Review: Star of Siam, Highfield, Durham Road, East Rainton.

The Star of Siam and Highfield Hotel in East Rainton.

The Star of Siam and Highfield Hotel in East Rainton.

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TIMES I’ve driven past Star of Siam? Countless. Times I’d been through the door before this week? None.

Lesson learnt from this slip-up: never judge a book by its cover.

What a little gem Star of Siam is.

I don’t know why I’ve been missing out on this restaurant for so long.

I guess I was put off by its situation, being perched on the edge of the A690 in a very English-looking roadside hotel doesn’t exactly scream “Thai food treat,” but that’s exactly what it is.

I visited with regular scoffing partner Cara Houchen on a Thursday evening. It was fairly late by the time we arrived, 9pm, (Houch took ages to get ready), but luckily we’d missed the rush and were seated no problem without a booking.

The waitress was friendly and chatted away, telling us how busy they’d been a couple of hours before.

Indeed, this Thai restaurant, one of the first of its kind to open in the North East two decades ago, has something of a cult following.

It was word of mouth which nudged me into going along and I now know why it comes so highly recommended.

Don’t be expecting anything too fancy from the interiors. There are some authentic Thai decorations and some interesting water features dotted about. It’s clean, comfortable and welcoming, but this isn’t one of those stuffy, showy restaurants.

Instead it focuses on amazing food, slices of heaven for the tastebuds.

There’s a decent-sized menu, but you aren’t faced with too many options, a pet hate of mine. For those who still can’t decide there are three-course set meals, priced from £21.50.

Even if you order separately, however, prices are still reasonable.

Starters come in around the £4.95 mark and, both fond of nibbly bits, we opted for one of the sharing options. (£10.95)

We didn’t fancy the spare ribs which came with it, but the kitchen were happy to swap them for some king prawns in filo pastry.

The rest of the appetiser consisted of beef and chicken satay fishcakes, spring rolls, and kanom jeb (which are Thai dumplings.)

Each morsel was simply delicious, especially the delightful dumplings which were plump with flavour and were moist enough to melt on your tongue.

Even the accompanying sauces tasted extra good and we used every last piece of salad on the plate to mop up the sauce from the little pots.

Next up, the mains. You can choose from a selection of standard mains, soup, seafood, speciality dishes, curries and Thai spicy salads which are all cooked from fresh by the restaurant’s Thai chefs. The top chef worked in the five-star Orient Hotel in Bangkok, no less, before moving to Wearside.

I’m thankful he did. My main was scrumptious, I didn’t want it to end. I’d gone for a Thai classic – pad Thai with prawns – which comes in at £10.10.

It was a lip-licking blend of flavours punctuated by some real meaty king prawns.

Opposite, Houch tucked into a kaeng pet ped yang (£11.95) – a clay pot of roasted duck in red curry, consisting of coconut milk, capsicums, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, aubergine and lychees.

It was nicely presented and oozed flavour, a real taste of the Orient. It wasn’t too hot either, which meant I could dip my spoon into the clay pot for sampling purposes.

With fried rice and drinks, our bill came to £46.55, but there are also early bird options for people who are able to get ready for a meal quicker than we can.