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Address: 63A Goodramgate / York YO1 7LS

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      01.08.2012 09:44
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      A bit of a disappointment

      ~Sozzled Diner Seeks Fine Food~

      During a summer trip to York we'd decided that we didn't want to eat at our hotel. The menu looked like good value but just wasn't at all exciting, so as we wandered around the old city centre I had half an eye on the lookout for potential dinner venues. We made the mistake of stopping off for a drink in a bar over-looking the river for a late afternoon pre-dinner drink. The mistake was not the location or the bar- it was the 'two for one' on cocktails. I'm a real lightweight with alcohol and after whiling away an hour and a half sipping two absurd concoctions of gin, elderflower and apple juice, I was pretty light-headed and in need of something to soak up the booze before I fell asleep.

      Close to the Minster I'd spotted a Thai restaurant that had offered an early-diners special with two courses for £10.95 per person. Given the option, Thai is always high on my list of preferred cuisines and luckily, despite the cocktail intake, I could still find the route back to the Siam House. From the outside it's a forgettable looking place located on the upper floor of an unattractive building in a row of 1970s or 80s shops. Take a look at the photo Ciao used - it's mine. See what I mean?

      We headed up the stairs and found a large, traditionally decorated room with a woman who must surely have qualified for a 'most smiley and over the top jolly' award. She greeted us effusively and led us to a table by the window.

      ~Don't Stand (or rather sit) So Close to Me~

      Looking around the room I couldn't help but think that they were trying to cram a quart into a pint pot. There were such a lot of tables and so little space between them that I would have hated to be there on a busy night. Tables for two had been jammed together with just a carved wooden screen to separate them so I think any conversation would be far from private. Unless you have the desire to play footsie under the table with complete strangers, this is a bit too close for comfort. I was pleased we were early and on our own table.

      The early diners deal is available until 7 pm Tuesday to Saturday and all evening on Sunday or Monday and allows for a pretty free choice of items from the standard menu with a few exceptions made for some of the most expensive dishes. If you want to include a king prawn or duck dish in your selection then there's a supplement of £1 for each dish affected. Looking at the price of the dishes, I noticed that everything was a pound or two more than the two Thai restaurants where we eat most often. So maybe this would be something a bit special.


      ~When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles with You (or wonders what drugs you're on)~

      After dithering over the menus for some time, Miss Smiley returned and was disappointed that we just asked for diet Cokes. She tried to persuade us to try their Thai cocktails which were heavily promoted on the table and the wall beside our table. I explained that if I had any more alcohol I'd be asleep in my starter and she reluctantly accepted that we weren't going to be big drinkers.

      For starters we both chose fish cakes. It's always a toss up between fish cakes and tom yum soup or often we just go for both but with the constraints of the two course deal, we opted for the former. For main courses we picked a green tofu and vegetable curry and a king prawn dish with cashew nuts with plain rice to go with both. We also accepted the suggestion of supplementary prawn crackers.


      ~"It's a Cracker"~

      The drinks and prawn crackers arrived soon after and we were impressed with the quality and quantity of the crackers as well as the intriguing spicy sauce that went with them which was a sort of thin chilli dip with more than a hint of peanut. The crackers were not the nasty flavourless white ones that our local Chinese take-away forces on every customer by the bag-full, but were the more flavoursome pinky-brown ones that do actually taste a bit fishy.

      The starters came with three fishcakes on each plate, something I always find frustrating when we're sharing them between two but didn't mind in this instance since I wasn't about to get short changed on my share. These were described as "Haddock blended with red curry paste, egg and krachai, served with a cucumber relish and peanuts" but nothing in that description quite prepared me for these. I love Thai fishcakes and the best are succulent, delicately spiced and have a rubbery chewy texture that's very satisfying. Sadly these weren't the best at all and much to my disappointment the texture wasn't chewy enough and more worryingly, they were far too salty. I don't make such an accusation lightly as I love salty food and can regularly be found lamenting the demise of salt in British foods. There are usually a couple of emergency sachets in my purse just in case I make the mistake of buying an egg sandwich and needing a sprinkle of salt. So you can be sure that when I say TOO salty, I'm not one of those salt avoiders who find everything too salty. I ate them of course, but I hoped for better from the main course.


      ~Why do diners with nothing worth saying seem to say it so loudly?~

      The restaurant was starting to get a bit busier by the time we'd finished our starters. Acoustically there was something really weird with the restaurant because we could hear every single word spoken by a woman about 20 feet away from us but oddly nothing from her companions. I like a good eavesdrop as much as the next nosy person but she was getting pretty irritating.

      Main courses arrived and we were handed small plates and rice was dished onto them. The two main dishes were left in the middle of the table for us to share. The prawns with cashews were a fairly generous portion but a little bit bland in flavour whilst the vegetable and tofu curry which would have been one of the cheapest dishes on the menu, was really rather a mean dish. It's not like tofu is expensive but there were just two pieces of tofu in the entire dish with a variety of other vegetables to slightly pad things out. The sauce was absolutely disastrous - somehow both sweet and much too salty, so much so that I could barely register the hotness of the curry because my mouth was so puckered in disgust at the salt levels. We ate it all up, but I can't really say that we enjoyed it very much.


      ~In - eat - out and £32 gone on salty food~

      In total, from arriving through to being completely finished and ready to leave, we'd only been in the restaurant for about 45 minutes, and we weren't eating particularly quickly. The conversation from the other side of the room was drowning out any of our own talk and the smiley waitress's repeated attempts to get us to order desserts, more drinks, tea or coffee were getting irritating. Rather than bringing us the bill, she then disappeared and we had to grab our coats and bags and head to the reception desk to find out what we owed and to pay. The total bill for our rather disappointing dinner with two early diner deals, a £1 supplement for the prawns, two cokes and a bowl of prawn crackers came to £32 which wasn't particularly good value, especially considering the poor standard of the food. Luckily we were only in York for one night but it we were heading back again this wouldn't be a place to which I'd return. I thought Thai was a cuisine that was quite hard to mess up but in this case - despite the claims that the restaurant's chefs all worked in 5 star hotels in Thailand - the food just wasn't up to scratch.


      ~Details - If I haven't put you off already~

      Siam House
      63a Goodramgate
      York YO1 7LS
      01904 624 677
      http://www.yorksiamhouse.co.uk/

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