REVIEW: Thai Bay, West Sunniside, Sunderland

Thai Bay bar restaurant, West Sunniside
Thai Bay bar restaurant, West Sunniside
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The demise of Thai Manor left Sunniside bereft of tropical Thai flavour.

Stepping into the breach is Thai Bay, which has opened a stone’s throw away in West Sunniside.

Wanton soup

Wanton soup

It’s injecting a taste of the Orient into a building that’s already trotted around the globe taste bud-wise in its former guises, from Spain as Casa Rio, Greece in An-Athene and English classics when it operated as Signatures.

Thai Bay only opened a month ago and, aside from a Facebook page, I’d heard little about it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was refreshing to see the new owners have stamped their own identity on the venue – which has had a mixed bag of fortunes.

The front room is a bar area, and a jolly nice one at that. Thai trinkets pepper the shelves: a Buddha’s head here, an elaborate urn-type vase there. Throw in the background hum of chilled Ibiza-esque tunes, and it’s managed to create the recipe for a great atmosphere. The blurry pictures on its Facebook page hadn’t done this place justice: I was impressed by its transformation.

Thai Bay mermaid

Thai Bay mermaid

The proof, however, is of course in the Pad Thai – and the other dishes that take you on a foray to the Far East.

Visit from 11am to 7pm daily and you can pick up two courses for £15. A bargain – though you do get charged £2.50 for the prawn crackers, which are often a gratis perk elsewhere.

The menu will tickle your tastebuds with some imaginatively titled options, such as Drunken Duck, Crying Tiger and The Original Saucy Dirty Cow (that’s a new one on a Thai menu to me).

I chose from the soup section to start. I wanted Wanton soup and I got it: a huge piping hot bowl of Thai broth. Fragrant plumes of steam meant inhaling its aroma was inevitable and I dove straight in.

Slices of char siu red pork, which punctuated the greens, were mild and tender, while chunky dumplings melted in my mouth to reveal an explosion of pork and prawn filling.

Crunch came from the bamboo shoots bobbing on the surface of this dish, which was big enough to serve as a light lunch.

My friend chose the dim sum medley, a dish that’s not easy to find in Sunderland city centre. But it flies the flag for this classic Asian food brilliantly. For mains I chose the pretty-sounding Thai Bay Mermaid, which comes in at £12.95 outside of the pre-7pm deal. Though they don’t have a card machine, so make sure you bring cash.

Service struck just the right balance between being helpful, but not too in your face, and we didn’t have long to wait in between courses.

Mine came as a cod fillet, which was just the right side of flaky. It was surrounded by a selection of other seafood: carved squid tubes and mussels and its light flavour was given a punch with a sweet chilli and basil sauce.

There was a also a heavy back note of spice, strong enough to clear your sinuses. Not the prettiest of descriptions, but one that’s warranted if you like your food with a kick.

It was a well-choreographed medley of flavours.

Though the serving staff were British, the owner is Thai and it shows in the authentic execution of this exotic palette of taste bud-pleasers.

Much is being done to reinvigorate the area, which recently hosted Sunniside Live music festival to boost footfall in the quarter.

More places like Thai Bay may just do the trick.