Test Driving Kolae - the Som Saa team have a winning follow-up in Borough Market

roomLooking into Kolae

What can you tell us about Kolae?

This is the new restaurant from Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver, the people behind the very successful Som Saa over in Spitalfields. This time they've come to Borough Market and while the focus on Thai cuisine remains, things have changed a little here, with a lot of new dishes like chicken skewers and more taking over the menu. 

Where is it?

As with all things Borough Market, London Bridge is the closest station. You'll find Kolae on Park Street, just around the corner from The Market Porter pub and close to Borough Yards. Look out for the building with the brick arch entrance and you'll find it. 

Where should we go for a drink first?

Kolae is billed as being a grill and bar, but to be honest we didn't see much evidence of the bar side of things, with all tables and the bar taken up for dining. So if you're looking for a drink before or after your meal, good options nearby include Bar Daskal (next to Barrafina and by the same people) or potentially a margarita at El Pastor. 

That said, you should definitely have a good look at the cocktail list at Kolae as you sit down - and there's a decent list of non-alcoholic options too. 

roomAt the front is the lemongrass and pandan rum milk punch (£11) alongside the non-alcoholic Bengali sherbet and livener fizz (£9) - both highly recommended

What's the layout - and where should we sit?

It's a much larger restaurant than the somewhat understated entrance might suggest. Taking over what used to be a cheese shop, Kolae is spread across three floors. As such, it has the feeling of a modern townhouse, something that reminded us of Akub restaurant in Notting Hill. Downstairs is where you'll find counter dining beside the open kitchen, as well as tables dotted around the room. The next two floors contain smaller dining rooms, with the top floor also acting as a potential private dining room. 

Our recommendation would be to aim for a seat on the ground floor - it seemed to have more of a lively vibe. If you're after a quieter evening, pick the first floor. 

roomDownstairs at Kolae, where all the action is. 

roomBut if you're after something a little quieter, the upstairs rooms all look lovely, with a stripped-back aesthetic. 

So what about the food?

Kolae's name derives from a style of cooking in the Southern provinces of Thailand, and indeed that's where the focus of the menu is. It primarily refers to meat covered in a coconut marinade and cooked over flames, and there are a couple of specific dishes where that comes into play:

roomFrom the snacks menu, the kolae grilled mussel skewers (£6) are a must.

roomAnd this is also something you can't leave without having, the Kolae chicken bamboo skewer (£6 each). It's huge, almost like a chicken Magnum lolly, in a very good way. Get one each, you won't want to share. 

As for the menu itself, that's simply split into Smaller (snacks), Larger (a mix of small plates and larger sharing dishes) and On the Side. On the heat/spiciness of things, it ranges from quite mild (the chicken skewers) to liberal use of chilles (the kale and herb fritters). 

We roamed around a fair bit of the menu, so here's a taste of what's on offer. The dishes seem to be shifting regularly - we've seen slightly different versions of all of the starters, for example - so use this as a guide:

roomStart things off with the crispy chicken skin with tumeric and garlic (£5). This changes on the menu from time to time - it's previously been fried prawn heads. 

roomRice crackers with chicken, lemongrass and peanut salad (£5)

roomKolae red kabocha squash, ajaad relish (£12)

roomKolae hogget chop (£8 each) - all very handily chopped up for you, this is another exceptionally well-seasoned dish. If you don't pick this up and start gnawing away to make sure you get it all, you're missing out. 

roomKale and herb fritters with fermented chilli and cashew nut (£9) - one of the more unexpectedly spicy dishes of the night and incredibly more-ish. 

roomSouthern gati curry of minced prawns and betel leaf (£16.50) - an extraordinarily good Thai curry, pair this with their Paddi new season hom mali rice (£3.80).  

Room for dessert?

There was just one option on at the time of visiting - and it's definitely something to save room for at the end of the meal, even if to share between two. 

roomPandan sticky rice, young coconut sorbet, peanuts and jackfruit (£7) - A dessert that sounds a little odd on the menu, but combines beautifully on the plate (dish). The coconut sorbet is divine and that sweet, sticky rice is a revelation. It's not too sweet either, a really balanced way to end a meal. 

What about drinks?

Apart from the cocktails, there's a decent beer offering with Lost and Grounded and Singha beer making the list (along with the alcohol-free Lucky Saint). Wines start at a relatively reasonable £34 a bottle for a 2022 Macabeo 2022 or a 2021 Macedonian kratoshija, with the bulk of the short list under £50. 

Overall thoughts

It's taken Som Saa a while to get around to opening their follow-up, having originally launched in Spitalfields in 2016, but the wait has been worth it. The setting is a beautifully designed, stripped-back building and the dishes on offer are exceptional, with the skewers and hogget chop being winners in a very tight contest.

In the past few years, dining in and around Borough Market has improved dramatically and this new opening just sees things getting even better. Som Saa fans and newcomers alike will find much to love here. 


More about Kolae

Where is it? 6 Park Street, London SE1 9AB

How to book: Book online

Find out more: Follow them on Instagram @kolae_london.

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Kolae. Prices are correct at the time of writing.


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