Norwich: Siam Bangkok

It's got a great location, right in the centre of the city so it's perfect for quick bites to eat before say the cinema or theatre and indeed the service is fairly brisk so if you're expecting a long, lingering supper, it might not be the place for you.

Now don't get me wrong .There's no way you could call me Scrooge. I'm full of festive cheer, with presents unwrapped, thank you cards ready to write and several bargains snapped up in the post Christmas sales. Yet somehow, Christmas and the New Year can be just a bit much at times. All those meals out, all those glasses of wine, all those mince pies and so on and on.

Most of us have a few work does to attend where it's nearly always a set meal, with turkey as the obvious main course option, then there are the family celebrations and the children's parties and before you know it, you've had more than your fair share of heavy Christmas fodder.

So when it comes to having a night out with your partner, what you actually fancy is anything but traditional Christmas food.

Fortunately, Norwich has been well stocked with Thai restaurants for a good few years, with the Siam Bangkok on Orford Hill a popular stop for almost 20 years. It's a cosy sort of place and you can peer in the windows quite easily and see what's happening.

It's got a great location, right in the centre of the city so it's perfect for quick bites to eat before say the cinema or theatre and indeed the service is fairly brisk so if you're expecting a long, lingering supper, it might not be the place for you.

I've visited plenty of times over the years and I must say that it's starting to look a little faded. Sure, the numerous, colourful parasols still cover most of the ceiling and the staff are always beautifully turned out in their traditional costumes. But the décor is a little tired, plates and cutlery seems a little old and there's the general air of a place in need of a refurbishment. And that's before I mention the loos.

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But don't let all this put you off as the food is really rather good. For a start, the menu isn't that confusing mass of literature that has you simply opting for one of the set menu possibilities. Rather there are all your old favourites, from chicken satay and spring roll starters to hot and sour soups and classic main courses such as green chicken curry, garlic beef and sweet and sour king prawns.

There are some challenging dishes, too, how does mussels with peppers grab you or duck breast and cashew nuts? Flavours are subtle, nothing here is going to terrify your palate but that's often the case with Thai cuisine, where you get the more warming spices and herbs than anything to blow your brains out!

I started with one of the soups, a spicy seafood one while my partner had the ever popular hot and sour number (both at £4.75). They were good, with plenty of chunky bits to get your teeth into.

I fancied the look of ginger pork - stir-fried pork with plenty of onions and mushrooms at £9.50 - or king prawns with sweet chilli at £10.50 but eventually opted for beef with chilli and kaprow basil at £9.50. I've no idea what kaprow basil is but it tasted fine.

My better half went for a seafood option, king prawns with seaweed (£10.50), which saw plenty of deep fried prawns and crunchy seaweed with a mild sauce. It was declared fine, too, which isn't that most lavish of praise!

We shared a plate of mixed vegetables with oyster sauce at £3.95 and had the Thai rice, too, at £2.50 per bowl. I've never been a fan of Far East puddings, they range from good old uninspiring sorbets to sticky banana fritters so we gave them a miss in favour of plenty of jasmine tea - most refreshing

The Siam Bangkok remains a buzzy place and most tables were taken the Saturday night that we visited but the number of competitors and the emergence of noodle bars such as Wagamamas cannot be the best news for these more traditional restaurants.

t Siam Bangkok, Orford Hill, Norwich; 01603 617817

t Do I need to book? Yes, especially at weekends

t What about children? You know them best - you're not going to find fish fingers and chips if that's what they love!

t Anything for vegetarians? Plenty - how about tofu satay (£4.15), mock duck curry (£8.25) or mixed vegetable with cashew nuts (£7.50)

t Smoking? No thanks

t Where's the best place to park? In the day, there's the John Lewis car park or you could try The Forum in the evenings

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