Tiien, Westbourne

A taste of Thailand, brought to you from three different Dorset locations. We visited one of them…

When I first heard of Tiien, I was told it was a restaurant of high-quality food based on Bournemouth’s West Cliff. In looking to go there for dinner recently, I learned there are actually three restaurants in the area, with the other two being in Broadstone and Westbourne. The latter was the most convenient for me, Fahim Ali, James Boxall and Aaron Hayes (home from opera school in Manchester at the time) to meet for dinner.

I was never aware that it is much a small hotel as it is a restaurant. It is situated down one of the offshoot roads from Westbourne’s high street, with whose restaurants we are greatly familiar. Even though we didn’t visit a single one last year at all!

First thing to moan about — they weren’t aware of our reservation. I had failed to get through to the Westbourne restaurant’s direct line, so I was transferred to a general reservations line instead. Made the booking with little problem. They just forgot to tell the Westbourne restaurant we were coming. Some extra diligence in communication is in order there.

Chicken Satay Skewers

Luckily for us, there was a table available. The restaurant itself is quite a lot smaller than would fit a place of its reputation; I would hazard it seated 30, give or take a few.

What it lacks in capacity, it somewhat makes up for in menu variety. Dishes are available for every level of spice love. For those who enjoy a milder set of flavours, a starter like the Chicken Satay Skewers (see pictured), will suit perfectly. There was no spice to them at all. The meat pieces were succulent and tasty, while the sauce was creamy and only lightly savoury. While reasonably good quality, I would sooner revisit Berlin and go back to Chén Chè for their satay dish.

Deep-fried Squid

Prawn Toasts

Don’t get me wrong. It had its advantages. For one, it was not too messy a thing to eat. When it first came out, I was a bit concerned how hard it would be not to get it down me. Nevertheless, if you’re a messy eater, either don’t wear dark colours or order something else! Like the Deep-fried Squid (pictured left) like James or the Prawn Toasts (pictured right) like Fahim. There are also a couple of soup options, one of which Aaron chose.

Duck with Tamarind Sauce

Main courses come with as much variety, including curries, fish dishes and stir-fries. There are also one or two Chef’s Specials, which I could not resist trying. The Duck with Tamarind Sauce (see pictured) was my eventual choice. Granted, it was a massive pile of meat and sauce – not exactly easy on the eyes. However, the flavours and textures therein proved much more appealing.

Duck is quite a rich, fatty meat, so you can’t expect to get that much in a dish – or need that much, for that matter. Each piece I had on my plate was gorgeously tender and succulent; melted in the mouth – however cliché that may be – as per the menu’s description.

The Tamarind Sauce is not unlike the Plum one you get in duck dishes in Chinese restaurants in terms of the sweet flavour and syrupy texture. No plums were involved however, the tamarind is a fruit in its own right, hailing from both Asia and Africa, contained in pods that resemble nutshells.

They were the top two things about the entrée; the rest of the things on the plate added little in the way of substance or decoration.

I wasn’t over-enthralled by the service. We weren’t attended to very often by the waitresses on duty, and were waiting a while before we were able to ask for a bill at the end. Plus, the booking situation already knocked points off the overall score. That being said, they didn’t take the piss – we had not been charged the 10% service charge stipulated on the menu.

In short, a good enough meal, but not one for the history books. If you want my advice, I feel there are better Thai food experiences to be had elsewhere.

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