I’ve never been to Thailand, although it seems almost every one of my school friends has managed a trip – be it for holidays or a gap year.
So having decided to go on the hunt for an authentic taste of the country, we headed along to the Royal Thai restaurant, located on Crown Terrace, on a Friday night.
Walking into the restaurant, we ventured down a few corridors and eventually found someone at the entrance to the room.
On arrival, it wasn’t too busy. There were a few empty tables in the banqueting room, however this soon filled up as the evening unfolded.
The dining room was a huge circular space with high ceilings, giving a feeling of grandeur that was impossible to have predicted from what you could see from the street.
The decor is elaborate but still tasteful, with fuchsia pink panels on the walls, and an abundance of plants and hanging greenery, plus decorative Thai statues and ornaments, all creating a relaxing, exotic atmosphere.
As soon as we were seated, a mixture of plain and Thai-flavoured prawn crackers landed on our blue and gold patterned tablecloth.
These were slightly dry admittedly, and would have gone down much better if served with perhaps a sweet chilli sauce, although the Thai crackers were fragrant and full of flavour and much more popular on our table than the plain.
Our friendly server talked us through the menu as we tried pronouncing the dishes we wanted to order in Thai.
All of the staff were very attentive and the service was flawless, even in the face of several large groups – the restaurant is clearly a hit with those looking for a banqueting dinner, with the huge round tables ideal for this.
Finally, having tried a number of times to pronounce what we were looking to order, we resorted to an explanation in English, and patiently waited.
Having been unable to decide on starters, we plumped for our top three choices.
We went for the Kha Nom Jeeb (steamed dumplings), Pa Hoi Shell (scallops with mango) and the Goong Nam Pheung (sticky honey prawns).
Big and crispy with a slight crunch, the sticky king prawns were well cooked and the fried batter was covered in shredded coconut shavings which had been toasted.
The coconut brought a beautiful sweetness to the dish, complemented by the sweet chilli sauce that was served on the side and boasted a fiery kick.
The honey the prawns were cooked with was heavenly and carried through the batter, further adding to the overall sweetness of the dish.
A great recommendation from our server.
Soft and squidgy, the four steamed dumplings came served with a sweet and rich barbecue and soy dipping sauce.
Stuffed with finely minced prawns, crab meat and chicken, the dumplings were lacking in flavour, and the thick, chewy wonton-style wrappers didn’t make them any more enjoyable.
Although the menu proclaimed they were flavoured with fresh Thai herbs and garlic, I couldn’t detect any trace of either.
However, the dipping sauce was excellent and very much carried the dish.
Of the three starters, it was the scallops and mango which really impressed us and our taste buds.
Not only were the seared scallops cooked to perfection, the chef’s special chopped fresh mango and chilli dressing made them sing.
Melting in the mouth, the scallops disappeared quickly leaving the soft, thinly-sliced mango, the pungent diced coriander and the chopped onion to linger.
Sadly, there were only two scallops hiding under layers of mango, onion, coriander, iceberg lettuce and tomato on a large dish – all the dishes were beautifully presented and garnished, with carrot flowers.
We had wanted to try out the Gai Hor Bai Toey (chicken in pandana leaves) however the kitchen was all out of the dish.
So our waiter recommended we try the sticky prawns instead, which I’m very glad we did.
We didn’t have long to wait for more; it couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes until our mains started firing out of the kitchen.
First came Sen Ba-Mee Pad (stir-fried egg noodles) and the Khao Ma Prao (coconut rice) – both of which I piled my plate high with.
We had ordered these to go alongside our Gaeng Phed Ped Yarng (duck curry) and the Ped Pad Prik Pao (beef with chilli and basil).
The duck was undoubtedly the best dish of the night.
Not only did it look the part, it tasted it too – packed with flavour and so succulent that my knife practically slid right through the hearty slices of meat.
There was plenty of it and the red curry sauce was creamy and slightly sweet from the coconut milk, which was balanced out by the heat of the chillies.
With bean sprouts, chunks of carrot, pineapple, sliced peppers of all colours, chopped red chillies, cherry tomatoes and coriander, there was a lot going on in this dish.
The coconut rice was perfectly, simultaneously sticky and fluffy and made the perfect accompaniment to the curry.
The tiny shreds of the coconut didn’t overpower the rice which meant it wasn’t too sweet and balanced out the flavours beautifully. Pairing better with my partner’s beef dish, the thin egg-fried noodles were scrumptious and weren’t greasy, as fried noodles can sometimes be.
They came in abundance, alongside an array of vegetables including shredded carrot, beansprouts and spring onion.
The beef dish itself was marinated in soy sauce and spices.
Stir-fried, the tender slices of the beef were cooked in chilli sauce with onions, mushrooms, peppers, green beans, pak choi and Thai basil leaves.
The thin strips of beef were slightly chewy and more well done than my partner would have liked, making them a little tough.
The beef had been cooked with chopped red chillies and, unlike my duck dish which was served in a sauce, this was a fairly dry offering.
Being finished with a sauce would have rounded the dish off better and taken away from the slight chewiness of the beef.
Nevertheless, my partner ate the lot.
Full to the brim, we declined the dessert menu and decided to call it a night.
Although we still managed to demolish the chocolate mints that came with the bill, of course, which we took as a reward for our considerable efforts in defeating the extremely generous portions.
We thanked our waiter for the night, and the wonderful service, and wandered off (slowly) up the road home.
This restaurant may not look like much from the outside, it has an unassuming exterior on Crown Terrace, but venture down the rabbit hole and you’ll find a welcoming paradise of greenery in the beautiful pink and white interior.
The elaborate decor and grand feel transports you far from the Granite City – I feel a lot closer to having visited Thailand now, put it that way.
The service is flawless, with attentive staff who are more than happy to recommend their favourite dishes if you’re a Thai cuisine novice or just struggling to decide from an impressively extensive menu.
The food on the whole was exquisite, and packed full of flavour.
All of the dishes were very commendable and the selection as a whole is very diverse. The real struggle is deciding on which dishes to try.
Using authentic Thai ingredients, you get a real feel for the cuisine and if you’re looking for a transporting experience on a cold, dark Aberdeen night, then this is the place to go.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to try something different or order something off the menu that you wouldn’t usually – the gamble will most certainly pay off.
Address: Royal Thai, 29 Crown Terrace, Aberdeen AB11 6HD
What we had:
- Goong Nam Pheung – Sticky honey prawns
- Pa Hoi Shell – Scallops Mango
- Kha Nom Jeeb – Steamed dumplings
- Gaeng Phed Ped Yarng – Roast duck curry
- Ped Pad Prik Pao – Beef with chilli and basil
- Khao Ma Prao – Coconut rice
- Sen Ba-Mee Pad – Stir fried egg noodles with soy sauce carrots, spring onions and beansprouts