Review: Royale Thai, Mary Street, Sunderland

Royale Thai, Mary Street Sunderland
Royale Thai, Mary Street Sunderland
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Is this revamp of the former Royal Mail building in Mary Street the complete package?

Gone are the queues of people waiting at the counter of the parcel collection service to be replaced by a taste of the Orient. As you’d expect, the restaurant, which opened its doors earlier this year, is unrecognisable from its former guise - though the Royale in the title does doff its cap to Royal Mail. See what they did there?

Royale Thai deluxe sharing platter

Royale Thai deluxe sharing platter

The public were only ever privy to the shallow space in front of the counter in the postal days, but with the counter gone it’s opened up the space of the building to create a large restaurant, peppered with Far East murals and motifs, as well as the obligatory Buddha statues.

We visited on a Thursday evening and the place was fairly quiet, though I suspect many people are still unaware Royal Mail has packed up its boxes for good. It meant atmosphere was a little lacking, but the delicate strains of Thai music in the background helped to inject some character. We’d also probably missed the busier period of happy hour, which runs daily from noon to 6.30pm and offers three courses for a purse-pleasing tenner.

Arriving after the bargain hour, we ordered from the regular menu which still doesn’t break the bank, with curry options coming in around the £12 mark.

There’s nothing too pretentious or adventurous on there, it’s all classic Thai dishes that anyone who’s visited the birthplace of the food will be familiar with.

Pad Thai mains

Pad Thai mains

To start, we chose the Royale Thai Deluxe platter. Ideal for the indecisive diner, it offers a bit of everything - chicken satay, spring rolls, golden bags (which I’ll get back to), fish cakes and chicken dumplings, artfully topped with a humble turnip carved into a more exotic flower.

For £12.95 between us, it was a whopping portion with plenty of each dish for us to wade our through. A highlight were the golden bags. Funny name, but they tasted great: tightly-packed parcels of tender minced pork with coriander and garlic wrapped in rice paper, a much less greasy alternative to filo pastry.

For mains I went with one of Thailand’s national dishes, the ubiquitous Pad Thai (£12.95). According to the restaurant’s website, the chefs here are from Thailand so I expected them to pull this one off with ease - and they did.

Again, it was a generous portion: a towering pile of succulent noodles, punctuated with plenty of prawns which I struggled to finish.

It is the service, however, which is perhaps the crowning glory of Royale Thai. It was as warm as the Thai weather and the owners, Kenneth and his Thai wife Kay, were more than happy to tell us about how proud they were of their venture. You could tell this is a labour of love for them. Service was also more attentive - but not obtrusive - than I’ve had in more well-established restaurants and we never once had to pour our own wine.

For a more authentic Thai tipple, try the Singha Beer - one of Thailand’s best-selling bevvies - which is served on draught.

With attention to detail like that, it’s so long Royal Mail, hello first class service.