Review: Orangegrass, Mount Terrace, South Shields

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IT became top trendy nosh in the 1990s and has now settled into the role of being Chinese food’s slightly more swish cousin.

Yes, Thai cuisine is to Chinese what Barcelona is to Benidorm – and there is a healthy spattering of eateries in the North East at which to try it.

Of those, you could go worse than Orangegrass in South Shields.

Set upstairs off a quiet side street near the Town Hall, the restaurant manages to be relaxing and laid-back, while at the same time offering more elegance than the nearby cheap-eat Indian and Italians.

We were greeted by friendly, polite and attentive waiting staff and seated at a neatly laid-out table with even the cutlery neatly arranged in a floral form.

The mammoth menu features dozens of dishes to get your tongue in a twist when it comes to ordering, and I’m afraid I chickened-out and opted for pointing and saying the number for some dishes.

“Vegetarian mixed starter” is, however, very easy to pronounce and conjured up a platter of spring rolls, sweet-corn cakes and assorted battered vegetables served with sweet-chilli sauce, peanut sauce and an unexpectedly piquant concoction of grated carrot and cucumber.

Always eager to try as much as she can from any given menu, my dining partner suggested we share two main courses, which worked for me – she had to go veggie for the night, and I avoided food envy.

Her suggested approach was thus: “We order a tofu-y one and a mushroom-y one” and it seemed to work out quite well, apart from the inherent pronunciation problems.

Tofu rad prik was a pleasing mix of crispy tofu topped with sweet and sour chilli sauce, packing a punchy flavour while avoiding the cloying sweetness which exists far too often in your average Chinese takeaway.

Hed pud med ma-maung featured a deeper, more savoury sauce coating mushrooms, cashew nuts and other stir-fried vegetables.

We soaked up the sauce with a portion of khao suey and khao ob ma-praw – that’s coconut rice and jasmine rice for those of you at home – their fluffiness and more delicate flavour being the ying to the sauces’ yang (or should that be the other way round?).

Throw in a pint of Thai lager each (which I drank while avoiding the eye of the meditating Buddha sat on the windowsill nearby) and we were more than adequately fed and watered by the time the dessert menu came around.

The selection on offer seemed to consist largely of bought-in frozen fare, so we decided to quit while we were ahead with the bill coming to a reasonable £40 for two.