“ 5 Frimley Rd, Camberley, GU15 3EN. Tel:01276 21915 „
~~~~~~~~~~~ INTRODUCTION ~~~~~~~~~~~ Opportunities to go for a meal out have been a little restricted in the last seven months due to my wife's pregnancy, but as the baby has now arrived, and with willing grandma volunteering to look after the kids for a couple of hours, we took the opportunity to celebrate by going for a celebratory meal. Thai places are fairly abundant in our area, but we were in no mood for experimentation, preferring instead to go with a tried and tested favourite. Bangpra is an unassuming little place on a fairly anonymous suburban street, but the food and service are anything but ordinary. It has little of the ostentatious decoration and oriental paraphernalia of its near neighbours, but what it does have is consistently excellent food at very reasonable prices. ~~~~~~~~~~~ GETTING THERE ~~~~~~~~~~~ Bangpra is located just off the A30 - on Frimley Road - about a mile south from Camberley town centre. At less busy times and in the evenings, you can park directly outside the restaurant, however, there is a surface car park almost directly across the road with ample space. Public transport options are rather limited, with the closest train station being in Camberley Town centre (which has no direct link to Waterloo - you have to change at Ascot) so driving is your best option. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ATMOSPHERE & SERVICE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bangpra is quite cosy, with space for about 30 covers - mainly grouped in tables of two and four, but with the facility to accommodate slightly larger parties (anything over eight would be pushing it though). The tables are spaced a decent distance apart so it doesn't feel like you are on top of your neighbours. Décor is modern with small Thai flourishes (such as a few ornate wood carvings and a handsome Buddha statue by the front entrance) but it's not going to win any design awards. Modern Thai music is piped through the sound system at a comfortable level, and conversation is easy at all but the busiest times. The place gets really busy on Friday and Saturday evenings, and we have been reluctantly turned away on occasion after arriving without a booking, but we've had no problems on other nights of the week. On our last visit, we went on a Tuesday evening at around seven, and by the time we left at nine, the place was three quarters full. Service is efficient, friendly and attentive without being intrusive. The manageress is a very charming and gregarious sort who enjoys a bit of banter with her guests and has an excellent memory for faces - she immediately recognised us ad asked after our daughter despite the fact that we hadn't visited for almost a year. ~~~~~~~~ THE FOOD ~~~~~~~~ I doubt the simplicity of Bangpra would impress many first time diners if it were not for the outstanding food. The menu is comprehensive and varied, although admittedly, our eye is invariably drawn to our tried and tested favourites. There is a broad selection of starters and soups, averaging around 4.50 each, but we usually plump for the Bangpra Platter (£6.50 a person) which features a delicious selection from the menu. This includes succulent and tender Chicken Satay (Satay Gai) served with a separate creamy peanut dipping sauce, deep fried mini vegetable spring rolls (Poh Pia) served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, the Thai version of sesame prawn toast (Kha Nom Pang Na Goong), deep fried and marinated chicken wings in a sweet glaze ( Peek Kai Tord) and my personal favourite, the moreish and delicious (but weirdly rubbery) Thai style fried fish cakes (Tord Mun Pla). Despite the majority of the offerings on the platter being fried, they don't taste heavy and they are not swimming in oil - in fact they taste quite light and fresh. It is an excellent introduction to the meal, especially when washed down with a bottle of Singha beer, a treat that my wife in particular thoroughly enjoyed after nine months of abstaining from alcohol. We didn't have to wait long for our mains, and in truly unadventurous fashion, we ordered what we know and love best. My wife had the Thai Green Curry with Chicken (Gaeng Kiew Waan Gai at £6.95) and I had the same, but with King Prawns (Gaeng Kiew Waan Goong at £7.95). We normally order Jasmine rice with it, but this time we decided to "live a little" and opted for Thai steamed sticky rice (Khao Neow at £2.50 each) instead. The green curry was wonderfully fragrant and fresh with a warming, cumulative heat that really sneaks up on you before leaving your mouth tingling with spice. The broth is addictively moreish, and I could quite happily drink it as a soup on its own. My wife is feeding our newborn naturally, so she asked the chef to dial down the heat on her chicken curry to avoid problems, and the chef managed to do exactly what she asked without losing the balance of flavours in her dish. My prawns were perfectly cooked - slightly crunchy but not rubbery - but with the tail left on, which made the eating slightly awkward. It's been a while since I have had sticky rice. It was served in a small covered bamboo container inside a clear plastic bag, and comes out in a large clump which you then have the challenge of spreading across your plate. It is very chewy a texture that I happen to like - but it won't be to everyone's taste. In my case, I found it an interesting but very good accompaniment to the curry and did a great job of absorbing the sauce. On a more general note, the main courses are roughly divided into curries (red, green, yellow and jungle curries which range between £7 and £8 depending on the ingredients), stir fries (most, such as pork with cashew nuts and duck with pepper and mushrooms at £7, with prawn dishes being an extra £1.50), Chef's specialities (a broad selection of fish, steaks and seafood dishes priced between £11 and £15) and noodle dishes, such as Pad Thai - a firm favourite, all around the £6 to £7 mark. There are also three keenly priced and generous set menu options at £20, £25 and £16.50 (vegetarian) per head. Having exhausted our bottle of still mineral water (it was from Waitrose, which I found ever so slightly odd) we thankfully accepted the eccentric and somewhat incongruous offer of Italian Gelati (£3.50) for desert. We shared two scoops - a deep, dark and rich chocolate, and a smooth, creamy vanilla bursting with flavour and vanilla seeds - which went some way to soothing out over-excited palates. ~~~~~~~ THE BILL ~~~~~~~ The tab for the two of us (shared platter, two mains, two rice, two beers, a bottle of water, and pudding) came to £50 including the small tip, which makes for a very reasonable £25 per head. All major credit cards are accepted (including AMEX and payment is via an electronic chip and pin reader at the table. Gratuities and service charges are not included on your bill. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OPENING & CONTACT DETAILS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bangpra are open for both lunch (Noon to 3pm) and Dinner (6pm to 11pm) every day, and although not advertised, they also have a takeaway service. The restaurant is located at 5 Frimley Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3EN, and the telephone number for reservations is 01276 21915 (I promise you, that's not missing a digit!). ~~~~~~~ VERDICT ~~~~~~~ We often combine our trips to Bangpra with a trip to the new VUE cinema in Camberley town centre, but the restaurant is well worth a visit on its own. Excellent food, friendly service and reasonable prices has made this our Thai of choice when we are in the area. If you are travelling any distance, I would recommend booking, but above all, I would recommend that you go. Three days on, and I am still dreaming of that delectable Green curry.