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Following the success of its two Birmingham restaurants, award-winning Thai eatery Sabai Sabai has branched out into Stratford-upon-Avon.
“We’re really excited to be opening in Stratford, the artistic heart of Warwickshire,” says Torquil Chidwick, joint owner of Sabai Sabai with his wife, Juree. “The location for the restaurant couldn’t be more perfect. Our other restaurants are in the suburbs, but Wood Street is right in the centre of Stratford, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare Company.”
19 - 20 Wood Street,
Telephone: 01789 508 220
The Thai people believe that the expression ‘sabai sabai’ - meaning ‘easy-going and relaxed’ - is a perfect description of the way in which they live their life.
And ‘easy-going and relaxed’ is clearly the sort of vibe that husband-and-wife team Torquil and Juree Chidwick aim to achieve in their restaurants, which combine luxurious fixtures and fittings with a friendly, laidback atmosphere.
On a cold October night, there’s a warm welcome and something of a chilled-out Ibiza vibe awaiting visitors to the couple’s new Stratford-upon-Avon restaurant, the third in an expanding chain that also features award-winning outlets in the Birmingham districts of Moseley and Harborne.
The restaurant’s size and its town-centre location make it Torquil and Juree’s most prestigious eatery and biggest challenge yet, according to Torquil’s brother Ciaran, who was helping out on the night my partner and I visited. But it’s a challenge the family appears to be taking in its stride, judging by their cheery mood on what proved to be a busy Thursday night.
All of which makes perfect sense, given my long-held assertion that Thai cuisine is good-time food - full of colour, variety and invention. And with a pint of Singha in my hand, I was more than happy to get with the vibe. If the Singha was predictable, so too was my choice of food - a bit of everything. Okay, not everything, but a decent assortment, in the form of the set menu for two, which comes in at just under £25 a head. For that, we got the obligatory prawn crackers and a fabulous platter of moreish appetisers that I could happily have eaten all night - sweetcorn cakes, perfectly cooked chicken satay, tempura prawns in some of the best batter I’ve ever tasted and ‘golden bags’ (filo parcels stuffed with a lovely combination of minced prawns and chicken).
The flavour combinations continued with the three main dishes, which ranged from relatively sweet to fiery hot. Well, maybe not fiery, but the green chicken curry had far more of a kick than I’m used to (it’s spicier in southern Thailand, according to Ciaran). It was fabulously tasty nonetheless. The red chillies probably had something to do with the heat, but I especially liked the chunky pieces of aubergine, as well as the bamboo shoots and green beans. It was a really tasty dish, served with steamed jasmine rice to help soak up the sauce.
The other two main courses - chicken pad Thai and prawns in a garlic and pepper sauce - paled slightly by comparison, but the relative sweetness of these stir-fried dishes proved a nice complement, as well as an alternative, to the hotter curry option. The pad Thai was a relatively subtle combination of chicken, rice noodles, egg, beansprouts, carrots and finely chopped peanuts in a light sauce. The colourful dish of chunky prawns (the best kind!) in a dark sauce also contained a lively mix of spring onions, mangetout, baby corn and red chillies.
I went up and down the line sampling each, and while the green curry undoubtedly made the biggest impression, I’d happily have eaten any of them as a stand-alone main dish.
Speaking of which, all are on the main menu, where courses range from around £10 to £16 (rice and noodles are extra). There are plenty of tofu-inspired vegetarian and vegan options, as well as a fabulous array of desserts (all around the £6 mark). Sadly we were too full to sample them, meaning I had to leave the baked Thai egg custard for another time.
And on the basis of the quality of the food, service and atmosphere at Sabai Sabai, there most definitely will be another time.
Reviewed by Steve Adams