Saturday night in the suburbs. This relatively-new parent is often to be found sitting at home vaguely imagining the fun and feasting being had in little local hotspots while she and her husband attempt to liven up the weekend by sticking on a movie and busting out the Whittakers. Stop, the excitement might be fatal.
Our close friends have their wedding anniversary just days before ours, and this year we decided to enjoy a double celebration evening. The babysitter arranged, we headed to the heretofore-mysterious-but-quite-intriguing ‘De Grand Thai Restaurant & Bar’ in Auckland’s Great South Road, Epsom.
With an exterior reminiscent of a German beer-hall style pub, and a seemingly-woeful shortage of parking, this establishment was not too high on our hit-list, but occupied a space there nonetheless, given its equidistant proximity to our two residences, and the promise of what-can-sometimes-be-elusive good local Thai food.
Well, exteriors can be deceiving. Maybe it was the buzz I was feeling from the quick cocktail I gleefully enjoyed while waiting for the babysitter (‘Night out! Night out’), but the interior caused me no end of delight on first impression. The décor is pure up-market Thai restaurant. But the cherry on top is the bright, colourful uniforms of the smiling wait-staff, complete with tiny golden bells that jingle as they glide smoothly about (‘Bells! Bells!’).
We were feeling reckless, and hungry, so we began with a veritable feast of appetizers to accompany two bottles of white: Te Mata 2012 Viognier, and a celebratory anniversary bottle of Neudorf 2005 Chardonnay.
The first dish to arrive- marinated prawns wrapped in salty bacon with a smother of delicate mayonnaise- were served somewhat whimsically on sticks in a cocktail glass. Traditional Thai-style spring rolls with vermicelli and vegetables followed, along with money bags with minced chicken and prawn and peanut perfectly entwined in crisp pastry with a sweet and sour sauce.
We also enjoyed fresh spring rolls- rice paper rolled around chopped prawns and vegetables. But the absolute highlight of the appetiser course was a dish of fat prawns marinated in garlic, herbs and chilli, cooked to perfection and served on the kind of simple, understated Asian spoon that made a ‘freshly-shucked-oyster-moment’ out of a humble prawn. So sublimely tasty we immediately ordered the same again.
At this point in the evening we were well and truly on a roll, congratulating ourselves on this clever find and eagerly awaiting more delights from the main courses. The Panang red chicken curry did not disappoint. Neither did the wonderfully spicy chicken larb, the succulent basil and garlic duck, nor the classically delicate flavours of a prawn Pad Thai.
We weren’t quite game enough to go for dessert after this fulsome feast, which was a shame because the options looked interesting. Some Italian influence was evident (dolce vita, fuiti bellissima, or bella cassatta anyone?) These sat next to plain old ice cream, deep fried ice cream and the classic Asian dessert- banana fritter (is it though? I must venture to that continent and find out for myself.) This version comes with coconut ice cream and yellow custard sauce.
Nevertheless, the price tag on this delicious feast? Ran to $120 total- or $60 per couple. What a delightful end to a great meal and experience. (I mean, we can barely get decent burgers for that kind of money these days!)
When can we go back? Not soon enough. In the spirit of full disclosure I conclude this 5 star review by admitting I am about to speed dial De Grand Thai to make another booking for this weekend. Yum, yummity yum.
De Grand Thai Contemporary Thai Restaurant: http://www.degrand.co.nz/index.html