop up again and again include Moo Krob (crispy pork belly with chilli and basil), Goong Bai Cha Plu (a spicy southern prawn and betel leaf curry), stir-fried clams and whole crab fried with garlic and ginger.

After years of glowing reviews in the London food press, Singburi is finally outgrowing its hidden gem status and, though Sirichai tends to avoid reviews, news of the restaurant’s reputation with diners still reaches him through his friends. The recognition must be comforting, given the restaurant closed completely for months over winter, but Sirichai is hopeful they will be able to reopen in some capacity this month and already has ideas for his latest menu.

Visit Sinburi at 593 High Rd Leytonstone or follow them on Twitter @SingburiThaiCaf or Insta @singburi_E11

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