So much to smile about at Tiien+
Review by Liz Turner
Thailand is frequently referred to as the land of smiles with visitors enjoying the accompanying welcome. But could a meal at a Thai restaurant on a muggy dull evening in Westbourne create the same feel-good factor and sense of happiness?
From the second my son Nic and I walked into the new Tiien+ Cuisine restaurant in Westbourne our mood changed and we knew we had escaped from the mundane into somewhere really special. With manager Noi Vahdati welcoming us at the door with a big smile on her face the evening brightened up instantly.
This is the third Tiien Thai restaurant in the area and we felt lucky to be invited to eat there, as it had only been open a matter of weeks and was already being booked up.
Smaller than the Broadstone and Bournemouth restaurants with only 45 seats, this restaurant is perfect for those wanting a more intimate meal or relaxed atmosphere without compromising on the excellent authentic food, which has earned Tiien restaurants their enviable reputations.
We immediately relaxed in the stylish surroundings, contemporary but with a serene atmosphere. Tiien in Thailand means candle and the walls of candles and soft modern lighting create a sense of calm. However it wasn’t long before the aromas coming from the kitchen made us realise how hungry we suddenly were.
I visited Thailand around 30 years ago and while knowing that I loved the food, my overriding memory is of it being too hot. I also have an allergy to garlic but this was no problem – with food freshly prepared ingredients can be carefully selected to suit everyone’s tastes. As for the heat in the food – again there was a choice. My son, on the other hand, likes food hotter so also appreciated the fact that he could choose.
There aren’t as many dishes on the menu at Westbourne Tiien+ Cuisine as at the other Tiien restaurants, something I have to admit I was quite pleased about as I was totally spoiled for choice. Noi guided us expertly through the wide selection and we went for a mixed starter for two people. This gave us chance to try out Thai vegetarian spring rolls, barbecued chicken wings, chicken satay, prawn toasts and sweetcorn cake with peanut sauce, sweet chilli sauce and cucumber salsa. All were delicious and mouth-watering and we were particularly taken with the sweetcorn cake, which neither of us had tried before.
With the exception of the chicken wings, all the tasty treats in the mixed starter can be ordered on their own but the mixed option was a perfect way of trying out a selection.
With our taste-buds tingling we didn’t having to wait long until our journey of discovery through Thai food continued.
Having fallen in love with peanut and coconut dishes while in Thailand I eventually chose the Massaman curry as my next course. Described as authentic ground peanut curry with potatoes and onions flavoured with tamarind juice and coconut milk, I’m finding my mouth is watering again as I write about it. You can have curry with chicken, beef, tiger prawns or vegetable with tofu. I decided on the prawns, which were so fresh and tasty and I don’t think I could have chosen any better. The flavours took me back to Thailand with memories of eating fresh fish by the sea and drinking coconut water from the nut.
Nic was torn between the green curry, his favourite Thai food, or the stir-fired cashew nuts and chillies. Breaking with tradition he went for the stir fry, which again came with a choice of meat, or tofu and he went for beef and medium heat. The smile on his face made it clear that he was in food heaven and I just had to try the dish myself. Again, the flavours combined together flawlessly to create magical tastes and textures.
I understand that in Thai cooking there are four flavours: sour, sweet, creamy and salty with heat added. The secret of a good dish is the right balance of the flavours – and with Tiien Cuisine’s food tasting so amazing, the chefs have clearly got this balance spot-on. Our meals were accompanied by jasmine rice, perfectly cooked.
After relaxing with a soft drink before the meal we had a chilled Thai Chang beer – which complemented our food but the restaurant also has a comprehensive wine list.
We really couldn’t fault the food or the service, which was attentive with traditional Thai dress adding to the authentic atmosphere. Even the cutlery – knife, fork and spoon, meant you could adopt the Thai way of eating with fork and spoon. The food is beautifully presented and of course everything came with a smile.
This is where the plus in the name comes in. Tiien+ Cuisine in Westbourne is far more than just a restaurant. While this is located on the ground floor with private parking and the option of summer time eating outdoors, the upper floors have been converted into a boutique hotel.
It’s taken almost nine months to convert the former Roselyn hotel into the Tiien+ Cuisine restaurant and Fab hotel. With nine bedrooms ranging from single to twin and family, bookings came in as soon as the hotel opened at the end of July.
With local residents having watched the work progress, they were all eager to get a taste of the new venture. Many are now restaurant regulars and family and friends have stayed in the hotel. Fab is located just across the road from an eight-minute walk down Alum Chine to the beach. After you’ve spent the day on the beach, a meal at Tiien+ Cuisine would be the perfect ending. Of course you don’t have to be a guest to eat there.
And there’s one thing for certain, guests at the hotel will be welcomed with the same smiles that made our evening one we are smiling about.