YOU welcomes acclaimed restaurant critic Tom Parker Bowles and everyone’s go-to wine expert Olly Smith.
A thai treasure in the heart of the New Forest – who knew? Tom enjoys a lucky find.
There’s much to see in the small Hampshire village of Lyndhurst. The grave of Alice Liddell, inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. St Michael’s and All Angels church, with stained-glass windows by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. And, for those of a less Victorian bent, two vast Ferrari showrooms.
But for me, its greatest lure, aside from the New Forest and its nibbling ponies, is Anissa’s Thai Kitchen. For this is no average pad Thai palace; rather, a joyous blast of true regional cooking, the country sibling to London’s peerless 101 Thai Kitchen, and an entirely fortuitous find.
Wandering down the high street I glance, as always, at the restaurant menus. Anissa’s not only catches my eye, it makes my heart hammer with fish sauce-soaked delight. Nueau dad dieaw! Isaan grilled chicken! I book on the spot. Only later do I find out the London connection.
Dinner is, as expected, magnificent. The great Auntie Bee, doyenne of Southern-style succour, is in the kitchen tonight. Which means that all is well in the world. We drink icy Chang beer, nibbling brittle shards of crisp chicken skin. And chewing that nueau dad dieaw – fried, dried, seasoned beef, dragged through sriracha sauce. The evening is close, heavy and humid. And for a moment I could be back in one of those late night Bangkok Isaan bars, where beer is sold by the metre, and a continuous flow of snacks assaults the tongue with salty, spicy aplomb.
Kua gling moo, made with good minced pork, is dry fried and beautifully brutal, the paste fresh pounded, the chilli heat, scented with lime leaf and lemongrass, rolling across the tongue in fiery waves. Hot and sour prawn curry is suitably so, with fishy, fetid depth, the bamboo shoot giving the dish that idiosyncratic tang. When heat threatens to overwhelm, there’s always a handful of sticky rice and, equally effective, a mouthful of lacy, puffy, oily Thai omelette.
Som tum salad is crunchy, pert and punchy, rich with chewy dried shrimp, and a lime-drenched vim. And poussin, honey and herb marinated, grilled then hewn into quarters. Dunked into a sweet, sharp jaew dipping sauce, we gnaw the chicken until the bones are clean. Service is as lovely as the food, and we skip out into the soft, sweaty Hampshire dusk, our tongues a-throb, our spirits infused with pure Siamese glee.
About £20 a head. Anissa’s Thai Kitchen, Lyndhurst, tel: 0238 028 4974, anissasthaikitchen.co.uk
Give these reds 20 minutes in the fridge for a gastro game-changer, says Olly
RAOUL CLERGET BEAUJOLAIS 2019 (12.5%), £5, Morrisons.
A cherry polished to a mirror, this refreshing red is spot-on to chill and savour – incredible for five quid.
SAINSBURY’S TASTE THE DIFFERENCE BIO BIO CHILEAN PINOT NOIR GRAN RESERVA 2018 (13.5%), £8.50, Sainsbury’s.
Sophisticated, rich. Decant, cool in the fridge door, serve with chargrilled tuna.
XINOMAVRO JEUENES VIGNES THYMIOPOULOS 2018 (13%), £10.95, The Wine Society.
From one of the best winemakers in Greece, this has a fruity-savoury frisson. Outstanding.
LALAMA DOMINIO DO BIBEI 2015 (13.5%), £23.95, bbr.com.
Stunning fragrance and clove-like depth with a bitter twist. Serve with charcuterie and chuckle gleefully.
CA’VIOLA DOLCETTO D’ALBA VILOT 2019 (13.5%), £15.50, hhandc.co.uk. Sleek as a puma, finer than silk, this light, vibrant red has a splendid fruity sheen when chilled. Irresistible!