“ Address: 07 Nantwich Road / Crewe / Cheshire / CW2 6AW „
I am a creature of habit and one of those habits says that whenever there's an opportunity for a celebration, it's an excuse for Thai food. My birthday this year was a bit of a sad occasion because my much-loved and very elderly cat had been put to sleep the night before and I wasn't really in the mood for a lot of fuss. But rather than stay home and feel sad, we searched the internet to find a new Thai restaurant to try out.
Having a birthday on a Monday was a bit restrictive as many places aren't open so I checked to make sure before we set off to Lac Thai in Crewe. It came highly recommended from all the websites that I'd tried - perhaps surprisingly so, given that it's not exactly in a town that's dripping with attractions.
Crewe is a railway town - famously sung about in an old Music Hall number (does anyone know, was it Marie Lloyd?) with the despairing lines
"Oh Mr Porter, What am I going to do?
I want to go to Birmingham and they've left me here in Crewe"
At least I think those were the words as on this occasion it seems I was hunting for something that even the mighty Google didn't recognise. Many a traveller has felt that despair when the trains let them down and they get dumped in this less than charming town.
Lac Thai is on Nantwich Road which, on my limited exposure to Crewe, seems to be the main street that goes right through the middle of town. There's no restaurant car park but we turned down a side street and found several small car parks just a short walk away.
~ First Impressions ~
From the outside, the restaurant has big windows and green paintwork. It looked pretty enticing although it was fairly empty due to a combination of the on-going recession and the Monday-night factor. Stepping through the door I liked what I saw - big lush plants, nice Thai carvings, deep red painted walls on some sides and wooden panelling on others. A tiny waitress greeted us and took us to our table. At a guess I'd estimate there were around 15 tables, well spaced out with lots of wicker-effect chairs.
We ordered drinks and started to wade through the menu.
My husband's a coward or maybe a diplomat when it comes to oriental food - in other words he takes the 'Whatever you fancy dear' approach to menu selection. Normally we're very predictable and we go for Tom Yum soup, a portion of fish cakes to share and then one prawn dish, one tofu something-or-other and a mixed vegetable of some description. It was my birthday and I'm determined to start breaking some of those habits I've got into before they become too ingrained, so we chose to go for one of the two vegetarian set meals, thereby liberating me from responsibility to make too many decisions.
~ The Food ~
The starters were a bit of a mistake. Described on the menu as a "beautiful selection of delicious Thai appetisers", what we received was basically a mountain of fried vegetables (like tempura but more greasy), some very odd crispy fried tofu and a couple of very nice spring rolls. The most artistic part of the dish was the carrot bird with parsnip wings which was a little work of art. I wish as much thought had gone into the food as into the decoration. If you like fried food, I guess you wouldn't be disappointed but for me it was just a lot too oily. This mound of fried delights was served with three dips - a very standard sweet chili sauce, a peanut sauce and a thin lemon or lime juice with bits of chopped cucumber and carrot.
Feeling a little 'greased-up' I hoped that the main courses would be better but I was quite worried that they might also be dripping in oil. Fortunately I was wrong about that. The rice bowls arrived first, followed by a small brass burner with the Gaeng Kiew Pak. This was a green curry with lots of big chunky pieces of vegetable. Next to arrive was the 'performance' dish of Tofu Ga Ta Rorn. The waiter took one look at the table and suggested that I move my glasses. With them safely tucked away, he poured the contents of a small bowl onto a scorching hot metal plate resulting in lots of noisy sizzling. He then poured a glass of alcohol onto the sizzling dish and set light to it. I now know why both the waiter and waitress had food stains on their shirts because it went absolutely everywhere. Definitely this was not something to try at home unless you have the fire extinguisher on stand-by. The final two dishes were Makau Horapa, a dish of fried aubergine cubes with lots of Thai basil mixed with beans, mushrooms, peppers and chili and a vermicelli noodle dish called Pak Ob Woon Sen which tasted a lot better than it looked or sounded.
My first instinct was 'we'll never get through all of this'. How wrong I was about that. The green curry was delicious - creamy, spicy and with plenty of bite. The noodles were much nicer than the description of 'cinnamon, garlic, coriander root, ginger and celery' (I HATE celery) would have suggested. The aubergines were tender without being greasy which is quite an achievement but the one small disappointment was the tofu. I adore tofu but the lingering taste of cheap burnt wine didn't do this dish any favours. With all these dishes plonked on the table it really did feel very crowded and I couldn't help but think a larger table would have been a good idea.
By the time we'd polished off 90% of the food in front of us, we were both pretty exhausted and so said no to coffees or further drinks. The bill came to £46 - £20 each for the set meal and £6 for three cokes and a pint of bitter.
I'm sure we will go back because I want to test the restaurant by ordering our normal selection of dishes to give a fair comparison with the other Thai restaurants we like. I certainly won't be going for the mixed appetisers again but the main courses were all rather good and I look forward to trying some more.