THE wettest, darkest, most miserable summer in a century has left me with a hankering for the exotic.
So last Friday I grabbed a bag and set off on a journey to Huddersfield Railway Station to escape the gloom. Well, not exactly the station itself, but around the corner to Thai Sakon restaurant in St John’s Road
Despite Huddersfield having a plethora of eating places serving food from the Indian subcontinent, Thai Sakon is the only sit-down restaurant, to my knowledge, with a south east Asian cuisine.
In all my travels around the world as a photographer, it is the journeys through the Far East which conjure up the most vivid memories of mouthwatering food.
A handful of fresh prawns, a few blades of lemongrass and a pinch of spices thrown into an old frying pan at the side of the dusty road somehow managed to produce the most delicious dish imaginable, causing a riot of flavours to explode on the tongue.
It was with these sunny images in mind that I headed down the stairs at Thai Sakon, which has become a firm favourite with many diners since opening in 2005.
Not a fan of basements, the interior designers are to be highly commended for creating an upmarket, welcoming ambiance where you completely forget you’re underground.
Clever use of etched glass panels, plain walls and dark wooden furniture and floors, offset by textured panels, Far Eastern artwork, red sofas and modern halogen lights, result in a rich yet clean East meets West look.
This is reflected in the ownership of former Huddersfield Polytechnic maths student Mark King, who lived in the Far East for several years and his Thai wife Sompong.
We were immediately greeted warmly by Mark who showed us to a table in one of the two dining rooms, already quite full at 7.30pm.
Our waitresses, wearing traditional Thai blouses, were excellent throughout the evening: polite and efficient without being obtrusive.
Afraid of missing something interesting, we ordered the mixed starter at £6.75 a head, and a dish with seven small portions x 2 arrived with three dipping sauces.
The tasters were chicken satay (succulent), Thai spring rolls (crispy), deep fried prawn and pork toast, Thai fish cakes, sweetcorn fritters, chicken breast and prawns in tempura batter with breadcrumbs.
All of the starters were delicately flavoured and tasty, whetting the appetite for the spicy main course to follow.
If I’m being really picky, I would have preferred the batter to be pure tempura, rather than mixed with breadcrumbs.
And if one or two more of the seven portions had not graced the deep fat frier, we wouldn’t have complained. But all the starters were well prepared with high quality ingredients.
A couple of beers later (£2.90 a bottle for Asian beers or £3.35 a pint for Carlsberg), the restaurant had filled and we were ready for the main course. We ordered the Thai staple of green chicken curry (geng kiaw waan), ranked two chillies on their scale of one to three.
The pale green-grey sauce belied the rich depth of flavour contained within: lemongrass, coconut, sweet basil and coriander were just a few of the many vibrant flavours.The chicken slices were lean and tender.
It was hot and spicy, just like a good Thai curry should be, but the chillies complemented, rather than overpowered, the other flavours to produce a fine, well-balanced dish.
The jasmine rice was light and fluffy, cooked to perfection, as was the side dish of al dente broccoli and Oriental mushrooms in a delicious oyster sauce.
Accompanying this was a large portion of pad Thai (£7.50), stir-fried soft rice noodles with bean sprouts, egg and tofu served with chopped peanuts.
The noodles were tender without being sticky and the tamarind sauce was slightly sweet. We polished them off hardly pausing for breath.
VERDICT: Stylish interior, prices are not cheap but in line with other south east Asian restaurants. Worth a visit for both newbies and confirmed lovers of Thai cuisine.
5 St John’s Road, Huddersfield
Tel 01484 450159
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 5.30pm to 10.30pm, Saturday 6pm to 11pm, Sunday 6pm to 10pm
Disabled access: Yes
The bill £46.50 for two
Would you go back? For sure