Once an Italian restaurant, Niyom Thai took over the premises several years ago and a change of ownership recently has not led to a drop in standards if my spies can be relied upon.
Thais are renowned for their hospitality and this Hayling Island outpost is no exception. Two staff members, both in a form of silk national dress, put other restaurants to shame with their smiles and charm.
The décor is simple. A few tapestries join wood carvings. Flooring is parquet and chairs are padded. Thai pop, which bashes the ears relentlessly, destroys the peace.
Thai cuisine is brilliantly complex – a balance of sour, sweet, bitter and salty – and the simply laid-out menu reflects this.
Start with maybe Tord Man Pla (£5.90) a fish cake, served with sweet chilli sauce and cucumber relish, or try Yum Ped Grob (£6.90), crispy fried roast duck mixed with onions, tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions.
Gang Pa, Thai jungle curry with bamboo shoots, peppers and long beans, is married to any meat, vegetable or fish of choice (from £6.90).
On the Specials’ list is Pla Nueng Ma-Nao (£13.50) – steamed sea bass fillet with chilli, garlic and lemon sauce topped with spring onion and coriander.
Kanom Jeeb (£5.50), steamed wanton pastry dumpling with water chestnuts, minced pork and prawns topped with fried garlic and sweet soya sauce must have been waiting in the wings for the dish was delivered in seconds. They had a lovely chilli bite to them and other ingredients were not dominated by the spiciness.
Thai Panang curry, a rich creamy red curry paste with coconut milk, peppers, kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil and Thai herbs, came with chicken but it could have been any meat, seafood or vegetable.
Served in a long blue and white dish to match the warmed plate, it confirmed that Thai chefs do attractive presentation without breaking into a sweat. Green beans and slivers of cooked red peppers added a dash to the chicken which was coated in a vibrant peach-coloured sauce.
A bowl of steamed jasmine rice, a £2.50 extra on top of the £7.90 for the main dish, calmed the beautifully chilli-spiced sauce with its other layers of ingredients, but I’m of the school of ‘impossible to over-do the kaffir lime leaf’ taste, the latter not coming through well enough.
The chicken too was suspect, quality-wise. Flabby chicken, even when cooked sensitively as here, never makes the grade.
A decent glass of sauvignon blanc took the bill to £19.75. A handsome tip was left for the delightful twosome. The music and the poultry were the only sour notes for this diner.
Niyom Thai, 51 Station Road, Hayling Island PO11 0EB (023) 9246 6009