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An original, independent review by Charis Webster:
It’s not often a restaurant takes your breath away, both in design and food, and it’s certainly not often you find yourself sitting on a chair made from pineapple paper.
Tiien Restaurant isn’t just like any normal restaurant you see, the brainchild of Medi Vahdati, owner of both The Indian Lounge and Indian Ocean, it takes pride of place as part of The Marriot Hotel building, and takes full advantage of the central, cliff top location that goes with it. I walk inside and am immediately taken aback by the openness of the place. The décor is lushly Oriental, and mixes elements of real Thai culture with the modernity of an open-plan design, natural woods and bare, white walls. It’s like a paradise escape from the cloudy, cold weather outside, and as a few cheeky rays of sunshine manage to peep through the windows, Tiien is lit up by spectacular rays of light.
Service is friendly and helpful, to the point that everything is tailored to the customer, like strictly vegetarian noodles, i.e. without the fish sauce, and every curry having a heat option for those who want to opt out of the traditionally uber-spicy Thai dishes. I’m greeted by a friendly lady who declares herself as Mutita, she suggests I go for the traditional Tom Yam soup, and I opt for it with king prawns.
I’m left for a while to my own devices as I wait for my food, and watch as two ladies at lunch glare lovingly around the near empty space, looking pleased with their ‘find’, a brand new restaurant almost all to themselves, I imagine that in a few months when Tiien is considerably more well-known, the place will be heaving during lunch and dinner.
A short while later my lunch arrives. It’s a real hit on all senses as the earthy, aromatic scent of coriander travels up to my nose, and the spicy, sweet tang of the soup entices me in for a taste. A traditional Thai soup, this one is made without the coconut milk, allowing the flavours of authentic Thai ingredients to speak for themselves. With Oriental heritage, and having visited and lived in South East Asia, I consider myself a bit of a Thai food expert – where cereal is a British breakfast norm, Thai soup is mine. No, really.
I’m happy to report then, that as I discover the slices of real lemongrass and galangal, and I recognise the undeniable taste of Thai Basil, this soup is one of the best versions of Tom Yam I’ve had this side of the globe. The five tail-on king prawns are large and juicy, and the thin stock in which they swim is sweet, spicy, tangy and delicious.
The green curry is a beautiful, creamy consistency, hit with a delicate mixture of Thai aromatics, like ginger and lime. The spice is just right, enough to get your blood racing, but not enough to stop the flow. The bamboo shoots still retain their crunchy bite, whilst the aubergines and chicken soak up the delicious flavours of coconut and spice.
‘It’s a tough job is this’ I think to myself, as I bask in the now prominent sunshine burning through the window, sipping on a glass of ice-cold water and taking in the surroundings once more. I notice a private area with green walls, a long table, and a curtain for extra privacy. Antique statues of Thai angels and soldiers sit on guard on a built-in, golden shelf. They’re screwed down.
To the right of the main restaurant is another private area, and beyond that is the bar. It’s here where you get the distinct feeling you’re in Thailand, and as I try hard to ignore the huge coach outside attempting a U-turn in the narrow road, I forget all my troubles and take a seat in a private booth. The place is utterly delightful and Medi hasnt missed an interior design trick. Reminiscent of a voguish art gallery, the large bar swoops across one side of the room whilst a few comfy couches, a Thai-style chaise longue and a comfy bed-like sofa with lace drapes, occupy the open space.
And just as I think I’ve seen all there is to see, Medi points out a few colourful bar stools made from pineapple paper. “These are amazing, and very sturdy! He proves his point by bouncing down on one of the paper chairs. It wobbles suspiciously, but true to his word, stays in place. A lot of the furniture is from Thailand, we want it to be as authentic as possible.” With that in mind, I commend Tiien for having the audacity to go authentic all the way, from sourcing ingredients from Thailand, right down to the furniture.
I leave, taking a parting glance at the striking piece of artwork on the wall; if a beautiful piece of handmade tapestry given as a gift from a real life Monk doesn’t say authenticity, then I don’t know what does.
Visited by BHbeat editor Charis Webster in March 2011