When you’re seeking out a place to try real, authentic Thai food, there’s one sure fire way to pick yourself a winner; look for where Thai people dine. It’s an easy cuisine to get wrong, and with Thai food having a moment right now there seem to be more and more Asian inspired restaurants, food festivals and pop ups on the scene with only a select few hitting the spot. When it’s done right, it’s different to what you might expect, there’s no ‘jammy’ consistency, artificially over sweetened sauces or over boiled rice. That seems to be the British interpretation of Thai food and it seems to be pretty widely accepted as being accurate. That is until you taste the real thing….
I was invited along to the VIP relaunch of Orangegrass Thai in South Shields and I must confess, I’d never actually heard of the place and when I arrive, it becomes clear why. Orangegrass Thai is like a secret society, it’s completely off the beaten track and from the outside, it hides in plain sight, like a Thai speakeasy, you’d never know the place was there – unless you knew. It’s so stealthy in fact, I doubt I’d ever find the place again without GPS; but then I like a place that feels so secret, like you’re part of an elite regiment of diners.
The soundtrack for the evening was provided by North East singer Annabel Pattinson, if you’ve never seen her play then you’re seriously missing out, with a full repertoire of covers and some awesome original songs, she’s another secret I’m spilling and she’s playing a stand alone gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy on Friday June 2nd. Finish reading this, then go buy tickets – you can thank me later.
I arrived to a champagne reception and an open bar, sadly I was driving but I did sincerely enjoy other revellers getting more and more intoxicated as the night went on. I shared a table with Luxe magazine and in between courses we were entertained by Ryan Phelps, The British Hustle, who I’m convinced is an actual wizard. With tricks I’ve never seen before and a cool, calm demeanour, this guy is straight out of Hogwarts with first class honours.
So, what you really want to know about is the food right? It’s good Voyeurs. Damn good. Like I said, you can get the measure of anywhere claiming to serve food authentic to it’s origin by the people who dine there, as Orangegrass’ staff is made up almost entirely of Thai people, the food is absolutely authentic. Everything from the ingredients, the spices and creams, to the presentation – expert chefs carve flowers out of vegetables to top each plate, seriously, the attention to detail is incredible.
We were served a selection of the most popular dishes including curry shrimp, green curry vegetables and a divine chicken dish. Where the menu really shone though was with its beef dishes, there were two available to try on the evening but due to having foolishly filled up on shrimp I only tried the Beef Massaman which was by far the best dish I tried. Not so spicy that the flavour was wiped out, but definitely warming. For dessert we were served a traditional Thai pudding of sweet sticky rice bound with coconut cream and although I ate every last bit, it’s one of those acquired tastes where I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not.
If you’ve been dining out on ‘mainstream’ Thai food then prepare to have your mind blown. The flavour that comes through with authentic Thai cuisine is crisp and cleane, Owner Titu tells me that the use of coconut milk and cream in Thai cuisine, cuts through the spice to allow the warming feeling but also preserves every inch of flavour in the food. Try it, join the secret society, make the trip to South Shields and enjoy a taste of Asia for a fraction of the price of some of these hipster fugazis.
Orangegrass Thai is at 7 Mount Terrace, South Shields NE33 1PN, to book a table call 0191 455 8555