When the closest you’ve been to Thailand is watching The Hangover Part II, browsing the menu of an authentic Thai restaurant seems daunting.
This is exactly how your Dish Detective feels while sitting at a table for two at Fareham’s Lemongrass, having received a warm welcome at the door.
We have cautiously pre-booked a table as this is not the largest of eateries, but a quiet Thursday night means we could have easily stepped in off the street and found a space.
This gem, which also has sister restaurants in Sussex, stands out in its location on West Street where it is nestled between a vacant store and a charity shop. But don’t let that put you off.
Luckily my companion is a Fareham native as there are few options for nearby parking. You’d have to rely on being lucky enough to nab one of the limited spots further along West Street or duck into the Market car park if you lived beyond walking distance.
The interior is elegant, with walls teeming with pictures, sculptures and embroideries of elephants to admire while you try not to feel overwhelmed by the extensive menu.
With no less than 13 sections to pore over, those inexperienced with Thai cuisine like ourselves may feel swamped with hundreds of delicious-sounding choices. However, this can be easily resolved by opting for one of four handy set menus designed to give a selection of tastes, starting at £19.95 per person.
Dish Detective and companion follow this mindset when selecting starters, deciding on the Lemongrass mixed platter for two (£13.95), a varied selection of popular Thai starters. Having arrived ravenous, we also opt for some prawn crackers with sweet chilli dip to tide us over (£2.95).
The platter offers an array of delicious bites including vegetable spring rolls which melt in the mouth, huge and perfectly crisp tempura prawns, chicken satay sticks drenched in classic peanut sauce, a Thai fish cake each and, we quickly admit, some of the best prawn toast we have ever eaten.
Cooked to a soft consistency, the toast is delightful when dipped into the variety of sauces accompanying the starter, including classics like sweet chilli and satay.
Beginning to feel full and slightly daunted by the prospect of at least one more course, we settle back into the pleasant atmosphere and wait 10 minutes for the mains to arrive.
Having set the tone with fresh appetisers, Lemongrass does not fail to deliver when our gigantic main courses find their way to the table.
Your Dish Detective decides to try the gaeng mas-sa-man, or chicken massaman curry to those who don’t speak Thai (£9.50), with a brimming bowl of coconut rice (£3.50).
This mild dish is deliciously creamy and contains plenty of classic Thai flavours, which pair perfectly with the nutty and sweet rice.
My companion goes for a favourite, chicken pad Thai, and it comes piled high on the plate. At £7.95 it is a very generous portion.
Hearing a rave review from my partner who offers a taste, I dig in my fork and am delighted with the flavoursome noodles.
We wash it all down with a Thai Chang lager for my companion (£3.95) and a distinctly less exciting pint of lemonade for Dish Detective (£2.40). Plenty of dessert options pique our interest but we simply do not have space.
Leaving with full stomachs, smiles on our faces and planning our next visit, or perhaps a home delivery offered by Lemongrass, we discover The Hangover Part II is on TV. Coincidence? I think not.