Food review: “I didn’t have a clue how this could work as a takeaway, but it’s an absolute triumph”

Thai Street Cafe seafood crackers: tasty, not greasy Pictures: SimonWeir/Archant

Thai Street Cafe seafood crackers: tasty, not greasy Pictures: SimonWeir/Archant - Credit: Archant

As the East of England lockdown continues, Simon Weir seeks out comfort food from the Orient at Newmarket’s Thai Street Café.

Tempura morning glory: Thai spinach shoots in batter

Tempura morning glory: Thai spinach shoots in batter - Credit: Archant

The return of lockdown has put an end to eating out, but not to taking out. Rather than taking my girlfriend Ali out for a meal, while our friend Nate babysits for us, I’m treating the pair of them to a takeaway from one of our favourite restaurants. The question is always, can the food that’s so great when you’re at the table survive being placed in pots to serve at home?

First things first, it’s easy to get through on the phone and the meal will be ready for collection in just 25mins. The Thai Street Café is in on Newmarket High Street, just down from the famous clock tower. There’s very little parking outside, so Ali drives and drops me to go in – mask, sanitizer, plenty of space, only three people allowed in at once – while she turns the car round. The meal is ready right on cue and there’s no hanging around.

Back home, I break open the bag. We’ve started with the seafood crackers (£2.50), served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce – something everyone can enjoy. They’re delicious, with a subtler flavour and tighter, less-greasy texture than your traditional prawn cracker.

I almost feel sorry for Nate – not because he’s a vegetarian, but because that means he can’t try anyone else’s food. He’s facing the prospect of both Ali and me tasting his dishes; I’ll also be sampling my pescatarian partner’s meal but neither of them will touch my meaty meal. Perfect planning on my part? Perhaps, but I’ve never felt less guilty about not sharing my takeaway…

Prawn skewers were delicious

Prawn skewers were delicious - Credit: Archant


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Luckily for Nate, his starter is the most generous of the three and can survive a pair of “What’s yours like?” predators. He has the Tempura Morning Glory (£5.10). The morning glory is Thai water spinach shoots, in a light batter that has largely stood up well to being transported in a sealed container without going soggy. The flavour is subtly savoury and remarkably doesn’t disappear when dipped in the large container of spicy sauce. This is very different to the sweet chilli dipping sauce with the crackers – more liquid, peppery and aromatic; hot without being overpowering.

Ali has gone for the char-grilled king prawn skewers (£6.95) which come with a mildly spicy seafood sauce. “They’re delicious and perfectly cooked,” she says, trying to defend them from my scrounging fork. I manage to pinch one – naturally the only one in which the central black food-tube/vein hasn’t been removed so I have to tweak it out myself. The flesh is still firm and flavour is strong enough to cut through the sauce. Really nice.

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Still, it’s not as nice as my chicken satay (£4.75). The chicken is well cooked and juicy rather than dry, with a delicate hint of a spice I can’t quite put my finger on (lemongrass? Aniseed? Five-spice?). The satay sauce is rich and nutty, with a gentle warmth of chilli but certainly no tongue-numbing heat. Four skewers feels like a generous portion, though they’re so good I could eat a punnet of them, especially if there was more of the satay sauce.

For his main course, Nate has gone for the vegetable Pad Thai (£8.45) which comes in one of those folded cardboard cartons you see people eating oriental food from on American TV shows. To be honest, it doesn’t look very big but the box must be built on TARDIS principles, as there’s a vast amount there when I decant it to a plate (elegantly, I’d say… though clearly I’m not presenting any of the dishes as prettily as they would be served in the restaurant).

Pick of the starters was the chicken satay

Pick of the starters was the chicken satay - Credit: Archant

I have had the Pad Thai from here before, in the restaurant, and while I prefer it with king prawns (£10.95) or beef (£10.10) the vegetable version not only stands up to the takeaway treatment but also packs a really lovely, gently nutty flavour with plenty of egg and a generous quantity of well-cooked vegetables. “It’s really tasty,” says Nate, confirming why I’m doing the food review not him.

I’ve gone for an equally classic Thai dish – the red curry, with beef (£10.95) which comes with plain rice (though for £1 extra I could have replaced that with coconut or egg-fried rice, or plain noodles). It’s also available with chicken, pork, king prawns or vegetables and is one of the gluten-free options on the menu.

It is, quite simply, delicious. It’s not a really hot curry (the Jungle curry does that job on the menu) but it has more than enough spice to tingle the tongue, though that’s offset by the rich creaminess of the coconut milk. The beef is well-cooked, in thin strips that haven’t dried out and gone tough or leathery – which can be a risk with takeaway beef. This is just melt-in-the-mouth moreish and goes well with the slightly al dente vegetables.

The dish that impresses me most, though, is Ali’s sea bream laksaa (£12.95). I confess I didn’t have a clue how this could work as a takeaway, but it’s an absolute triumph. The fish is perfectly cooked – flaking apart but not dry, still packed with flavour – and comes in one pot, sitting on its bed of rice noodles and vegetables.

Pad Thai comes in a carton for that authentic street-food vibe

Pad Thai comes in a carton for that authentic street-food vibe - Credit: Archant

The light citrus curry sauce came in a separate pot and after transferring the fish and noodles to the plate/bowl to serve, I’m able to pour the sauce around them. There’s a very generous amount of this – enough not only for this portion but also for another. It does mean I perhaps overload the plate with it, but having extra sauce is not a problem as I could drink it like milkshake, it’s so delicious (though I think it’s destined for the freezer to dress-up a home-cooked fish at some point in the future).

I’m always impressed with any kitchen that can produce a curry that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavour of a fish. There’s a gentle tang to this sauce and a very mild heat, which works beautifully with the bream. “There’s plenty of spice but you can still really taste the fish,” confirms Ali.

In pre-covid times, the Thai Street Café was a noisy, lively, wonderful place for a meal – packed with life and serving food packed with flavour. What’s heartening is that the team adapted to the lockdown not only serving food that’s equally delicious but also working out how to pack even the more difficult-to-transport soupy Thai dishes in a way that lets you get them home and onto the plate. Our meal for three people cost £51.65, which feels like great value.

Don't judge the restaurant on the reviewer's messy plating of the Pad Thai. It was delicious

Don't judge the restaurant on the reviewer's messy plating of the Pad Thai. It was delicious - Credit: Archant

• We pay full price for all meals and restaurants do not know they are being reviewed.

Thai Street Café, 26-28 High Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8LB

Tel: 01638 674123

Red curry comes with plenty of delicious, rich, mildly spicy sauce

Red curry comes with plenty of delicious, rich, mildly spicy sauce - Credit: Archant

For website, click here.

Fish and noodles in one container, sauce in another: how to do Laksaa as a takeaway

Fish and noodles in one container, sauce in another: how to do Laksaa as a takeaway - Credit: Archant

That's about half the sauce that came with the Sea Bream Laksaa - utterly delicious

That's about half the sauce that came with the Sea Bream Laksaa - utterly delicious - Credit: Archant

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