Some like it hot

If you are touring round the Spanish Arch, the sign will catch your eye. Lime green, gold with a graceful font announces the name of the restaurant, Thai Garden. As one of Galway's long-established restaurants, it is attractively located in a modern building overlooking the iconic scenery of the Claddagh. A smart, heated terrace at the rear is very appealing in the summer, and the spacious interior has an adjoining room ideal for private parties with pleasant views out over the fish market and the River Corrib. If you are looking for Thai cuisine in the heart of Galway then this is your go-to place.

Thai Garden is a restaurant where you can always expect a warm greeting and traditional ethnic food that is second to none. The team infuse the five fundamental flavours of their native cuisine into the cooking: hot, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter, and using exotic ingredients such as lemongrass, coconut, coriander, galangal, and Thai basil to create their distinctive food. From the moment you enter the restaurant you are waited on hand and foot, the staff could not be more helpful or gracious. And with the almost exclusively native Thai staff, the food is the most authentic you will find.

Thai Garden is elderly in restaurant years, having just celebrated a milestone birthday. It was opened 15 years ago by Mick and Colette Durkin, along with Thailand native Tippy Pengjamsri. The former manager recently retired and currently lives in Thailand. From the Pattaya area, this chef came to Galway via Switzerland and Dublin. The restaurant is unique in Galway, having created a family of Thai chefs and waiting staff. Prawon, the manager, started there in 2003 and was soon joined by her husband Tanu and son Mark. Ae, the assistant manager, has been there since 2000 and she found romance in the Thai Garden with the chef, Boy. The head chef Noi is responsible for producing the menus with his wife Jaem who dabbles in the Oriental art of vegetable carving. Chef Thom and his wife Ew complete the kitchen team, the very definition of a family-run restaurant.

But it is the food that really stands out. The menu at the Thai Garden features a varied selection of fish, beef, chicken, pork, duck, and prawn, as well as many superb vegetarian and coeliac options. The style of the food is based on central Thailand where the emphasis is on moderate flavours with herbs and sugar, although the chef will very often add his own daily specials selected from other regions. It is 'royal cuisine', elaborately prepared and presented with metal urns for the rice and distinctive blue and white delph. After the typically warm welcome the menus offer many of the Thai classics on an extensive à la carte. It is wise to order an aperitif and allow plenty of time to decide - or the indecisive could begin with the combination appetisers, followed by main courses from a choice of dishes including stir-fries, sizzling flambés, curries, seafood, rice and noodle dishes. You get to choose the ‘hotness’ of all your dishes and they do not rely on cornflour for thickening or MSG for flavour. Whatever you choose, you are in for a real treat. From classic dishes such as chicken satay to the more exotic tom yam ta lay, a spicy fisherman’s soup for two, each dish is created using authentic Thai techniques. This is Thai food as it is supposed to taste.

A full à la carte menu with tantalising chef specials is available every day, while early bird menus are available Sunday to Friday. Assistant manager Ae and chef Boy have recently celebrated the birth of their baby girl, Bess, a second generation of Thai food fans for Galway. Things are looking promising for the next 15 years.

Thai Garden, Spanish Arch, Galway. Phone: 091-567865. Email: [email protected].

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