Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Leytonstone Singburi experience

Leytonstone sunset

I've been going to the gym a bit recently (and hating it) in a bid to try and not get fat off my increasingly over indulgent diet. My thinking is that if I run for 20 minutes 3 times a week, I can pretty much eat what I want. I mean I'm pretty sure that's how these things work, although Curtis, my enormous personal trainer, seems to disagree...

With food constantly being at the forefront of my thoughts, Singburi Thai cafe on High Road Leytonstone has inevitably caught my eye as I've begrudgingly trekked back and forth to the gym. Always busy even on weeknights, I've been meaning to try it for quite a while now. So on Friday night, with the family visiting for the weekend, we decided to give it a go.

We arrived around 8:30pm with our bottles of wine (it's bring your own booze), but without a reservation. The place was packed. Joint owner Thelma (part of a Thai husband and wife team) looked busy and flustered, and the chance of us getting in was looking slim. However she managed to wriggle things around, and a table for four opened up for us. Lesson 1, it's best to book.

Once settled, we were given our menus and glasses. The menu is pretty much what you expect from a Thai restaurant- all your standard Thai green/red curries, pad thai, etc., plus a few wild cards. There's also a specials white board which changes daily, and included crab, sea bass and Chinese broccoli, amongst other unheard of Thai dishes. We cracked open our wine, ordered, and soaked in the atmosphere. I have to say, I love places like this. Bring your own booze is obviously a great start to a fun and relaxed evening, but the vibe of Singburi is so informal, you feel like you've just popped over to Thelma and Tony's for dinner. It's not trying to be anything it's not- decor is very down to earth, with a wall of fame consisting of photographs of previous diners, and newspaper clipping reviews pinned up. Everyone is just enjoying themselves, eating generous and colourful sharing dishes of Thai food. My Dad remarked that he felt like he was in Hong Kong- having never been I wouldn't know, but it's that kind of buzzing place.

Our starter arrived. Prawns wrapped in pastry, and satay chicken to share. You can't really go wrong with these, but even so, I'll tell you they were very tasty. The prawns were served with an authentic and fresh tasting sweet chili sauce (homemade I'm fairly sure), and the chicken satay marinade was pungent in a good way, with the lemongrass really coming through, and the chicken nice and char-grilled. Good dipping sauce too. So far so good.

Great spread

Onto the main. The beef massaman curry was a definite highlight for me. Big chunks of slow cooked, flaky beef and potatoes, in a gorgeous light peanut flavoured spiced sauce. We were able to specify our level of spice for the curries, and with a few not-so-adventurous members of our party not a fan of spice, we asked for all of them to be mild. This was probably the right decision in retrospect, as by the end of the meal we were still all perspiring ever so slightly.

Chicken Thai green curry was again great, with nice chunks of aubergine and chicken submerged in a fragrant broth. The prawn pad thai was another highlight for me, and though I'm no Thai food expert, it tasted to me like I think pad thai should taste- light noodles, lots of peanut, and nice crunchy beansprouts. The sea bass was a great centre piece for the table. It arrived looking magnificent, dressed in spring onion, coriander and chili. It was totally delicious, really light and fresh. I think they must have baked it, as it had really retained it's moisture, and had a light sesame juice surrounding it. The sea bass with rice and a Chinese broccoli would go down really well as a meal if you wanted something less heavy and more healthy (perhaps after my next gym workout..). Along with these dishes, we had 1 x coconut and 1 x plain rice.

Thai Green in the foreground, beef massaman at the back

Beautiful sea bass

Moreish Pad Thai

Maybe it's because I've just moved to Leytonstone and am determined to be enthusiastic about everything...however I reckon this place is a hidden gem. It's got bags of character, great authentic Thai food, and a lovely atmosphere, what more do you want? It's definitely worth the intrepid walk down slightly dodgy High road Leytonstone. Thelma and Tony are great characters, we really warmed to them. Don't go here if you want clinically produced, pretentious, fancy food...but if you want a damn good Thai meal, and to feel at home whilst eating it, then this is the place to be. Thank you Thelma and Tony- I hope to one day make it onto your wall of fame for loyal customers!