Eating Out: Plenty of hits at Siam Thai, Shipquay Street's latest foodie addition
12a Shipquay Street
028 7128 1111
WHAT would you expect if you ordered Pineapple Fried Rice? Fried rice with pineapple? That wouldn't exactly be a long shot, would it? And that's what you get. But you get it served in half a pineapple, scooped out and laid on a plate, and filled with rice, chicken, prawn, egg, and cashew nuts.
It's imaginative. It's fun. When it's being brought to the table, people notice it and smile. When it's placed in front of you, you can't help but grin, and the others at your table grin too, and say what a good choice you've made. And it's clever, too, because the pineapple juices seep into the dish. They don't overwhelm it; they just add to the balance of flavours, giving a sweet contrast to the savoury tastes of the other ingredients.
The dish was lovely. Not the best dish of the night, maybe, but up there, and maybe indicative of what they're trying to achieve here at the Siam Thai. It's only recently opened, and there are one or two tell-tale signs that, while they know what they're after, they haven't quite caught up with things.
The bar, for example, is unstocked: it's bring your own until the drinks licence arrives. Our party of four (plus baby) arrived for our early booking and then hesitated outside because the Closed sign hadn't been taken down. But these are no more than small wrinkles, easily ironed out.
The Siam Thai is down a flight of steps from street level, opposite another new kid in town, the Shipquay Hotel. Refitted from its previous incarnation, the restaurant has a cool, modern, stylish look, very unfussy, very clean, with just the odd, subtle nod to its Thai roots, in touches like the oriental parasols hanging upturned from a strip along the ceiling.
The mixed platter starter was a mixed bag. The chicken skewers were bland and dry, while the spring rolls were satisfyingly crisp and packed with crunchy vegetables, and the chicken wings were full of flavour. In a similar vein, I found the fishcake a bit disappointing, but the tempura prawns were terrific. The accompanying dips could be graded thus: marie rose sauce – OK; sweet chilli – surprising light and lovely; peanut sauce – fantastic!
While the pineapple fried rice won the prize for best Carmen Miranda impression, it wasn't the pick of the mains, lovely though it was. And neither was my chicken pad thai. That's not to say it wasn't good, mind – firm and silky noodles coated in sauce, with generous chunks (not cubes) of chicken and a lovely hint of peanut.
There was a tie for best dish of the night, though. The pad med ma muang was just delicious. This was a stir fry dish full of crunchy cashew nuts, perfectly cooked vegetables and tender chicken, sitting in a gorgeous sauce that was sweet, hot, gentle and light all at once. And then there was the prawn gang dang, a red curry. This was absolutely terrific. The prawns were beautiful, and the curry itself was fantastic. It had subtlety and a soft but definite kick of heat that caressed rather than overpowered.
We didn't stay for a pudding, as we were nicely full, but I'm not sure if they even do any, as we weren't offered a menu. I guess it's the type of thing that's easily forgotten when you've barely been open a week. That's more an observation than a complaint. Heaven knows I forget things – we'd got to the bottom of Shipquay Street before I went back for the baby.
So, a couple of misses, but definitely plenty of hits. The food here is lovely – a subtle blend of fresh ingredients, balanced spices, fragrant flavours, and good cooking. Am I going back soon? Yes, I am. (That's meant to sound like, Yeah, Siam, by the way). This is really good already, and likely only to get better.
Mixed platter £9.90
Prawn tempura £4.90
Thai fish cake £4.50
Pork Pad Thai £8.95
Pineapple fried rice £11.90
Prawn Gang Dang £8.95
Chicken Pad Med Ma Muang £7.95
Jasmine rice £1.90
Egg fried rice £2.50
Soft noodles £1.50
Diet Coke x 3 £6
Green tea x 2 £4
Jasmine tea £2
Sparkling water £1.50