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Food review: ‘It’s the Thai food you came to Norfolk for!’

PUBLISHED: 11:36 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:53 13 March 2020

Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

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Reviewer Stuart Anderson ‘Thai-ed’ out a thriving venue in a coastal town that’s better known for its crab than its curry.

The Panang beef curry  (£11.25) and egg fried rice (£3.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe Panang beef curry (£11.25) and egg fried rice (£3.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Cromer is famous for its crab. It's also known for having so many cafes you could go to a different one every day of the month.

But how does it measure when it comes to more exotic cuisine? We headed to Bann Thai in the town centre's thriving east end to find out.

For a starter, my wife chose the vegetarian Thai spring rolls (£5.25). This was four thick, deep-fried rolls with a dipping bowl of sweet chilli sauce and an elaborate carrot garnish.

I went for a Tom Yum Goong, which wasn't in the starters section of the menu but I thought I could get away with it because it was only £6.50. One of the best-known Thai dishes, this fragrant, red soup was filled with prawns and mushrooms.

The Thai spring rolls (£5.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe Thai spring rolls (£5.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

The soup was spicy with a hint of lime and warmed me up nicely. It came with a Chinese-style ceramic spoon which I didn't quite master, meaning there was a constant, if minor battle to avoid steaming Thai soup running down my face. It was really good though, and I was impressed by the size of those prawns.

For her main dish, she chose the sweet and sour mock duck (£11) with vegetables. She's a fool for sweet and sour although I usually find it too rich.

But what exactly is mock duck, you ask? Well, by virtue of my vegan better half and my own trendy flexitarian home diet I've become reasonably well acquainted with the various meat substitutes around so I can offer a rough assessment.

Said fake duck has a tender texture, not as hearty as your Quorn chicken pieces or even your Oumph!, but not as soft as outright tofu.

The Tom Yum Goong (£6.50) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe Tom Yum Goong (£6.50) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

It seemed to be well marinated in the sauce and there were no complaints from the other side of the table.

Rice is ordered separately, and she went for the sticky rice (£3.50) more out of a sense of intrigue than anything else.

This is a steamed, glutinous rice, and was delivered in a little plastic bag in a wicker pot.

She tipped it all onto her plate in one go before the waiter said it was better to keep moving portions over as you wanted them to prevent it all turning rock hard.

The mock duck dish with sticky rice being eaten the wrong way at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe mock duck dish with sticky rice being eaten the wrong way at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

I went for the Panang beef curry (£11.25) with egg fried rice (£3.25). I actually spent about a year in and around Thailand in my late 20s - time roughly split between volunteering on a post-tsunami construction site, travel writing for an online guide and generally loafing around.

Meal times were a highlight and my go-to dish became the Panang. That creamy, nutty, mildly fiery sauce just can't be beat!

This was a generous portion and probably as good as any I've had.

Turning to pudding, my first thought was that Bann Thai treated it as something of an afterthought - there's no mention of it on the regular menus, just a short list of sweet treats on a small chalkboard on the mantelpiece, all for £5.25.

The sweet and sour mock duck (£11) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe sweet and sour mock duck (£11) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

We both went for the thoroughly un-Thai honeycomb cheesecake, but I had ice-cream with it while she plumped for the cream (I know I just said she's vegan but that rule is occasionally broken on nights out).

The cake had a nice, thick crust and plenty of chocolate pieces both on top and suspended in the belly of this very tasty beast.

A squiggle of chocolate sauce gave this plate a classy touch. This is the kind of pudding I could easily polish off in a matter of seconds if left unsupervised - top marks!

For more information or to see the menus visit the website www.bannthai.co.uk.

A portion of sticky rice (£3.50) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonA portion of sticky rice (£3.50) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

How does it measure up?

Setting and ambience

Bann Thai's popularity allowed it to take over the vacant shop next door a little while back, and it's now got a leafy outdoor seating area. Indoor dining - which you get to by walking past the obligatory giant wooden elephant in the foyer - is spread between several rooms, giving it a cosy, homely feel. We arrived early doors (around 5pm) on a Sunday and I expected it to be dead, but it was already humming with several parties chatting away. It's a warm, laid-back kind of place, like a balmy afternoon on your favourite Thai beach.

The honeycomb cheesecake with ice cream (£5.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart AndersonThe honeycomb cheesecake with ice cream (£5.25) at Bann Thai restaurant in Cromer. Picture: Stuart Anderson

Service

Staff were excellent and service was prompt, but unhurried. You get the feeling they've been doing this a long time and enjoy what they do.

Drinks

There's a few Thai beers, soft drinks and juices, plenty of wine to choose from and a well-stocked range of spirits. Most things seem to cost about £3. My wife had a glass of house white for £4.95. I had a bottle of Chang beer (£3) - just one - although I'll never get bored of Thai food I didn't want to repeat of the all-too-familar 'Changover'!

Accessibility

It's all on the ground floor and there's plenty of space between the tables, so no difficulties there.

Toilets

There are a couple of toilets towards the back which are clean and tidy.

Parking

The nearest council-run car park is at The Meadows, which is about a five-minute walk away, and there's also some on-street parking about.

Price and value for money

Our total bill, for three courses and two drinks for two, came to £59.20. I wouldn't have wanted to pay too much more than that but for the food quality, top service and all-round dining pleasure, this was great value for money.

Highlight

It had to be the Tom Yam soup. Rich, complex and loaded with yummy surprises, I'd forgotten how delicious this dish is.

In summary

This was exactly what you want when you go out to eat - a thoroughly satisfying meal in a relaxed environment.

My only gripe is self-inflicted - merely that I've had so many Panang curries in my life that my main didn't feel 'special' enough and I should have been more adventurous and chosen something I'd never eaten before instead.

*Our reviews are conducted without a restaurant's prior knowledge and are an independent account of our visit.

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