Having recently graduated from being an impoverished student at UEA, there have not been many times when I have been able to spend £60 on a meal out. I am an enthusiastic cook and having worked many food jobs I have high expectations. A few people had recommended The Vine Thai Restaurant on Dove Street in Norwich so Annabel and I decided to check it out.
Walking into the restaurant is like stepping into a doll’s house. Two locals were sat at a bar that couldn’t have been more than two metres long in a room that held five small tables. I soon realised that its not the size of the bar that counts though but the quality of the booze in its taps and being a CAMRA pub this was fine nectar indeed; Jeffrey Hudson Bitter, Norfolk Gold and HMY Britannia.
Up the narrow staircase to the side of the bar is the dining room which is equally as small as the downstairs. Through the serving hatch leading to the kitchen I could see plumes of steam as the rice cooker was opened and hear the clink of woks and implements. The waiter was very attentive and though he stood near our table for most of the evening his presence was not at all off-putting. After we ordered, the food came out quickly which is one of the benefits of a restaurant with only six tables.
The dumplings in the mixed starter tasted like they were from frozen, the tastiest being the patty at the bottom right of the picture which had a delicate lemony coriander flavour. It was the dips that made the starter though; home made soy sauce and satay sauce; plum sauce and chilli sauce with and without chopped vegetables.
From the left, Stir-fried beef with green peppers and oyster sauce, Goong pad med ma muang (Stir-fried king prawns with cashew nuts and vegetables), Red Thai chicken curry and Egg fried rice.
I wasn’t blown away by the prawns or the beef. In the former the cashew was the prevailing flavour but the dish was hindered by fairly tasteless vegetables just as the prawns were let down by the unstimulating sauce. Equally the green peppers in the beef were sharp and tangy and the meat was nicely pink in the middle, but that couldn’t make up for another sauce that never really turned up.
The fragrant, slightly chilli Red Thai Chicken Curry saved the day. The dish contained tender pieces of chicken, rubbery bamboo shoots and a few fresh thai basil leaves tossed in at the end. This delicious aniseed flavour assaulted my taste buds and had me fishing around in the dish to find more; alas they were all gone and only the memory of the leaves remained.
Cleansing lychees in syrop and vanilla ice cream followed and then the bill. The meal came to £57.90; £48 for the set menu for two, and £9.90 for two small glasses of house red. Considering all of the above I thought it slightly on the expensive side, but due to the Thai Red Curry, the friendly service and the novelty of the venue, I still left a happy customer. I wouldn’t fancy tackling that tiny winding staircase after a few rice whiskeys though!