I’d been itching to try out No.77, the hotly anticipated new Thai eatery from the team behind Bourn’s popular gastro pub the Willow Tree, since it first opened its doors in Caxton a few months ago. As a long-standing fan of their first venture for its faultless culinary offerings and gorgeous, quirky interior, I couldn’t wait to see what surprises owners Craig and Shaina Galvin-Scott had in store for their new outpost.
I wasn’t disappointed. Just like its sister restaurant, No.77 looks much like any other village pub from the outside, but step inside and you’re greeted with a sumptuous, vintage-chic feast for the eyes. With deep blue walls, distressed wooden flooring, plush velvet seats (rescued from a cinema in Doncaster), eye-catching upcycled chandeliers and a striking copper and stone bar at the centre, I’d fallen in love with this place before we’d even sat down. The cocktail menu proved immediately irresistible too, offering a small but perfectly formed range of Thai-inspired tipples including Mekhong Sour (Thai whisky, lime and sugar) and San Song Daiquiri (ginger, lime and Thai dark rum). Looking to begin our weekend in style, we opted for a couple of flutes of Thai fizz, a fragrant blend of Prosecco, lemongrass, sake and lychee, which provided the ideal accompaniment to the deliciously crunchy prawn crackers which had arrived at our table.
I selected the Golden Bags to start, and I could see why these dinky, flavour-packed parcels had been recommended by owner Craig as soon as I started tucking in. A favourite Thai snack or appetiser, the dish consisted of spring roll pastry sacks, stuffed with minced beef, potato, carrot and onion together with a nutty massaman sauce, tied up with crispy ribbons of fried onions. They were utterly delicious and I demolished them in minutes before eyeing up my dining partner’s selection. The delicate, subtly spiced soft shell crab starter he’d opted for came served with a beautiful, tangy sweet chilli dip and packaged in the most amazingly melt-in-the-mouth batter either of us had ever tasted.
Around this point I deemed it time for another cocktail – this time choosing the Teatini (think jasmine iced tea with a generous dose of gin and a hint of lemongrass), whilst my partner sampled a booze-free fruit punch – one of a good selection of tasty mocktails which will likely prove a hit with the evening’s designated driver. Onto the mains and I plumped for a pad Thai with king prawns. Lesser pad Thais, whilst tasty, are often a tad monotonous, but this one had more than enough variety to hold your taste buds’ attention. The prawns were huge and succulent and the dish was resplendent with perfectly cooked veg: red and yellow peppers, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli and spring onions, accompanied by crushed roasted chilli and peanuts. It’s safe to say that No.77 offers a brilliantly executed take on this Thai classic.
Over on the other side of the table, my partner had chosen another Thai favourite, the red curry. Loaded with juicy strips of beef, and again packed with fresh, seasonal vegetables, this curry was aromatic and expertly spiced with a good kick of heat, tempered by the sweetness of the coconut milk and a serving of fragrant jasmine rice. Already stuffed but keen not to miss out on the desserts, I went for the chocolate and chilli brownie, which arrived rich, dense and served with a dollop of velvety vanilla ice cream. My dining partner selected the mango and ginger cheesecake – a heavenly, creamy affair complemented by the sharpness of the accompanying mango sorbet.
We left No.77 in no doubt that this stylish little spot will be a total hit. I’ve visited various other English country pubs that serve up Asian cuisine of some description, but it’s always felt like a slightly odd mishmash. Here, they’ve carried it off with aplomb – offering a well thought out concept which feels coherent but unique. The bang on-trend décor, cheerful service and to-die-for Thai food should make this newcomer top of your must-visit list.
No.77 Ermine Street, Caxton, CB23 3PQ 01954 269577; www.77cambridge.com