Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Thai Terrace

Car Park Luxury

I wasn’t particularly thrilled when my partner suggested dinner at a restaurant inside a car park. I immediately thought of a petrol station fast food joint, although I quickly realised my mistake as we arrived at Thai Terrace. The restaurant has a street-facing ground floor entrance, where a lift whisks you directly to a dining area above a multi-storied car park. The setting allows for great panoramic views of Guildford, probably unrivalled by any other restaurant in the town

The terrace, which I imagine is only open
during the warmer months

On the left, seating area by the bar. On the left, the dining space as you walk
further in past the bar.  

The first word that comes to mind as I write about Thai Terrace is grand. There's a generous footprint for the reception and bar area, which is all natural wood and Thai decorations. Beyond this is a bigger and more European dining space in brown and gold, with odd pieces of modern sculpture dotted around the room. The number of staff rushing around may be surprising, but as the restaurant filled up to capacity I was grateful for how many of them were about. There's a an outdoor terrace (surprise!), but it was closed during our winter visits. Staff at reception greeted us in a mixture of Thai and English, before enquiring about our reservation. We've always made a booking, but given the size of the restaurant I imagine you'd have a reasonable chance of getting a table without one. Expect a well dressed but rowdy, energetic crowd - couples, families as well as larger groups and office parties

Grilled marinated pork skewers and a squid salad with
chilli, lime and coriander

We’ve always been seated at tables by or near the window, probably because all of the smaller tables seem to be arranged around the periphery of the dining room. Menus are always brought over swiftly, and orders for drinks are taken after a short pause. A rather long delay then follows before staff wander over to take food orders, but perhaps this is warranted given the unending menu. Starters are priced around £8 and above, and can rise to beyond £10 if you opt for a salad. On both our visits we ordered the same marinated pork skewers and squid salad with chilli, lime and coriander. 

I can’t say much about the skewers since I don’t eat pork, but my partner reported they were fine, albeit a bit tough. The squid salad on both occasions was quite nice, hitting the right notes between spicy and sweet. The second time I had it the squid had been dropped into the salad a little too quickly after cooking – queue hot salad leaves in my bowl. I regret not trying the som tam from the menu (and blame my weakness for seafood), as this is the dish I judge many of my Thai restaurants by. 

8 oz sirloin cooked pink with a spicy Thai sauce

On both occasions the wait between our starters and mains was noticeable, but thankfully the food to arrive at our table each time was worth it. The photo above is of an 8 oz sirloin I had on my first visit. It was topped with toasted brown rice and a "spicy Thai sauce" that is actually jim jaew - a popular condiment based on fish sauce and toasted chilli served with various meats in Thailand. It was a little light on the chilli but nicely recreated nonetheless. The dish felt a little expensive though, given the small steak cost almost £12 and the accompanying sticky rice a further £3. 

Roast duck on a bed of vegetables in a ginger & orange sauce

The roast duck dish above was my partner's, and surprisingly I didn't steal any of it and so I can't report back. The only point I want to make here is about the ginger orange sauce. The food at Thai Terrace may have authentic Thai flavours, but a lot of it is about catering to the Western palate and serving food the locals are habituated to. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to bear in mind when ordering. 

Grilled marinated chicken with spicy Thai sauce

On our second visit we opted for this dish of grilled marinated chicken, served again with a spicy Thai sauce. The flavours on the chicken were beautiful - I mostly recognised lemongrass and coriander, and the breast had a sweet glaze all over. It was a little too dry for my partner, but I loved the tough, crunchy meat. When we were ordering this dish the waitress had asked if we wanted the skin on or off, and in the future I would probably ask for it on to get a crispy outer layer.

Stir fried roast duck with chilli, peppers, onion, tomato and basil

Our other main - this last dish of stir fried roast duck with pepper, tomato and basil - is probably my current favourite at Thai Terrace. It had a rich sweet-and-sour taste, with the duck coming apart in each mouthful. It was definitely among the better iterations I've had of this dish outside Thailand, although the humongous chunks of tomato were unhelpful and the basil was a little muted. In fact, the food in Thai Terrace generally was a toned down version of what I'd expect in Bangkok: less kick, less zing, and a simplification of flavours. As is usual for a foreign restaurant, I wonder if this is done on purpose for the local market or if it's more to do with the difficulty in procuring fresh, quality ingredients.

But I digress. It's at this point I have to admit that I've never had dessert at Thai Terrace. If memory serves, nothing on the menu is particularly inspiring - just the usually litany of bought-from-elsewhere ice creams and cakes. The venue takes a slight hit on its food score there, and a bigger hit on value for the £27 a head one pays for two courses and a non-alcoholic drink. The food is good, but not cheap. The service, which I've barely mentioned, is pleasantly unobtrusive but a little slow during peak times. This is definitely a restaurant to visit, just don't expect the food to rival Bangkok and do expect to pay quite a bit.

Food: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Value: 6/10

Final Score: 7/10

Contact Information
A: 7th Floor, Castle Car Park, Sydenham Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 3RW
T: 01483 503350

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression of the establishment.

No comments:

Post a Comment