Nestled below the licentious underwear shop Agent Provocateur and opposite All Bar One restaurant, Panama Hatty's is the underground restaurant that carries an elusive, (soul-food scented), air.
The mysterious nature only adds to the lure of the restaurant and as we descended the steps into the restaurant, I couldn't help feel we were being let in on a secret. My boyfriend and I exchanged glances as the rather swish decor with silver applique upon the black walls and mini chandeliers welcomed our arrival.
We could see they were busy, but we were seated within two minutes, on a table with four chairs, which was nice considering we're a couple.
The menu is pretty impressive; starters, mains and sides are a mixture of Thai and South American flavours, with a lot of steak, seafood and grilled dishes. They also serve a children's menu, where most meals come with fries.
In terms of ambience it was a surprisingly lively crowd. Considering how up market the venue is, I was surprised at how relaxed they were about the noise coming from one of the tables. I guess they're happy with customers having a good time. Generally speaking it's a pleasant restaurant with a hubbub of conversation.
When the food arrived we were both delighted with our meals. The ribs we shared were very, very good. The sauce was a familiar barbecue, and the pork fell off the bones. The Thai fish cakes were light and perfect for a summer evening, but the onion rings surprised me most. It states on the menu 'buffalo onion rings'. I wasn't sure what that meant, but if it's anything to do with flavour they're doing something right. They were lip-smackingly good and very moreish.
The jambalaya was also lighter than what I expected and they used squid alongside the usual prawns and chicken, which was a nice change.
For three starters, one main, and two drinks we paid £28.95, which I find reasonable for a nice location, good service, and delicious food. Take advantage of their weekly discount, too. Monday - Thursday it's 11.95 for a starter and main from the set menu price, which is what my boyfriend ordered. He was more than full, even though we shared the ribs.
Panama Hatty's is the South American meets East Asian restaurant that offers a refined dining experience, and even though we didn't order a lot of food I'd go again in a group because it's the perfect place for an evening out - close to bars and in a central location.