Matt and Cat are well-known to the staff and management of Ryde Thai, and their enthusiasm for its previous incarnation in Seaview, the now-closed Khrua Thai, is well documented. At their very first visit way back in 2009 Matt and Cat famously ate the wonderful 'Set Menu B' and said of it "the food itself was faultless, and the service charming. Its extraordinary alchemy of tastes and textures was a pleasure to eat". Since then, Matt and Cat have had family dinners, takeaways and even birthday parties to the taste of this great Thai food. And, like a great many regular customers, have become friends of the management and staff. So they could hardly be their usual impartial selves.
As is occasionally their habit they sent trustworthy but unknown agents instead. This time it was local writer Emma Brown and her husband Stephen. Matt and Cat promised to publish Emma's unexpurgated views, both praise and criticism. So read on to see what Emma made of Ryde Thai, before seeing Matt and Cat's own conclusions at the end.
I'd been following the transformation of Khrua Thai in Seaview to Ryde Thai quite closely, especially after they caused a bit of a stir when their new cooker got stuck in the door. Not being a resident of Ryde, I wasn't sure where they had moved to so checked their website but unfortunately it hasn't been updated and states that they're still based in Seaview. Google soon assured me that they can now be found at the bottom end of Union Street so I booked for us to go on the day after Valentine's Day.
Deep fried wan ton £4.85
Spring rolls £4.85
Sweet and sour fish £7.25
Drunken duck £8.25
Prawn pud thai £8.25
Chicken fried rice £6.25
1 x glass of white wine £4.85
1 x glass of red wine £4.85
Having visited the basement restaurant in Seaview several times, it was a definite improvement to be able to see the dining area from the street. Although not nearly as stormy as the previous night, we were pleased to enter the welcoming restaurant. Admiring the smart, monochrome decor, we were seated towards the back of the room. The waitresses were dressed in beautiful traditional sarongs with colour co-ordinated tops and our waitress was very patient as we took some time to decide. We went with two friends, neither of whom had ever tried Thai food before - and one of them doesn't like spicy food or garlic. This would have meant a simple choice of omelette and chips if we had been in an Indian restaurant but taking a look through the extensive menu we found plenty that she would be able to sample.
Wary of falling into the habit of always ordering the same thing in restaurants, I try to order something I've never tried when going somewhere new. So while our friends both chose chicken satay, fried won ton caught my eye and Stephen ordered spring rolls which we decided to share. Matt and Cat have documented food envy but, having watched way too many films, I always quote from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when disappointed by my decision, "He chose poorly". So while our friends tucked into huge portions of succulent, marinated chicken with a peanut dip, we received small, crisp tubes and parcels which didn't have enough filling to provide much flavour. The accompanying sweet chilli dip and salad were tasty but I couldn't help but stare longingly at our friends' plates wondering what might have been.
With our hunger sated briefly, we were able to pay more attention to our surroundings. A few tasteful pictures and a photograph of a member of the Thai royal family in headgear not unlike a busby, adorned the walls and lifted the slightly austere black and white theme. I got to know the prince and his furry hat quite well as we waited almost an hour for our main courses, despite the restaurant not being completely full. In this time we also noticed that we started having to talk louder because of the echoing nature of a room with hard floors. A table not far from us got more excitable as the evening progressed so, by the time they left, we were almost having to shout.
These minor quibbles were swept away when the main courses arrived, as Stephen had chosen the drunken duck. I?m not normally too keen on duck so Stephen can usually enjoy duck without me begging for scraps like a street urchin, so this time he wasn't as keen to share. The small amount I was allowed had been cooked to perfection using whiskey, and was one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. I had chosen sweet and sour fish which turned out to be battered fish with vegetables and a lovely sauce but looked not unlike what you would get at a fish and chip shop. This was accompanied by pud Thai noodles which were delicately flavoured and a welcome change from rice. Our friends chose sweet and sour chicken and beef respectively and both declared how flavourful they were, without being too hot, which was quite a relief.
Our conversation had all but stopped apart from exclamations of how delicious the food was and appreciative murmurings. Once we had finished eating we carried on chatting without the inevitable offer of dessert as there didn't seem to be any, not even those bought-in ice creams which are usually frozen too hard to dig a spoon into.
It finally dawned on us that everyone else had left and we were the last ones there. We hadn't been made to feel unwelcome and had been left to enjoy our evening. By the time we'd settled the bill, the owners had come out to say goodbye as we left.
Not only had we enjoyed a lovely meal in good company but there were two more converts to the pleasures of Thai food as we all agreed we would go again. And next time I'm willing to break my self-imposed rule if it means I can have the drunken duck again.
Matt and Cat's own thoughts
Matt and Cat have eaten at the Ryde Thai a few times since it opened at the tail end of 2013. Without exception, dining here has always been impressively consistent and they would undoubtedly have been gushing if they had written the review. Therefore M&C owe thanks to Emma and Steve for their insights and thoughts as everyday diners at the Ryde Thai. Since moving from Seaview the proprietors have had a pretty busy winter yet, as E&S observed, the quality of the food has not been compromised. Clearly any chef who managed to break Emma's 'duck' on her self-imposed duckless diet is a talented chap indeed. Matt and Cat happy to heartily recommend Ryde Thai.
Address: 4 Union St, Ryde PO33 2DU
Phone: 01983 810944
3 comments (newest first)
I’m an Aussie as well and I’ve been hankering for a decent Thai meal. Thanks for the review. We’ll check it out on Friday.
As a new resident on the Island all the way from Australia I am very keen to try this out as I am already missing our often twice weekly Thai meals we had back home. I am actually about to attempt a home cooked red chicken curry tonight with some missing ingredients which I have not yet been able to find on the island.
Matt and Cat reply: the owners are very friendly and enthusiastic - being Thai people of course - and I am sure you will get the chance to ask them about where to get fresh ingredients. They are always very keen on using fresh stuff, and it shows in the results.
The quality is certainly well up to standard, and the initial very crowded evenings are thankfully tailing off a bit now. (There was plenty of room here one Wednesday when another favourite venue a little further up the hill was full to bursting). I’m not sure the capacity of the waiting staff has fully kept pace with the busier setting, but there’s always a friendly and helpful approach, especially when the chef emerges from the kitchen to see how you felt about the meal.
The only comments I would have are: it would be handy if the menu gave a better impression of the contents of each dish (i.e. similar descriptions on the menu do not reflect the inclusion or not of vegetgables on the plate) and it would be nice if the portion sizes were more consistent from one dish to another.
That said, the best of the dishes are magnificent, and can prompt envious glances from adjoining tables…