When someone told me that there was a cracking Thai restaurant in Wigan I was dubious to say the least. But when they said that they’d been six times and they considered it better than our local Thai (Thai Paragon in Culcheth) then we knew we had to give it a go.
So it was that on the 2nd January, any thought of healthy living was thrown out of the window and we made our way through the last of the bank holiday shoppers to The Tavern Bar and Thai Restaurant in need of soothing hot and sour soup.
Anyone who knows Wigan may remember the Tavern as I did; a pub come live music venue with a reputation for rock but not necessarily for food! So I was plesantly surprised when we walked into the main bar to find it had been given a lovely modern makeover. I was even more surprised when we made our way upstairs to the restaurant. Sticky carpets and beer mats have given way to some subtle Thai themed decor.
As we were there very early, it made sense to go for the early bird menu which was two courses for £9.95. Generally I don’t think that early bird specials really give an impression of what a restaurant is capable of, but in this case I think it does.
We both started with the chicken Tom Yum soup- an earlier walk around a nature reserve had left us needing heating through. I have had a lot of tom yum in my time, it is possibly my favourite soup, but this was exceptional. A peppery finish to the soup and huge chunks of tender chicken and mushrooms made it feel like a main course in itself. And it wasn’t the usual early bird sized portion either- this was a man-sized bowl.
Being slightly greedy hungry, we ordered a portion of Tord Mun Pla (Thai fish cakes) as an addition to the set menu for £4.95 and enjoyed these after the soup. Four good sized fish cakes were full of flavour including a zesty lime kick.
For main courses, we ordered a red curry with chicken (my benchmark dish) and Pad Kee Mao beef.
The red curry came with steamed rice and again I have to say was a triumph. Unlike some red curries which you know are out of a jar, this wasn’t lurid red gravy, but deep orange and thick. A couple of finely sliced red chillies gave a bit of a heat kick but the mix of spices and coconut milk was spot on. As with the soup, there was a lot of tender chicken to be found in there.
The second dish we shared took me right back to a beach front restaurant in Cha Am where I had something similar on my last trip to Thailand. Pad Kee Mao is a noodle dish with wide Thai noodles, chillies, garlic, beans and peppers. Simple but effective is the best way to describe it; with slithers of tender beef it wasn’t heavy and was a good contrast to the rich red curry.
Throughout the meal the staff were friendly and the service faultless.
This was a seriously good early bird menu, but as with all set menu’s the choice was limited. The main menu looks great- loads of choice and some very tasty dishes such as sea bass which you won’t ever find on a £9.95 offer. So we are already talking about going back soon even though it is a half hour drive from home.
Whilst we were there we picked up a copy of the brochure for Wigan Food & Drink Festival. The restaurant is having a special night as part of the event in March so that may well be worth checking out.
The Tavern- faultless Thai in the middle of Wigan. Who’d have thought it?!