I used to live just down the road from Siam Village’s Stockport branch. And, in two years of inhabiting the area, visited only the once. That’s not because there was anything inherently wrong with it, per se. It was just unremarkable. I think that’s the problem with most Thai restaurants. They’re generally pretty nice – decent food, decent ambiance, decent prices – but you seldom find one that sets your world alight and is, for that matter, anything other than just decent.
Accordingly, in the mind, each discrete experience melts into a kind of mundane mediocrity – always the same menu, always the same decor. What’s missing is the distinctness, the singularity. Visit any local Thai in any high street in the country and you are more or less assured of having the exact same experience (with a few noteworthy exceptions, such as Siam Orchid in Manchester’s Portland Street).
Now, everyone knows that opening up in Stockton Heath is a guaranteed licence to print money. Even packing a first floor enterprise such as the Siam Village isn’t remotely challenging. People will flock there regardless. It was pretty much standing room only on our visit, and the strain of seating and serving so great a crowd was painfully evident in the quality of the service. Perhaps it was due to its being opening week. Perhaps they’re just generally pretty disorganised.
I do love a Thai salad. It’s the pinnacle of a stunning cuisine. Heartened was I, therefore, to find a chicken larb peering up at me from the menu. It was a good effort but, having requested it extra spicy, I found it flaccid in terms of piquancy. The main issue was that it took too bloody long to arrive. You know it’s a bad sign when you’ve demolished the best part of a bottle of your favourite Sauvignon before the starter so much as puts in an appearance.
As you can imagine, we were pretty ravenous by this stage. Main course of duck red curry, what ought to be a staple of any Thai hostelry, was criminally devoid of meat. What was there was palatable, there just wasn’t a lot of it. It was a good job I’d invested in some sticky rice – at a monumental £4 – to bulk it out. To be fair to them, the sauce was quite thick and not particularly watery (a perennial problem with Thai curries, I find). I just felt stiffed over the quantity of the food.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Stockton Heath branch of Siam Village will be an unfettered, roaring success. It probably already is; doubtless be bolstered by its location. But, in my view, it’s Thai by numbers – nothing in the way of distinct character, nothing particularly memorable and, dare I say it, lacking in soul.