Norwich: Lam Thai

Thai cuisine is hugely popular but notoriously hit-and-miss. SAM WILLIAMS finds Lam Thai comes close to delivering both the flavour and friendliness of the real thing.

Thai cuisine is hugely popular but notoriously hit-and-miss. SAM WILLIAMS finds Lam Thai comes close to delivering both the flavour and friendliness of the real thing.

The heat and fragrance of Thai cui-sine have proved a real hit in the UK in recent decades, with restau-rants opening up thick and fast. But the quality of Thai eateries can be a hit-and-miss affair.

Lam Thai, on Upper St Giles Street, is nestled among restaurants selling food from an array of nationalities.

On first impressions, the restaurant appears fairly small and elegantly furnished, with wooden furniture, yellow painted walls and a few presumably Thai trinkets dotted around.

We choose a bottle of Voignier, Henri de Richemer, priced at �14.95, a decent choice to offset the power of flavours of the food, slightly dry and crisp complement-ing the chilli, salt and fragrance.

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In common with other Thai restau-rants, Lam Thai has more than 100 dishes on offer, each with their Thai names and full descriptions, but with such a large list it can at first seem bewildering.

After perusing for some time, we opt for soups to start.

A dtom-yum hed with mushrooms comes as expected - blisteringly hot and sour, just what the doctor or-dered on a cold winter night.

Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are among the other ingredients adding fragrance as a third dimen-sion - my only wish was that their flavours were a little stronger to really sing out against the heat and sharpness.

Even better is the delicious dtom kah gai, a chicken and coconut soup. A shade milder than the dtom yum, the soup is still hot enough to clear the sinuses, but your mouth and throat are soothed by the creamy coconut milk, with a gener-ous helping of chicken.

A definite recommendation - it's delicious.

The restaurant is busy for a Tuesday night, with most of the tables filled, in a vote of confidence in the qual-ity of the food.

Unfortunately the service - while friendly and accurate - is a little on the slow side, with delays between the courses, but fine for a relaxed, romantic evening.

For mains I choose the choo chee bplah - fish curry to you and me (�10.95).

Made from a mix of fresh herbs, chilli, coconut cream, red pepper and kaffir lime leaves, the sauce is delicious, with the pieces of fish, the species of which is not con-firmed in the menu, but is not dis-similar to cod.

Rather than in a voluminous curry sauce, the dish is relatively dry, and the texture seems a little unusual to me, but not unpleasant.

My partner opts for the bped pud sub-bpa-rod, or duck with cashew nuts, also �10.95, which comes in a generous portion, stir-fried with perfectly cooked vegetables and a flavoursome, salty yet tangy sauce, with chilli oil, pineapple chunks and spring onion.

The duck was tasty and tender, albeit the portion we had seemed to have a fairly large helping of skin.

We share the mains with a portion of steamed Thai jasmine rice (�3.15) and one fried Thai fragrant rice with egg and light soy sauce (�3.50) - both expertly cooked, although one portion between us would have been more than suffi-cient.

One disappointment was the side order of greens, wok-fried with garlic, chilli and soy. Priced at a hefty �4.95, our dish comprised a plate of coarsely chopped white cabbage, lacking the texture and punch of spring greens, but it is, along with the other dishes, a gen-erous portion, easily big enough for two.

With room just to polish off the wine, we pass on the desserts, but the selection on offer includes a lemon sorbet, cointreau ice cream and chocolate ice cream bombe, all priced around �4.

It takes a little while for the bill to come, but it comes in at about the �65 mark, including wine and ser-vice, fairly reasonable for the amount of food but not cheap.

A common experience for me per-sonally is to really hunger for the spice and complexity of flavours of Thai cooking but to come out after eating feeling slightly let down.

While this was not the case with Lam Thai, not all of the dishes had the wow factor Thai cuisine can provide, particularly on a damp and dreary Norfolk evening.

But overall the restaurant is a good choice, with some real hits, notably that coconut and chicken soup, a pleasant, elegant setting in a re-laxed, secluded atmosphere and friendly staff.

Lam Thai

Upper St Giles Street


01603 622884

Prices: Starters from �4.95, mains from �8.95, set menus for two �51.50

Vegetarian options: A full vegetar-ian menu is available.

Wheelchair access: Yes