A taste of Thailand on our Lymington doorstep.
How many lovers of Thai cuisine know that you can eat Thai – lunchtime and evenings – a stone’s throw from Lymington?
At the Zen Garden Restaurant at Careys Manor Hotel in Brockenhurst authentic, delicious and beautifully presented Thai Cuisine is available to all.
Zen Garden is also the dining room of SenSpa at Careys Manor. Because the restaurant adjoins the spa, the senses of sight, hearing and especially smell are greeted by a deliciously healthy and uplifting aroma before you’re even at your table.
Dining for all, not just spa users
The key thing is that you don’t HAVE to be using the spa in order to enjoy the restaurant. And the food is absolutely fantastic!
At lunchtime you may find fellow diners dressed in bathrobes. It’s all part of the relaxed atmosphere, and could well tempt us to combine spa with lunch ourselves too, another time. (In the evenings though, all diners are required to wear clothes!)
An oasis of calm sets the scene
The seductive calm envelops you and subconsciously sets the scene for gentle table talk with friends or colleagues, or quiet contemplation for lone diners. This is not the place for an argument at the table – if one was brewing, the desire to start it will surely just melt away!
Friendly, respectful service
The menu arrived and the unobtrusive service of Fon and Ola began. Friendly and respectful, they seemed very keen for us to enjoy our Thai lunch experience. The menu is long, which for connoisseurs of Thai cuisine would be a delight, but as relative novices we decided to put our faith in the selection of the chef, and opted for the tasting menu. This looked large, but because the ingredients of Thai food are all so healthy, we thought we could manage it! And indeed we did....
The “starter” was Meang Khum which turns out to be a platter of crispy dry shrimp, dry coconut, cashew nut, red onion, lime, chilli, bitter nut leaves and chilli palm syrup sauce. It was light, tasty, and fun. Leaving plenty of space for the next course...
.. Tom Khan, which in case you don’t know (?!) is a coconut milk-based soup with mushrooms, flavoured with turmeric, galangal, lemon juice, lemongrass, coriander, chilli and lime leaves. Be warned it’s spicy. But fragrant and tasty too.
Yam Neua followed, beef salad: grilled sirloin of beef in cucumber, tomato, red onion, celery and mint leaves, Thai herb salad and all topped with lime dressing. Very refreshing.
Next came the "main" course which was Duck Massuman with Red Curry Paste - red curry sauce with fresh sweet chilli pepper and lime leaf. Tender and utterly delicious.
And finally the grand finale which was quite exquisite: Baitiey Pancake which is a Thai pancake with coconut and black Sesame seeds, served with a delectable vanilla ice cream.
English wine was recommended
We drank water, with lemon green tea afterwards to digest our repast. Had we been on the wine we’d have been recommended an English wine from the Dart Valley, fruity and mellow which complements Thai food.
If we hadn’t gone for the tasting menu my eye would have chosen Meang Pla to start: crispy fillet of seabass deep fried with red onion, cashew nuts, ginger, lime, lemongrass, Thai herbs and sweet chilli dressing. That’s for next time.
Price wise starters are £6-£7-ish, salads similar, mains (whether meat, vegetarian, fish or seafood, or curry all around the mid teens.
Outside dining area
There’s a lovely outdoor dining area too. It was unsuitable for our visit because it was pouring with rain to which, cocooned in our calm sanctuary we were oblivious! However we noted that it nestles in a lovely oasis of greenery, and would be perfect in the newly arrived summer warmth. Indoors would be cosy in winter and the gorgeous aromatherapy oils would one feels banish the bugs!
Authentic Thai cuisine continually updated
From member of staff Thomas I gleaned some of the back story. This is a really authentic Thai restaurant, all the chefs are Thai, and all the staff have worked at Zen Garden for a long time. Head chef Tossaporn Wongsabe has been in post for over 10 years. With team members frequently travelling to Thailand and reporting back on latest ingredients and recipes, he’s able to keep up to date with emerging tastes and continually refresh and update the menu.
There’s an information sheet about Thai cooking which you can peruse while waiting for your meal –it’s a very interesting read!
Thai cuisine on our Lymington doorstep - a thoroughly delicious lunchtime treat!
Overall we were very impressed with our whole experience of Thai dining. We were delighted to find that we could eat genuinely “Thai” food so close to Lymington. The service is swift, the food refreshing and not at all heavy. You could select starter and salad for an inexpensive and light lunch. This really is a feasible proposition for a lunch break and back to work!
Jane Porter July 2016