Can you recall the times when everything seems to tell you that you're going to regret a decision but you go ahead with it anyway? For me, dining at Exmouth Market's Pride of Siam was definitely one of those times.
We were strolling along Rosebery Avenue looking for dinner that evening. In fact, we were looking for something Thai to be precise; lightly spicy yet refreshing to the palate would be a great roundup for the day.
The obvious local choice would be Isarn. But we thought better of it as we were just there the day before. On our way to the Exmouth Market, I actually pointed out Lakorn Thai to Wife. I have always wondered how it managed to keep its doors open all this while - I have never seen more than two tables occupied in the entire restaurant over the past few years. Often, one of these tables would be occupied by staff having their dinner. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the staff consume more food than paying customers every single evening.
The cardinal rule: never walk into an empty restaurants, especially if every other restaurants along the road are filled to the brim. I could never forgive myself for breaking that one rule a couple of minutes later.
Pride of Siam was empty. Well, other than the smiling staff of course. To make matters worse, Santore, Moro, Morito, Caravan and even Necco had customers spilling out from them that evening. Not a single soul at Pride of Siam. It looked like a very bad dream.
"Let's give it a go," I suggested. I don't know what came over me when the words tumbled out of my mouth. I convinced myself that it was due to the elephant Pride of Siam have on their signage, a natural affection towards the huge beast I suppose (forgive me, it is the only sane reason I can think of).
I should have seen the writing on the wall. £9.95 for a three course meal and yet Pride of Siam was eerily empty. And isn't Thai supposed to be the new Indian, a cuisine that Londoners love?
To give Pride of Siam some credit, its service though a tad less forthcoming was rather obliging. And no, the restaurant served neither fresh lime juice (naan manaaw) nor lemon grass tea, "just the normal soft drinks, tea and coffee" a staff helpfully informed us.
There wasn't any choice for the starters if you are going for the fixed price menu. They come in the form of spring rolls and tod mun kaow pod (deep fried corn cakes). To be honest, they were rather good. The corn cakes were lightly packed, fried and crumbled nicely in the mouth. Spring rolls were pleasing as well. They were packed with vermicelli and loads of pepper. They might be a challenge for those who can't handle spices. I actually began to wonder why there weren't any more customers coming through that door.
Things became more apparent as everything went downhill from there on. The second course, if you can call it that, was a tiny bowl of soup. I had tom yum kai and Wife had tom yum hed (tom yum mushroom), the only two choices on the menu. Both were spicy upfront and there was no follow through. I think I have said enough already.
I asked for green curry chicken for my main. Something wasn't quite right when it was served. The smell was, well, sweet in an odd way. A quick sip of the curry confirmed that the cook was overzealous with the coconut milk. The result was overwhelming. I could only remember a worse one that we had at Miso Noodle Bar.
If that was bad, Wife's phad Thai was worse. Cooked in tomato sauce (probably something from a ten litre tub), it reminded me of something churned out in one of those dodgy back-alley stall back home. Bland chunks of chicken seemed to have been tossed in as an afterthought. Wife, who was most certainly famished left it almost unmolested.
In our earlier enthusiasm, we ordered the deep fried prawns and squids. Imagine out relief when we were told that they have forgotten our order (which we immediately cancelled without hesitation). Even so, we were the only customers there, it would have taken quite a bit of effort to misplace the order.
It seemed that Pride of Siam was doing a thriving delivery service though. There were two delivery men coming in and out of the kitchen while we were there. To me, it was painfully obvious that Pride of Siam is takeaway place masquerading as a restaurant. That evening, we left the restaurant feeling still as hungry and thoroughly disappointed.
Restaurant Martin Wishart - Edinburgh
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