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FOOD MATTERS

Serving up delicious five-star fare at Thai restaurant-cafe Zaab

Translated from the Isan language of north east Thailand, the word ‘Zaab’ means ‘delicious’. Well, it seems that the Zaab café-restaurant in Plymouth lives up to its name, because there are 52 customer reviews on its Facebook page – and all of them award five stars. Many of the comments refer to it as ‘a hidden gem,’ or ‘a secret hideaway’ – but it looks as though the secret is now well and truly out. You’ll find Zaab a cobblestone’s throw away from the waterfront on the Barbican, tucked away inside the shopping parade at 27 New Street, just behind the ice cream shop at Island House. The historic parade used to be a cluster of store house buildings originating from the 1700s, a time when the Barbican was a bustling fishing and merchant centre. Full of nooks and crannies, it makes for an intriguing setting for a Thai restaurant. Zaab was opened in January 2017 by Vas Sellers, who grew up in the Sakon Nakhon province in Isan, a region close to the border with Laos that’s famed for its extra spicy cuisine. Vas – short for Vasana – came to Plymouth in 2011 after meeting

her husband Ian when he was on holiday with his sons in Thailand. Her route into the restaurant business was quite an unusual one. After training in Thailand as a Thai masseuse specialising in sports injuries, she started cooking seriously when friends told her that her food was better than most restaurants: “They said to me ‘your food is amazing. You should be in a restaurant’. So here I am!” Zaab has a café vibe where diners can enjoy simple, authentic Thai dishes in a friendly atmosphere. There’s also a lovely sunny courtyard which is being spruced up in time for summer. It had been a tea-room for several years but when Vas heard it was becoming available, she jumped at the chance: “This was my dream, to get my own restaurant and be my own boss,” she said. “Before, I had worked at other Thai restaurants so when I saw the lease was coming up here, I thought ‘let’s do it’.” Vas and Ian had to completely gut the place to create the informal Thai feel they were looking for at Zaab. Once open, it didn’t take long for word to get out: “As soon as people discovered us, they started to spread the word to

Story by Laura Joint

One of the Zaab favourites... Masaman Curry

Thai fried chicken starter

their friends,” said Ian, who works at Babcock but helps out with the restaurant when he can. “All of our customers keep coming back, which is a commendation in itself.” It’s easy to see why. Vas cooks everything fresh to order and the most expensive dish on the main menu is £5.90 – and that includes rice. Daily specials are also available including a selection of seafood dishes. The most popular dishes on the main menu are masaman curry with plenty of peanuts, mixed vegetable stir fry, Pad Thai (stir fry noodles), Thai-style fried chicken, Thai fish cakes, Thai-style pork skewers and Vas’s own favourite, green papaya salad. Most dishes have options of chicken, beef, pork, prawn or vegetables. A lot of people order a selection of starters or a mix of starters and mains to share together. The food of north east Thailand tends to be very hot, but customers can ask for mild, medium or hot and Vas will tweak

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The Plymouth Magazine March 2018

Plymouth Magazine March 2018  

The 165th edition of Plymouth's popular and biggest circulation "lifestyle" magazine delivered to 45,000 homes every month.

Plymouth Magazine March 2018  

The 165th edition of Plymouth's popular and biggest circulation "lifestyle" magazine delivered to 45,000 homes every month.