Simon Knott samples a taste of Eastern excellence...
Established in a converted pub it would be easy to pass Baan Thitiya restaurant by on the southern side of Bishop’s Stortford. If you did you would be missing out on an all-round Thai gem.
The plain exterior belies a fresh, exotic interior of clean lines with wooden flooring, a central bar with tables either side and plenty of carved Thai panels and busts on the walls to put you in the mood.
It was a pleasant surprise to be acknowledged with a prayer greeting from one of the charming waitresses. It was a taste of faultless, professional service throughout my meal with ever-ready smiles.
At lunchtimes an express menu lists six rice and noodle dishes, while the two-course lunch menu offers starters of wonton, prawn toast, spare ribs or the starter I chose, chicken sateh; marinated chicken skewers served with a peanut sauce. The main courses include Thai curries and stir-fry dishes served with rice, while the staple pad Thai noodles also make an appearance.
I decided on the pad priew wan; stir-fried pork with vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce with rice. The wine list is extensive enough to provide a match for the spicy flavours on offer, along with a good selection of beers, spirits and soft drinks as alternatives. My chicken sateh came served as three chargrilled chicken skewers and a small ramekin of peanut sauce. The presentation was superb with flowers crafted from carrot slices at one end of the dish. Even on closer inspection it was difficult to understand how they had been carved. The chicken had a tender bite and the peanut sauce created a complex aromatic nuttiness. The dish certainly served its function as an appetiser, leaving me looking forward to the next course. Gentle guitar ballads played quietly on the stereo throughout lunch; an ideal choice to augment the laid-back, calming atmosphere.
For main course my dome of steamed rice was accompanied with a platter of sweet and sour pork slices, which had a gentle chilli kick. Once again, beautifully carved vegetables in the dish demonstrated the passion and skill in the kitchen. Businessmen and couples dominated the tables on my midweek visit, although I later learnt Baan Thitiya is very popular on Friday and through the weekend, suggesting bookings are a requirement.
A simple dessert menu offered a couple of cooked banana and pancake dishes, along with exotic ice creams and sorbets. Feeling adventurous I chose the Dragon Ball, consisting of ice-cream wrapped in filo pastry, which is quickly deep fried and served with a trickle of chocolate sauce. It was an unusual and deeply satisfying end to the meal with plenty of contrasts in texture and temperature.
For this quality of food and service Baan Thitiya really is a gem that won’t break the bank for those dining in the restaurant, while the extensive takeaway menu offers plenty of choice for those preferring to eat at home. If you are still wondering, as I was, Baan Thitiya translates literally as the House of the Boss - by my experience a house the boss can be extremely proud of.
The total cost of the meal was under £25 - including a small glass of wine, a large bottle of water and coffee.
This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by the food and wine editor for Hertfordshire Life magazine and the restaurant was not told it was being reviewed. This review appears in the June issue of Hertfordshire Life. To order a copy or to subscribe to the magazine, log on to the website at www.hertfordshirelife.co.uk