It is everyone’s dream to step into Narnia.
Despite searching the back of many cupboards as a child, I never found it but I came close one time. The journey starts with an innocuous walk into a dark, sullen lift. Intriguing as this may be, it also seeks to squash your expectations of what is on the other side. The only clue of what is to come is a single Took Took which stands there somewhat juxtaposed to the darkness of the night and the sullenness of the lift, with its radiant colour. As you tentatively step into the lift, you scan your eye up and down the numbers to find the floor. The poorly lit digits reveal nothing until you reach the top one. The Thai Terrace. You may chance to look around at this moment and notice the exotic pattern of plants and wildlife from another land, carefully splashed on the back wall of the lift. The lift ascends and you hold your breath in anticipation.
You walk out into another world. Glittering lights that glass reflects in a kind of flickering madness arrest your eyes as a waitress clothed in a silky dress approaches you and takes your coat. As you walk with her to your table, you glimpse a shimmering body of water on your left, filled with koi fish, swimming elegantly through the water. On your right, the kitchens buzz with the hum of tropical ingredients and deft chefs. However, the beauty of the place comes in the view on the terrace. You can see all of the lights of Guildford city, popping up like diamonds catching the light – a bittersweet reminder that you are not in Thailand, however much your senses are telling you so.
You sit down and sink into the leather chair and a menu is placed before you. Overwhelmed by choice, there is a moment of confusion as you take in the alien names and the unearthly combinations of flavour. Every dish is assigned a number and you soon glance up at the waitress and communicate your order. She smiles and leaves you to soak in the atmosphere.
Aromas of Satay Gae soon drift your way and the first dish is placed before you. Char-grilled lamb satay served with a creamy but piquant peanut sauce which melts in the mouth becomes more divine with every mouthful. My only complaint about this dish is that there is too much to possibly finish. In an almost cruel way, its assault on the senses leaves you dying to finish it but you couldn’t even if you tried!
Gaeng Keow Waan Kai is the main course: tender green chicken curry in coconut milk, with basil, aubergine, peppers, bamboo shoots and sticky rice. The only way to really do justice to this dish is to quote a film equally as good, “I want this… to become a person so I can take it to Las Vegas and marry it.” [The Fault in our Stars] Enough said.
There are few times in life when a place has such an impact on you that you feel as if you’ve unearthed a gem; that you have been moved to share your experience. The Thai Terrace, Guildford is one of those places. It may not be Narnia but a journey from a dark, sullen lift to an exotic world of flavour leaves you feeling as if you’ve stumbled on a hidden world.