Have you noticed that Soho is replete with French, Italian and Japanese restaurants? So what do you do when you're really craving a Thai meal and don't want to venture far?
You Google (but of course) and discover this gem - Jane Tira.
Jane Tira Soho on Brewer Street is a cozy Thai restaurant serving homemade Thai street food. I'm not sure what 'homemade' means in a restaurant context, but what I'd like to think it means is that this is a family run business and the emphasis is on flavour and experience, rather than presentation and style. Jane Tira is so easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of Friday night Soho - I've walked down Brewer Street so many times and I've never seen it - and if I wasn't following Google Maps very precisely, I'd probably have missed it again.
But for how unassuming this place is, it packs a punch. Choc a bloc with diners and happy sounds of conversation and laughter and glasses and cutlery clinking. We had a brief wait in the corridor, and were then seated. Quick look around - Jane Tira is about 6 feet across and long, so tables are arranged along one wall. There's no place for coats and bags and yourself, so we pile the jackets on the hooks in the corridor - everything beginning to feel quite communal! The unpretentious furniture prevents it from looking cramped, and the basic white candles light it up. A sign on the wall promises this will be 'same same, but different'. I'm excited.
I order corn cakes and the special Jane Tira cocktail, Cha Rum Yen. This is Thai rum with a homemade iced tea and lime. My friend orders Moo Ping - chargrilled pork skewers marinated with lemon grass and coconut milk, served with a smoked chilli and tamarind sauce. The drinks and starters arrive quite promptly and are yummy. Large crisp corn cakes served in a traditional stainless steel basket. I was expecting a few little ones, so this is a very pleasant surprise indeed. The skewers are juicy and I love the sauce. My cocktail is light and refreshing. I'm intrigued by an item on the menu - Son-in-law Balls.
Decide not to dwell too much on it, and move on to the promising mains menu. There are the red, green, massaman and jungle curries, but there is also a mackerel curry which I believe is very famous and "super-duper spicy", and some sizzling steak dishes that sound very interesting. And there are several salads, noodle and rice options to choose from. Here's my problem - every time I come out to a Thai restaurant I tell myself I'm not going to eat a curry, but I can never resist. And so a chicken red was ordered. My friend had the Crying Tiger. This is a chargrilled sirloin steak served with smoked chillies and a tamarind relish on a sizzling plate. We both enjoyed the food and though it wasn't anything sensational, it was definitely very tasty.
Am I going to go back to Jane Tira? I think so. I've got my eye on their noodle dishes, especially one called Drunkhead. And I love a busy snug restaurant filled with the smells of cooking. Makes me feel warm and hungry and alive.