Cheshire Life Luncheon - Phanthong, Altrincham

Fine Thai dining is now on the menu at a former Italian restaurant in Altrincham. Cheshire Life were guests at an impressive luncheon at Phanthong WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

The opening of Altrincham’s newest restaurant, Phanthong in the town centre’s Regent Road, follows a strange precedent. What is the connection between Thai restaurants and traditional British pubs?

My first local encounter with one of my favourite cuisines in all the world was in the unlikely surroundings of the upper floor of the Royal Oak in Alderley Edge, when colonised by the first incarnation of the now famous Chilli Banana. The restaurant quite soon moved to an annex of the King’s Arms in Wilmslow, where it continues to thrive today and, when it came to opening a branch in Macclesfield, the imposing Merchant House pub provided the premises. Naturally.

And so to Altrincham. Phanthong, open for just four weeks when Cheshire Life’s July luncheon guests descended, occupies the former Grapes pub, though in this case there had been an Italian restaurant occupant in between times.

The traditional half-timbered exterior, however, belies the excellence of the conversion job done inside: simple, chic, modern decor with evocative wall-mounted pictures of that beautiful far off land that has drawn Mrs K and I back to Thailand several times for the stunning beaches and yes, the delightful food.

Phanthong is the baby of Bangkok-born and Australian-schooled Phan Whyte and her business partner Jintana Wangpila, a pair of bright, bubbly and enthusiastic women who decided to launch their venture after a casual conversation.

‘It just happened,’ said Phan whose background involved working as airline cabin crew and as an interpreter. Her partner Jintana is known affectionally as ‘Um’ (that’s a guess based on phonetics; apparently because Thai names can be very long, nicknames are all the rage) was working at Knutsford’s Belle �poque.

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We gathered for welcoming glasses of Prosecco and daintily crafted canap�s including crispy wantons and minced prawn and pork sesame toasts in a smart bar area before taking our seats in the intimate dining area, divided into two smallish rooms.

The starter was presented as a help yourself platter of popular Thai ‘street food’ comprising chicken satay, spring rolls, Thai fishcakes, prawn toasts and sundry pickles and dips.

The satay was especially excellent, the barbecue flavour marrying well with the richness of the peanut sauce and the fishcakes perfectly spiced and delicious with sweet chilli and rice vinegar dips.

The main course Geang Keowan was Thai cuisine’s gift to the world – chicken with green curry. Like the starter it was taken straight from the Phanthong’s regular menu: a measure of confidence in what the restaurant is doing and justifiably so.

The chicken was delicately cooked in its colourful pale creamy green broth, yielding fresh, aromatic flavours of limes, coconut, coriander and subtle hints of green chilli and served with fragrant rice.

Stockport-based Paul Boutinot, just named ‘Merchant of the Year’ for the fourth year running in the 2012 Sommelier Wine Awards, provided wines which accompanied brilliantly. We had Chilean Viognier, all freshness and apricot flavours, to begin with, then a light, deliciously raspberryish Fleurie – one of the stars of Beaujolais to follow - though it would have been perfectly alright to have served them the other way round.

Dessert, eponymously entitled Phanthong, brought a lovely chocolate pastry with gold leaf paired with stem ginger ice cream, sourced, as most of the main ingredients are at this restaurant (apart from the special herbs and spices flown in from South East Asia), from local suppliers. A shot of unctuous Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry rounded off a most agreeable afternoon.

Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu

To startMixed starter platterTabali Reserva Viognier 2011, Chile

To continueGeang Keowan – Green Curry with ChickenLa Madone Fleurie 2011, France

To finishPhanthong with Stem Ginger Ice CreamFernando de Castilla Pedro Ximenez, Spain

Fact file

Phanthong Fine Thai Cuisine,15 Regent Road, Altrincham, CheshireWA15 1RY. Tel: 0161 928 5808

Open Tue-Sun noon-3pm; 5.30pm-10.30pm; closed Monday. Starters from �4.95; mains �9.95 - �15.95

The print version of this article appeared in the July 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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