By Tom Powell

A GLASS of champagne, furnished with ice cold strawberry slices, you could certainly call it a Thai with a twist.

Sitting by the beach, under shady palms and with a series of tranquil water features – well pools really – the setting could however, easily be Koh Samui.

It was little surprise to learn that the restaurant is the brainchild of Claire Strutton, who spends considerable time on the Thai island with fiance Ian Radford, the La Sala group’s chairman.

The word ‘sala’ actually means a wooden pavilion in Thai and everything about the place has a flavour of the Orient.

The meal began with a bang with the Thai tapas selection, which oozed authenticity. The platters appeared to be overflowing with colour and flavour, including sticky satay skewers, crunchy samosas and sumptuous prawn toasts. All complemented by four sublime sauces, including a smoky semi-spicy and a sweet chili.

Thick, juicy criss-cross squid, flavoured delicately with chili and smothered in generous dollops of aioli, also went down a treat.

The mains were stylishly presented, with big helpings of sticky rice to offset the heat of the meat and vegetables.

While my Kaprow – stir-fried beef with chili and basil – was tender and tasty, it certainly packed a kick, demanding serious amounts of liquid to cool down my tongue!

Across the table, Pla Pad Khing – monkfish with ginger – also earned rave reviews. It too combined spice with fresh crunchy vegetables, namely pak choi.

The curries looked and tasted sublime too, both the melt-in-your-mouth salmon and the exotic Thai yellow chicken.

As the last strip of beef disappeared from my plate I thought I couldn’t possibly eat any more, but I’m glad I chose otherwise. Because the chocolate brownie that came for dessert was so much more than an ordinary brownie.

It was simply delicious. Soft, sticky, nutty, the texture was mouthwatering and its relationship with the sweet cinnamon ice cream tasted like true love on my tongue.

Especially with the extra addition of more cool strawberries, bringing the whole dining experience full circle and rounding off a wonderful afternoon in a tranquil setting.

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