New Islington’s Jūb Thai, formerly Vivid Lounge, has long been hailed as a favourite for Thai food in the city.
It’s recently undergone a rebrand – adopting a Wes Anderson-esque colour palette of pale pink and blue pastels. A liberal sprinkling of plywood adds further to its hipster aesthetic.
But as nice-looking as it is, the exciting thing about this place isn’t the design. It’s the food. The very tasty Thai food, cooked by a very bubbly, very lovely team of people who obviously care a lot about what they do.
Tucked alongside a fistful of neighboring shops that look, for the most part, like they’re going out of business, it’s easy to see why others have called this place a hidden gem.
This side of Ancoats certainly has a slightly grubbier, more rough-and-ready feel when compared to neighbouring Cutting Room Square.
Not Jūb, though. It’s so bright and airy, it feels a bit of an anomaly truth be told. In a good way, though.
We arrive to a warm welcome and are shown to a smart little table in the window overlooking their waterside terrace. It being lunchtime, they’re rather quiet with just one other couple in the restaurant. But the evenings, we’re told, are always rammed.
After a quick browse of the regularly-changing menu, we opt for a plate of deep-fried tofu and some sweetcorn fritters to start. Both come dressed in a light, homemade sweet chilli sauce and tangy, lightly pickled veg.
Our fritters are bursting with the fresh flavours of ginger, lemongrass, lime, garlic, and onion. Sweet and sticky with a lemongrass lightness, they pop with flavour.
Further to this, there’s chicken satay – without a doubt, the best we’ve ever had. Higher welfare meat from Glossop’s Mettricks butchers certainly makes a difference, but beyond that, all credit is due to the chef.
Succulent, juicy, fragrant and in no way dry, Jūb’s satay instills a newfound appreciation for the relatively humble dish.
Generously marinaded chunks of tender chicken thigh come served with white toast, as is the tradition in Southern Thailand, and we mop up every last drop of creamy, sweet and spicy peanut sauce with vigour.
But the real pièce de résistance? Their spicy pork rib curry.
Advertised with a three chilli kick, the hottest on the scale, we’re cautioned as to its aggressive heat, but despite asking for no mercy, are pretty sure they decide to take pity. It was hot, yes, but not to the level at which our expectations had been set.
But in no way did this detract from the pleasure derived in eating it. Served in a thick and highly fragrant curry sauce with an alluring sheen on top, the meat simply fell from the bone at the slightest bit of encouragement.
We got messy, sticking our hands straight into the bowl to pluck at the ribs directly. None of this messing about with the fork nonsense.
Lovely jūbbly, as my dad would say.
For drinks, we kept things simple with a tamarind cooler and Thai iced coffee. Jūb offers a good mix of spirits, wines and local beers, but it was lunchtime and, to be honest, we weren’t looking to booze.
just before we leave, we have a quick chat with the chef who reminds us that Thai food is not only delicious, it’s good for you.
So many of the popular ingredients used in these dishes have numerous health benefits and healing properties. Chillies boost the immune system, garlic reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, whilst lemongrass can clear headaches and is even said to prevent the common cold.
It’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself to Thai. After all, it’s not purely indulgent. It’s self-care.