After a hectic week, enjoying a meal out with friends was a welcome treat. Louise Rouvray tucked into some Thai food at a busy restaurant...
It had been a long week at work and the four of us – myself, my fiancé and our two friends – were looking forward to our Friday night out.
It was a while since our last catch-up and we were after a comfy place to settle into for a few hours of chitchat, good food and of course a tipple or two.
Lichfield boasts two Thai restaurants, which are oddly enough located right next to each other, so we tossed a coin and settled on the Thai Rainbow.
Inside, a spread of mahogany tables and chairs greet you, all neatly placed with enough space so that you’re not elbowing the poor chap on the next table while on your way to the loo. Thai-inspired artwork adorn the brightly-painted walls, while colourful flowers add to the exotic feel of the restaurant.
Every single table was packed with people, so we were seated towards the back in a cosy spot in the corner, offering a little privacy amid the busy surroundings.
Four bulky menus were quickly bestowed upon us. Boasting a whopping seven pages of dishes, spoilt for choice didn’t quite cut it. All the dishes are handily explained in English so you aren’t left playing Thai-food roulette.
Picking from around 100 options (I kid you not) was like choosing that one present to open on the night before Christmas (yes I dropped the C-word in September, sorry!). But despite being torn, our conversation was flowing, however our drinks were not. The staff were slow to take our order, but it didn’t deter our good mood and we understood the restaurant was very busy in peak hours – 8pm on a Friday night.
Once our drinks had arrived, a young, polite waitress took our food order, with our friends – Gemma and Sarah –deciding to share starters for fear of missing out on a good dish.
Unfortunately there was a mix up – we ordered one portion of duck spring rolls and one of vegetable spring rolls, but two vegetable spring rolls came out. On flagging down a waitress, a member of staff took the vegetable spring rolls back, but then the exact same dish was brought out a few minutes later. It wasn’t until the third time that we got lucky and they got the right dish.
But despite the slight hiccup, the other starters came out quickly and were exquisitely presented. I had the Satay Jay, a selection of Thai-style marinated vegetables and bean curd cooked on skewers and served with peanut sauce. It was a very well-balanced dish – the crunchy veg on the skewers paired perfectly with the soft, slightly chewy tofu and nutty flavour of the sauce.
My other half happily chowed down on vegetable spring rolls, which I can report were really tasty having swiped a few much to his displeasure. Deliciously moist inside and crunchy on the outside, the spring rolls were heavenly. The sweet chilli sauce on the side really brought out the flavours.
Meanwhile, our friends tucked into the satay, which consisted of Thai-style marinated chicken cooked on skewers served with peanut sauce.
It was similar to my veggie version of Satay Jay, but being happy carnivores, they were very content with the meat option. They said the satay had lots of flavour, with strong peanut overtones, but it was still a sweet dish. The chicken was tender and juicy. While the duck spring rolls, like the veggie ones, were excellent.
With the starters cleared and another bottle of wine on the way, the evening was very much in full swing and smiles could be seen all round the table. The restaurant was still full, heavy with conversation, laughter and the clink of knives and forks on plates. The wait between starters and mains was satisfactory and allowed us to regain our appetites.
The mains arrived in splendour. Our friend Sarah noted how beautifully presented the salad and vegetables accompanying her dish were, all delicately cut into shapes. She had opted for the Pad Si-Ew, rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables and egg in sauce. And ordered the Gai Yang – grilled chicken breast marinated in garlic, pepper and coriander, served with sweet chilli sauce – to accompany the noodles.
As a dish on its own, she said the chicken was a little dry, but the different elements of her two dishes – including the sauce – went well together. She was also impressed with the side salad, which contained three different types of cabbage – white, red and savoy.
Meanwhile Gemma went for the Gaeng Massaman, chicken curry in mild spicy sauce with peanut, potato and onion, served with Khao Ma-Praw, or coconut rice. The new potatoes in her dish had a rich buttery taste, while a small kick of spice was very welcome. The coconut rice complemented the dish very well.
My other half had the Pad Thai Gung, rice noodles stir fried with king prawns, bean sprouts, peanuts and egg in special sauce. The sauce on the noodles was sweet, but not overpowering, while the prawns did their ‘king’ status justice – big and juicy, they didn’t disappoint.
I was in the mood for Vegetable Pad Thai, but after scouring the menu I couldn’t find it. It may well have been on there, but without my glasses and after flipping between seven pages I gave up searching and just asked. It was no problem at all, the waitress noted down what I was after and the chefs made it to order.
The dish came with a good mix of vegetables including broccoli, onions and pak choy. They were very generous with the diced fried egg and drizzled with the slice of lemon on the side of the plate, the noodles went down a real treat.
All the starters we ordered were between £4.95 and £6.50, while the mains ranged from £7.50 to £8.95, very reasonably priced for such ample portions.
Our bill totted up to £125, which, when you factor in everything we ordered – four starters, four mains, three sides, two bottles of wine, forgotten-just-how-many bottles of beer and some cokes – it was quite reasonable, just more than £30 per person.
The staff were all friendly, a young lady ensured our water glasses were refilled throughout the evening and the dinner went down better than a Peter Kay one-liner. Though there were a few slight hiccups with the food order and some slow lags in service, which we put down to how busy the restaurant was, the evening was very much enjoyed and our stomachs very much full.
We stayed until gone 11:30pm, carried away with chatter, nobody tried to kick us out even after the restaurant had emptied. We left in our own time, with the staff smiling and waving us goodbye on our way out.
By Louise Rouvray