Baan Thai, Commercial Street, Morley

Oliver Baan Thai Commercial Street, Morley MOST restaurants it seems need to shout from the rooftops to get customers through the door.

Often you can't move for adverts or leaflets falling out of newspapers, offering 2-for-1 deals or discounts.

Baan Thai does things rather differently.

In fact, chances are if you don't live in Morley you might be entirely unaware that this place even exists.

It certainly does its best to hide its light under a bushel – or rather round the back of a lot of old mills and car garages.

Baan Thai must, then, rely to a large extent on word of mouth.

And whoever is doing the talking is clearly saying nice things because this place has no shortage of customers.

The restaurant is tucked away around the back of Commercial Street with only a small sign directing you to its compact car park.

On first glance, the restaurant itself is pretty low key, too.

From the outside it does indeed look like a barn and only the flickering lights in the window give away its real purpose.

Inside, the theme continues with traditional wooden beams bedecking the ceiling. Everything else is kept clean and simple – its neutral walls only accented by Thai wall hangings, masks and plaques.

You can almost – but only almost – forget you're not in Chiang Mai but a backwater of a West Yorkshire town.

The simplicity of the surroundings is complemented by an unfussy menu of soups, stir-fries, noodles, curries and seafood which should make for a fairly authentic eating experience.

And it is pleasing to see that the tables are set only with forks and spoons – the Thais have no need for knives as everything is already cut into bite-size pieces.

There are around 90 dishes on the menu, but many are variations on a theme with the key flavours of coconut milk, basil, chilli and lime cropping up time and time again.

Though Thai food is seen as relatively healthy, the starters here are not for the calorie conscious – fried corn cake, fried pork meatballs, fried spare ribs and the intriguing sounding fried golden chicken bags (I'm hoping it's something to do with filo pastry...)

We opted for the deep fried chicken in batter with sweet chilli sauce (4.65), the vegetarian spring rolls (3.25) and the chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce (4.65).

The battered chicken was delicious, the juicy meat protected by its crisp shell. The sweet chilli sauce is pleasantly firey but without numbing the tastebuds altogether. Though pretty standard fare, the spring rolls were good with more crunch than grease. The favourite, however, was the chicken satay.

FACTFILE

Baan Thai, 51d Commercial Street, Morley, Leeds

Tel: 0113 253 5328

www.baanthai-restaurant.co.uk

Opening hours – Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm (last food orders are taken at 10.30pm)

star rating

FOOD............................****

VALUE...........................****

ATMOSPHERE......................***

SERVICE.........................****

***** EXCELLENT ****VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE

* POOR The tender marinated meat was flamed grilled to a T and the peanut sauce was superb.

We passed on the soup but there were some delicious-sounding concoctions including Thai-style wonton, hot and sour prawn and hot and sour chicken in coconut milk.

Mains on offer were plentiful including chicken Mussaman curry (a traditional dish from southern Thailand); stir-fried chicken in Thai sweet and sour sauce; roasted duck; beef green curry; steamed salmon; and stir-fried prawns with fresh ginger.

The restaurant also operates a system where you can choose every dish in mild, medium or hot – meaning even the less adventurous need not be afraid of Thai flavours.

To accompany the meal there was a choice of rices, from egg fried and garlic and ginger to chicken and lemongrass and even chicken and coffee. Horror of horrors, you can even have Thai fries if you must.

We opted for the medium beef red curry (8.25) with steamed rice (1.85) and Thai-style fried noodles with prawns (6.95).

The beef came swathed in a red curry paste with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and sweet basil. The beef was deliciously tender and the sauce had just the tiniest kick of fish sauce to give it sufficient depth.

The noodles were a variation on what is more usually known as a Pad Thai – noodles, beansprouts, spring onions, egg and the meat of your choice.

The prawns were plump and juicy and light work was made of the noodles.

Desserts are never a Thai or Chinese strong point. Basically if you don’t fancy bananas or ice cream you can forget it. We forgot it.

Our meal with drinks came to 55.40 which was artificially high because of the 23 Chablis we’d ordered. Well it was Christmas...

You could, however, happily sit sipping a bottle of Singha all night as many of our fellow diners did.

That’s what’s a little special about this place. There are no pretentions, no airs and graces, just good honest authentic food at a fair price with excellent service.

All things considered then, it would seem that Baan Thai ought to have plenty to shout about.

But I guess that’s just not their style.

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