Ever since returning from a 3 week trip backpacking around Thailand, I’ve been trying to recreate the cuisine I sampled whilst I was there with varying degrees of success; the Thai food festival at Vermillion & Cinnabar seemed like a perfect way to satisfy my cravings.
The menu, which is available throughout June, was created by Vermillion’s Master Chef Chatchai Jamjang and offers authentic tasting dishes from the city of Ayutthaya.
Upon arrival, we were shown to our table and I was reminded of the restaurant’s stunning interior, illuminated Buddhas watch over you as you eat whilst the red tinted glass gives the effect of perpetual sunset.
The special Thai menu is small but perfectly formed, with a choice of three starters, six mains and one dessert. To ensure we got the maximum experience out of our visit we opted to sample all three starters, which included the Thai-style grilled chicken skewers (£8.95), vegetarian spring rolls with tofu (£6.50) and Thai barbecue prawns (£15.99) and were not disappointed by any. The grilled chicken was served on bamboo sticks with an delicate cucumber relish that worked in perfect harmony with the garlic and turmeric flavours of the chicken. The spring roles were served on atop slices of fresh orange along with a homemade orange sauce, which was refreshing given the slight kick of the curry paste that intermingled with the tofu and vegetables.
One thing I’ve noticed on previous visits to Vermillion is how excellent all of their seafood dishes are and, true to form, the prawns were the standout dish of the three starters. Marinated in Thai spice paste and served with a fresh salad, the butterfly prawns were deliciously succulent, I could easily have eaten several portions of them.
Thai Barbecue Prawns
Of the six main courses on offer, we chose the Pla Thod Yam Mamuang (crispy deep fried ‘whole’ seabass – £26.50), the Gai Massaman (Thai chicken curry – £14.50), the Gae Phad Chaa (grilled lamb cutlets stir fried with chilli and garlic – £14.99) and the Taro Rice (fried rice with taro, prawns and chicken – £12.50).
I think we may have gotten a bit carried away and ordered far too much, but it was all in the name of research, utterly selfless really. When the food arrived, it looked like a feast fit for royalty especially with the whole seabass in the centre of the array. I decided to tuck into the lamb first and the work my way around the rest of the dishes; it was accompanied with brown rice and melted in the mouth in a way I’ve only ever experienced with fillet steak, absolutely perfectly cooked and just the right amount of spicy, distinctly noticeable but never overwhelming.
Next up the Thai chicken curry, probably the most famous Thai dish in this part of the world and not normally a particular favourite of mine due to my occasional dislike of coconut. Vermillion’s offering was lovely and creamy, and leaving the chicken on the bone really gave the sauce that extra dimension of flavour. Not something I would order as a first choice, probably because of its popularity, but a really authentic tasting dish.
Moving on the the Taro Rice, definitely don’t mistake this for a side dish as the prawns, chicken and shiitake mushrooms make it a delicious standalone option.
I’ve purposefully saved the best for last: the whole seabass (which can be filleted if desired) really was the main event and looked almost to good to eat. The flesh was firm and meaty but, similar to the prawns, deliciously juicy. The accompanying mango and cashew nut salad was fresh and crunchy, and made me feel slightly less guilty about eating so much deep fried fish!
Needless to say we couldn’t quite finish all of the mains we’d orders, but we did leave room for the only dessert on the menu, the Saku Phol-la-mai Ruam (£7.50), which is a cold pearl tapioca pudding with coconut milk, strawberry, jackfruit and vanilla ice cream. The very mention of tapioca pudding took me immediately back to my days at primary school, but thankfully Vermillion’s offering bore no resemblance to what came out of our canteen! I can’t really think how best to describe the taste, kinda like rice pudding…I think you’ll just have to trust me on this one and go try it.
After we finished our food the manager, Dikendra Gurung, gave us a tour of upstairs Cinnabar as well as the private dining room, both of which would be perfect for parties/conferences/private hire.
Huge thanks to all of the staff for making our visit so enjoyable, not to mention filling. Every time I eat at vermillion I make a promise to myself that I won’t leave it so long between visits in future and given the quality of the food and the standard of service, I fully intend to make good on that promise this time around.
The Thai Food Festival will be served throughout June so be sure to make your reservations as soon as possible.
Review written by Anya Slater for Finest