Thai Terre in East Dean - restaurant review


- Credit: Archant

In the quintessentially Sussex village of East Dean lies an authentic Thai restaurant that warrants a special trip

The village of East Dean is a quaint delight, a cluster of flint wall houses scattered over the countryside like Scrabble tiles. There’s a traditional village green edged by a whitewashed pub, The Tiger Inn, and opposite the pub there’s a Thai restaurant.

Thai Terre, which has 48 covers and an upstairs function room, is doing a bustling trade on a Thursday evening. The huge window, which looks out onto the green, is crowded with a splendid array of orchids and there is a cheery atmosphere, with locals greeting the staff with hugs. It is not a grand place – the restaurant delivers to homes in the local area and in the summer, people often take their food outside to eat on the grass – but it has earned a reputation for excellent food – so much so that on TripAdvisor it is rated number three of 320 restaurants in Eastbourne, despite not actually being in the town.

Thai Terre specialises in the cuisine of the north-eastern region of Thailand, and there’s a comprehensive list of chef’s specials. Impressively, the restaurant’s website includes detailed information on allergens present in each dish; invaluable for coeliacs or those with intolerances.

My first choice was soft shell crab (£6.95). The batter was as delicate as a whisper, with not a hint of oiliness, despite being deep-fried. And the crab itself – soft because it had recently shed its hard exoskeleton – was quite as good as the last time I ate it, on the banks of the same Mekong River that runs through Thailand. My husband tried Saa Lai Dim Sum – parcels of minced prawn and crab wrapped in seaweed, at £5.50. They had a fiery meatiness to them that was infinitely satisfying.

Soon after finishing our (official) starters the warm and smiling waitress brought us a surprise: four little dim sum, immaculately fashioned into birds and fish. The little steamed dumplings contained prawns of some excellence, and actually I could have found room for, say, a dozen more.

But in fact the next dishes to grace the table were tiny scoops of mango sorbet, the tropical sweetness wiping the slate clean for our main courses. Without realising it, we had both ordered the chefs’ variations on our usual Thai choices: for me, Gung Choo Chee, which saw fat prawns robed in a creamy red curry sauce enriched with coconut milk, and Carl’s choice of the Special Thai Terre Curry – with monkfish in a green curry sauce. They were both very reasonable at £11.95 and both, like the Pad Thai we so clearly didn’t need, but which we manfully ladled down our necks, were magnificent.

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I have a friend who was a teacher in Thailand for many years, and who still yearns for its food and culture. When she next visits Sussex, I will take her to Thai Terre. Something tells me she’ll feel right at home.

Thai Terre, The Green, East Dean, East Sussex; 01323 423 956;

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