Victoria Williams at the Tamarind, Old Colwyn
I'm covered in sweat and a little girl is chasing a cockroach under my table, the traffic zooms by, whole families and their possessions balance precariously on trailers, people hang from over-laden trucks whilst helmetless motorbike riders zoom in and out of the chaos.
To my right a man is roasting skewers of frogs over hot coals. Beyond him a variety of live sea animals can he found vainly thrashing their lives away in buckets of shallow water.
To my left stands the Pad Thai Lady bent over blackened wok. Beads of perspiration fall from her face and land in the mixture of fresh ingredients she is frying; noodles, prawns, vegetables, eggs.I take a swig of Singha beer and enjoy my food.
I’m dining on the street beneath the Bangkok moon whilst men flirt with death before my very eyes and children play with vermin at my feet. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Fast forward a few months and I find myself in Old Colwyn. I’m sat at a table in a largish, brightly lit room which resembles my Auntie Bessie’s lounge. There is a certain charm to the decor; kitsch 70s wallpaper abounds as does heavily patterned carpet.
A few Asian cloth prints hang from the window sill, the only indication that I may be in a Thai restaurant. Celine Dion, or some other inane western singer, is in the background. My parents and I are the only customers - it is strangely quiet.
The Tamarind is a newly opened Thai restaurant on Abergele Rd, Old Colwyn. and is easily missed. One does not expect to find a Thai restaurant nestling amongst the rooftops of Old Colwyn.
Attached to an old Victorian hotel, the presence of this Thai restaurant seems incongruous, I am open minded, but do not expect much in the way of authentic Thai food.
I was, however, to be mistaken. I spent a while living in Bangkok and deliberately chose the dishes I enjoyed there. Admittedly, I always ate on the street (as the dishes were cooked directly in front of me I could ensure they were fresh) and very rarely in restaurants. However, I was still interested to compare authentic Thai food with the Old Colwyn version.
I ordered broccoli in oyster sauce, torn yurn soup, pad thai, kang kiew wan and yurn. The broccoli was tasty and perfectly cooked.
I was immediately taken back to my favourite Thai food seller with his stack of fresh vegetables and bottles of sauce.
Tom yum soup is a famous Thai dish consisting of lemon grass, chilli and more often than not, prawns. The soup is usually rather spicy by western standards.
I have noticed restaurants in Britain invariably water dishes down so they are less spicy than their more authentic counterparts.
In the Tamarind, this is not the case. My mother, who is phased by little, took one gulp of soup only to exclaim “Bloody hell! My head is going to explode, oh hell!” over and over again. This was probably because she had been chewing on a chilli seed.
My father and I thought the soup was delicious, without being either overly or insufficiently spicy.
I was excited by the prospect of pad thai, it being a much-loved dish of mine and I was not to be disappointed. It was sweet, sticky and not at all overpowering.
The kang kiew wan (Thai green curry) was beautiful; creamy and a little spicy with flavours of Coconut and chunks of aubergine. Finally the yum Thai salad is usually soaked in lime juice and chillies. The yum I sampled in the Tamarind was certainly enjoyable, but lacked the kick I am used to.
My dad desperately wanted something from the fried and sizzling section of the menu so he ordered chicken char-co - barbecued chicken marinated in soya sauce, garlic, fresh chili and coriander - and seemed to enjoy it.
Drinks wise, we stuck to the European Custom of ordering wine, the house red, a pleasant merlot at a reasonable price. I thoroughly recommend the Tamarind to anyone seeking a curious evening in Old Colwyn.
I will definitely be returning to the little piece of Thailand, on my doorstep.
pad pak broccoli £3.50
torn yum soup £4.50
pad thai £6.50
kang kiew wan £6.50
chicken char-co £8.00
bottle house red £8.95
total for 3 £43.45
food:authentic and delicious Thai food
service: friendly and formally polite
disabled access: separate disabled entrance at rear of hotel, restricted disabled access to toilets
overall: a genuine taste of the Orient in a very British setting