Three menu talking points from lunch at Speedboat Bar, Soho

In the first of our new series, we explore the menu at Luke Farrell’s new Bangkok Chinatown-inspired eatery, with beef, zaep and the number nine coming up trumps at Speedboat Bar
Speedboat Bar, Soho
Speedboat Bar, the latest venture from Luke Farrell, the chef behind Southern Thai eatery Plaza Khao Gaeng in JKS Restaurant’s Arcade Food Hall, opened to much fanfare at the end of September.

A minute’s walk from Soho’s Chinatown, down the happening Rupert Street; Speedboat Bar is pegged as a love letter to the bustling late-night canteens of Bangkok’s very own Chinatown, with aromatic curries, vibrant stir fries and drunken noodle dishes all part of the exciting launch menu.

We’ve had plenty of questions about Farrell’s new joint, namely which dishes we think hit the mark, what we make of the menu setup, and what we reckon the mysterious ‘zaep’ seasoning on their chicken skin snack is!

So, to kick off our new ‘Inside Menus’ article series, we paired our development chef hats with civilian clothing and went for lunch at Speedboat Bar, coming out with three points to share from what was an altogether memorable meal.

The Seven Layers of Zaep
Image: Egg Soldiers
So, firstly, the deep-fried chicken skins (£5). Served cold in a small bowl, with around 6-7 pieces per portion, the skins were completely coated in this zingy 'zaep' seasoning which, if you go for a quick Google search, continues to stump even the most capable of restaurant reviewer.

While the staff at Speedboat Bar weren't keen on releasing the full recipe, the bottom line is that zaep seasoning is effectively Speedboat Bar's own rendition of the classic Thai 7 spice blend, with what we think is dried citrus peel (either lemon or lime) providing the sour element that works in tandem with dried and ground chillies to deliver a zing that lasts long on the tongue.

Hats off to Duncan Carpenter, JKS Restaurant's brilliant development chef and 'wok slinger', with authentic Thai chicken skin snacks (or nang kai thot) traditionally sporting seasoning blends unique to the Bangkok street food vendor that prepares them.

Lucky £9 for the win
Image: Speedboat Bar
Having gone on a Monday around midday, we were able to attack Speedboat Bar’s ‘Lucky 9’ set lunch menu. Inspired by Thai culture’s appreciation for the number nine – deemed the luckiest of numbers – the menu is made up of four set options, each with three food components: a slimmed-down large plate portion, rice and a snack/side, all arriving on the one plate.

With a full-sized version of each main coming in at between £12 - £14 each, rice a standard £3, and the sweetcorn fritters (which appears on three of the four Lucky 9 meals) at £7.50; Speedboat’s set lunch menu really delivers on the perception of value for the consumer.

The idea of a bargain for lunch (or even dinner) can easily lead diners to a take a closer look at the drinks and dessert menus. It did for us, as we happily started our meals with two Thai iced coffees with coconut foam (£5 each) and polished things off with their already-famous 7/11 pineapple pie with taro ice cream (£8) to share.

That’s an exciting, engaging lunch for £18 each – top value for Soho.
Download our free white paper
Discover our UK Hospitality Food & Drink Trends To Watch 2023/24

Bring the beef
Image: Egg Soldiers
Two of the four Lucky 9 lunch options are beef-based. The first is a tongue and tendon curry. And the second comprising hand-chopped short rib and brisket mince with holy basil, pepper, fresh red chillies, garlic, soy and fish sauce (or for those in the know, pad grapao neua).

Yes, we got them both.

The curry (pictured) was the standout of the two. It's based on a dish traditionally made by Chinese communities down Yaowarat Road in the Samphanthawong district of Bangkok, said to be 'the main artery' of the Thai capital's Chinatown.

Speedboat simmers beef tongues and tendons in a herbal broth before braising (or indeed stewing) them as part of a rich, silky red coconut curry, with Chinese curry powder a key ingredient.

"The curry is normally made with pork tendon in Yaowarat, and while its origins are Chinese, the curry powder and its inclusion is more complicated," Luke told us later on Instagram, hinting at a specific Thailand restaurant that inspired him.

His dish was just delicious – the tongue super soft, and the tendons easy-eating chunks of flavourful jelly. It even came with an optional ajaad relish of cucumber, chilli and red shallot in a white vinegar to cut through the richness.
Trailblazer Takeaways:
  • Be bold with spice blends
    Mystery seasoning combinations (allergen-free, of course) are a good thing - just ask Colonel Sanders! Especially considering younger consumers seeking new, globally-inspired taste experiences.

  • Set menu wins
    With British diners forecasted to abandon à la carte norms in 2023, explore cost-effective set menu builds that deliver a rounded eating experience while delivering on the perception of value.
  • Waste not
    With the creative use of otherwise-wasted food all the rage, look again at offal, especially when crafting vibrant sauces and curries – it can be a game-changer.
Sign up for our
FREE food trends & insights newsletter!
Regular food trend intelligence from the experts, straight to your inbox

Meet our trend specialists and discover our unique 'Chef Nexus' & research methodology

Read our free deep-dives and sign up for our regular food trends newsletter

One F&B topic, one-page PDF format. Short, sharp food intelligence