Thailand No. 1 – Thai – Nottingham – Review by Sarah
Nice. It’s not necessarily a complimentary adjective. Any child who hears, “that’s nice, dear,” in response to their art homework can be pretty sure that not only are they not going to be the next Caravaggio, but they will probably never win a round of Pictionary. Even when meant genuinely, nice tends to mean something blandly alright, middle of the road, acceptable.
But here, I mean it when I say that Thailand No. 1 is a nice restaurant. The staff are nice, the decor is nice, the background music is completely inoffensively nice. It’s not a restaurant for rowdy parties or for having a deep heart to heart over a three hour meal. The tables are far too close together to allow for anything but polite conversations, and the drinks list is perhaps purposefully limited so that patrons remain reasonable and, well, nice. Thailand No. 1 is like a hotel spa; you can come and relax, and you may have your senses pleasantly pushed, but there is a kind of code of conduct, and everyone must be well mannered at all times.
A Monday night is not necessarily the best barometer of restaurant activity, but you can often find out how good the service at a restaurant is by seeing how the waiting staff perform when a venue is quiet. The staff at Thailand No. 1 are formally attired and seemed to take their work just as seriously as if the venue was full. The drinks menu is nothing to write about except to caution against the consumption of Thai wine courtesy of a company called Monsoon Valley; think Blossom Hill or Echo Falls and you get the drift. It comes in red, pink or white varieties. Beware.
The food menu is a different proposition, with an excellent value lunch menu well worth considering if you work in town. The dinner menu offers several set banquet options and then a range of a la carte delights, covering Thai staples and some unusual surprises. Vegetarians are really well catered for and the kitchen was happy to oblige to dietary requirements, which is quite a task with dishes that have such delicate balances in terms of flavours.
My companion and I both went for options from the salad section, as there really is nowhere to hide for the chef in terms of getting the balance of hot, sweet, savoury and sour right. Almost all Thai dishes succeed or fail on these key details; if you’ve ever had a pad thai encrusted with peanuts or a green curry that could effectively be coloured coconut milk, you will know what I mean. My companion went for Yum Neau Yang (£10.50) which is a beef salad flavoured with lemongrass, chillies and shallots. The sliced beef was well sealed but pink in the middle, giving the right amount of texture for a good chew without being tough. The salad itself was plentiful, and although the lemongrass seemed to only serve a supporting note, the balance was otherwise spot-on.
My dish was a traditional larb, but made with tofu (£8.95). I was a little surprised when it arrived, as I was expecting the tofu to be scrambled; larb usually comes as a minced meat in lettuce leaves, but the tofu was in small chunks that had been crisp-fried and well seasoned with sesame and chillies. I had no complaints on the taste of the dish at all, and it remained fresh as well as spicy, inducing just a hint of a sweat at the end.
We were easily replete at the end of one course, which was good as the desserts were entirely missable.
This is not memorable dining or somewhere to come for a fun night out. However, for a polite meal with the in-laws or for a weeknight meal with work colleagues where you can all stump up £10 and have something healthy and satisfying and remember to go home with your dignity and memory entirely intact, this is a great spot. Or should I say, a nice spot.
Atmosphere = 4/10
Service = 8/10