THERE are a host of good eateries in Durham City and the latest addition is offering diners a taste of the Orient.
Family-run Central Thai recently opened its doors in the location of the former Numjai Restaurant, which closed a couple of years ago, in The Gates Shopping Centre.
I’ve been lucky enough to sample the wares of the Phetmalaikul family at their Royal Thai restaurant in Darlington so I was eager to see if they could offer the same standard of food and hospitality at their latest venture, which occupies a much larger space, with seating for 100 diners plus a mezzanine function suite offers fantastic views over the River Wear and Durham Cathedral.
Serving up authentic Thai cuisine the family hope to continue their success and offer a blend of traditional and modern Thai dishes with an array of seafood, fish, meat and vegetarian options.
We headed to Durham on a blustering dark week night but had no problem parking in the city centre, just a few minutes away from the shopping complex. We were unsure of where Central Thai was located in the centre so ventured inside only to find neither the restaurant nor a listing for it on the shopping directory.
We went back out into the cold and down the stairs to the River Wear, on the outside of the complex, where we discovered a Chinese buffet place but no Central Thai. Back up the stairs to the other side of the complex we saw a Gates security guard who pointed us in the right direction. Eventually, after climbing another set of stairs, we were relieved to finally get to the restaurant.
Inside, we were greeted by a waiter who showed us to a table by the window. It was dark outside but we could still see the cathedral which was lit up.
The restaurant’s interior is impressive. A gold and red colour scheme give it an opulent feel and there are beautiful Thai sculptures dotted around with wall hangings featuring Buddha heads.
A waiter served us a glass of white wine (£3) and a pint of Foster’s (£2.85) while we perused the menu. After much deliberation we opted for a starter to share. The Central Roum Mit (£11.95) was presented in a stunning large ornate bowl that contained appetisers of chicken satay, spring rolls, pork in green leaves, Thai fish cakes and prawn parcels, served along with three sauces, including peanut and sweet chilli.
The starter really packed a punch with such an assortment of flavours. Each appetiser was fantastic and it was great to dip them into the different sauces. We were impressed with both the presentation and quality.
For mains we shared chicken green curry (£8.95), fried roasted duck with tamarind sauce (£11.95) and Thai fried noodles with king prawn, beansprouts and peanut sauce. These were served with a large bowl of egg fried rice (£2.50).
I am a huge fan of Thai green curry and Central Thai’s version was one of the best I have tasted. It was creamy and delicious, while the duck was soft and succulent.
Central Thai is a welcome addition to Durham’s eating out venues. It’s stylish, good value for money and the food and service is top notch.
If the eaterie is to survive though, I feel there needs to be signage to tell diners where it is, otherwise they may give up and opt for Chinese instead.
Address: 19 The Gates Shopping Centre, Framwellgate Bridge, Durham DH1 4SJ.
Telephone: 0191 597 8774
Opening Hours: 1130am-2.30pm and 6pm-11.30pm.
First Impressions: Difficult to find in the dark but worth the perseverance.
Welcome: Greeted at the front door by a waiter and shown to a window seat with views over the river and cathedral.
Style, design, furnishings: Vast dining area with river views and mezzanine function suite. Warming colours of red and gold and a cheerful interior with Buddha wall hangings and sculptures makes up for the drab concrete exterior.
Cuisine: traditional and modern Thai dishes.
Wine: Good selection of reds and white.
Service: Polite waiter and manager who were happy to chat about the restaurant and make recommendations from the menu. Prompt service.
Value: Main courses start from £8, egg fried rice £2.50, desserts around £4.50 to £6
Parking: There is car parking in The Gates Shopping Centre and parking on streets nearby.
Disabled access: There is a disabled toilet and disabled access via a ramp can be gained to the restaurant from Milburngate Bridge.