Samyukta Nair and Rose Chalalai Singh on their new Thai restaurant

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Samyukta Nair and Rose Chalalai Singh on their new Thai restaurant

Related tags KOYN Thai Thai food Samyukta Nair Restaurant London LSL Capital Rose Chalalai Singh KOYN

The duo will bring KOYN Thai to Mayfair next month promising upscale dining and fiery small plates

Next month Samyukta Nair will open a Thai restaurant in the downstairs space of KOYN Mayfair. Called KOYN Thai,​ it will replace the basement space that was previously a second dining room for the Japanese restaurant and is a collaboration with Bangkok-born chef Rose Chalalai Singh.

Tell us a bit about your background

Rose Chalalai Singh​: “My grandma was a cook so I lived around food. I worked with an interior designer for 10 years but during that time I was always cooking. I then moved to Paris 15 years ago and opened a tiny restaurant in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement called Rose Kitchen. It had just 12 seats and I found a Thai chef who taught me to cook professionally and little by little it became successful. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to have partnered with fashion houses and the art world.

How did you two meet?

RSC:​ I went to a lunch in Somerset with Margot [Henderson], who has been one of my mentors, and Dominique and Marcus from Fraser PR. They later sent me an email asking if I would like to open a Thai restaurant in London and I said ‘yes’. The first time I spoke with Sam was on a Zoom call in a taxi.
Samyukta Nair:​ Marcus came back from the lunch and said he’d met this incredible woman who is quarter Indian, quarter Chinese, and half Thai and that we had so many things in common in terms of design and fashion and that we would get along well. It was serendipity as I was looking for a Thai chef.

A Thai restaurant was already on the cards then?

SN:​ Off the back of Socca ​we wanted a new project and Thai was always the next cuisine of choice. We went all over Mayfair looking for a site but with the new laws in Mayfair and Grosvenor Estate about extraction we found that regional cuisine was not something that many older buildings would allow for. Towards the end of November I looked again at KOYN, which was a new build. It had two distinct sections and duality was part of the brand so why not convert the downstairs? The space was decorated differently and could lend itself very beautifully to a Thai concept.

How will it work?

SN:​ The building has been split equally into two and we have created two different kitchens. Japan and Thailand is a bit of yin and yang, which works really well. The way we laid out the concept when it first began was the upstairs was always much more subtle and pared back and downstairs was more fiery. Upstairs will remain a Japanese restaurant and will have 75 covers and there will be the same number of covers downstairs - their size allows for both restaurants to have a considerable patronage of their own. When you walk in from the entrance you have the bar area and you almost don’t see the Japanese restaurant if you want to go downstairs. The space has enough character for both restaurants to exist mutually.

What’s the style of KOYN Thai?

RSC:​ It’s upscale dining but not fine dining. We’re not serving small food on a plate that you need to dress up for. There will be a lot of sharing plates and it will be very convivial and fun. The presentation will be different to any other Thai restaurant in London.
SN:​ The way that Thai food is perceived tends to be a bit like what happened with Indian food - it was never looked upon as being elevated. This will definitely be more refined. We have an opportunity to elevate Thai food, keeping it quite contemporary but yet very classic in terms of flavour profile and cooking techniques. Having Rose as part of the project lends a sense of authenticity. It’s nice to meet a female collaborator who is also Asian and who also wants to break the mould of Asian food being perceived in a certain kind of light.


What’s on the menu?

RSC:​ The food will be very much from across the kingdom rather than regional. There will be dishes such as a toasted coconut pomelo salad; a Chiang Mai platter of spicy pork sausage, sticky rice and crackling pork skin; and a southern Thai crab curry. There will be about 28 dishes on the menu, some spicy, some non spicy.
SN:​ There will be a dish of green chilli and Thai basil escargots with a paratha on the side, which is a great way to blend both of our cultures. It’s not a menu that’s going to scare people off so you can just come and get a curry and a rice and salad or go for something a bit different. It’s not super foodie but will be very welcoming. The price point will be more accessible that upstairs, the cuisine demands it.

Do you expect London diners to be different to Parisians?

RSC​: I like the energy of London’s food scene. Even after Brexit there is still a lot going on and people love to try things. In France I won’t say it's challenging but it’s quite limiting in what you can do - they don’t eat pork, they don’t eat spicy. But here in London people are quite adventurous.

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