Hoveton: Yim Siam

Sarah BrealeyThere are plenty of Thai restaurants, but with summer almost upon us, how many have their own garden? SARAH BREALEY finds the Yim Siam a cut above the rest.Sarah Brealey

There are plenty of Thai restaurants, but with summer almost upon us, how many have their own garden? SARAH BREALEY finds the Yim Siam a cut above the rest.

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It is always a good sign when a restaurant has its own garden, and at Yim Siam in Hoveton the signs do not mislead.

This authentic Thai restaurant is popular with locals and visitors alike, both now and under its previous name of Sukhothai. As for the garden, downtown Hoveton does not lend itself to agriculture - instead it is in nearby Horning that they grow the chillies and some of the vegetables for the restaurant. The results can be tasted in the fresh and authentic dishes.

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The restaurant is run by a Thai family and the head and sous chefs have years of experience in top Bangkok hotels. So you can be confident you are getting the real deal.

The inside looks classy, decorated in deep red with some art on the walls. I liked the carved wooden chairs and the rich red and gold under-tablecloths which are overlaid with white cloths. Even the cutlery is a bit unusual.

On Tuesday evenings there is a popular buffet which seems excellent value - a choice of four starters, around six main dishes, including duck and king prawns, rice, noodles and fruit salad or banana and pineapple fritters for dessert, for �15 a person.

Vegetarians are better catered for than at many Thai restaurants - there is a wide range of dishes, and for each type of curry you can have a choice of Quorn, tofu, mock duck or vegetables. Among the starters, chicken satay is char-grilled and comes with a sweet and slightly sour Thai vegetable salad as well as the traditional peanut sauce. The other half loved the pork ribs, which were cooked in an onion and pepper sauce. 'I am not usually a big fan of ribs, but these are lovely,' he said.

I decided to break away from my usual favourites of green or red curry, and ordered a 'village style' curry instead. It was billed as fairly hot and it was indeed quite fiery. There were plenty of other flavours along with the chilli - lime leaves, lemon grass, garlic and other things I couldn't quite put my finger on.

His main course of green curry with pork was also deemed excellent, and we both enjoyed the stir-fried vegetables, which were made more interesting with roasted chilli and Thai basil. The egg noodles with beansprouts, mushrooms, carrot and spring onions were a nice accompaniment.

When it comes to drinks there is a substantial wine list, as well as soft drinks, jasmine tea, or Asian bottled beers - a choice of Tiger, Singha and Chang.

The a la carte menu is not the cheapest - �5 for starters, �9 for a chicken or vegetable curry, plus �3 for rice, or �15 for a whole deep-fried sea bass served with Thai salad. But the quality justifies it, and if you want to save money there is always the Tuesday evening buffet, or you can go at lunchtimes, when it is just �5 for a main course with rice, or �8 with starter, dessert and coffee too. You can also get a takeaway, which is a bit cheaper than the restaurant prices. Thai food might not seem like the obvious choice for youngsters, but Yim Siam is often packed with families, and the little ones seem to enjoy the food as much as anyone else. The buffet is a particularly good child-pleaser, as they can serve themselves and take the things they like the look of.

The shopping precinct in Hoveton might not be the obvious place to look for a great dining experience - but Yim Siam, and its garden, deliver one.

t Yim Siam, Riverside Centre, Hoveton, 01603 781133, www.yimsiam.co.uk

t Wheelchair access: Yes

t Vegetarian options: Plenty.


Food: ****

Atmosphere: ***

Service: ***

Family: ***