On a gilt trip: Vermilion, Hulme Hall Lane, Lord North Street, Manchester

Its opulent interior cost millions. But will Vermilion bring the crowds to an industrial estate in east Manchester?

Where the hell am I? Manchester is surreal enough at the best of times, but with Vermilion, the city's newest, largest and most ambitious restaurant, I have every reason to suspect I have fallen through a rift in the space-time continuum.

I am in a cab travelling east, through unprepossessing industrial estates, past gasworks and warehouses, before pulling up outside a three-storey building glowing disco-crimson from within. It is here that Iqbal Ahmed OBE (with his son Manzur) has just opened a £4.5m Thai restaurant, handily located – for him – right next to his Seamark seafood wholesaling warehouse.

A good proportion of that £4.5m must have been given to renowned Portuguese architect Miguel Cancio Martins, who designed last century's hottest Parisian nightspots, Buddha Bar and Man Ray. Again, Martins has created an upstairs bar overlooking a vast dining-room, with much use of Buddha heads, gold mosaics and orbs of coloured light clinging to the ceiling. Around the bar are six cocoons – semi-secluded lounging pods in which Manchester's most fashionable can recline like patricians at an ancient Roman convivium.

There is only one thing missing: people. The bar alone can hold 300, which means there is currently room for... 300. Nobody wants to be the early nerd, including me, so I step down the golden spiral stairs to the dining-room instead. It's another striking, glamorous room with a varnished timber ceiling, black lacquered floor and glossy red tree trunks gathered around a central tower layered with glowing Buddha heads like petits fours on a cake-stand. At 8pm on a Thursday, there are more Buddha heads than diners, however, with around 20 of the 200 seats taken.

Chef Chumpol Jangprai had a senior post with the globally successful Blue Elephant group before putting this greatest-hits menu in place for Vermilion. It looks big, but there are few surprises, running through classic Thai favourites from tom yam koong (spicy prawn soup) to crisp mee krob noodles, Thai fish cakes, and the usual array of curries.

The food is perfectly competent and unremarkable, which only serves to make the décor seem more hysterical. Best is pla yang ka min (£8), a simple, pleasing grill of skewered marinated salmon and wild trout fillets, lightly fragrant with fresh turmeric – a rare treat. I like the silky, juicy quality of marinated chicken fillets wrapped in pandan leaf (£8), and the tentative heat of the green chicken curry (£8.50), although the chicken itself is bland. Small spring rolls (£6.50) are cold in the middle, while a banana blossom, prawn and chicken salad (£8.50) is overpowered by strong, sweet, sticky sauce. Another promising dish of stir-fried rock lobster with fresh peppercorns (£18.80) lacks any sizzle and, again, the produce is bland. My biggest problem is that the overwhelming sweetness in most of the dishes is not balanced by any chilli heat or sourness.

The heavy-hitting wine list includes a range of completely unsuitable Bordeaux, but I find a 2006 New Zealand Huia Pinot Noir for £38 that is silky and fruity enough to cope with the sweetness. Dessert seems redundant.

If it were a buzzing Saturday night, this place could be great fun, but empty, it has an air of folly. I feel sorry for the Iqbals as I hear one diner proclaim, "I don't eat chilli, coriander or lemongrass." Apparently the chef is already working on a new fusion menu, with such things as salmon soufflé, caviar, and entrecôte with Thai flavours, to attract a more Bordeaux-drinking crowd.

I fear my instincts about the space-time continuum might be right, but at least if the rift heals and this anomaly simply vanishes, Mr Ahmed will have a very groovy warehouse for his frozen prawns.

12/20

SCORES: 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK, 10-11 NEEDS HELP, 12 OK, 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH, 14 GOOD, 15 VERY GOOD, 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS, 17 SPECIAL, CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK, 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE, 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE, 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Vermilion, Hulme Hall Lane, Lord North Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 202 0055

Lunch, Monday-Friday; dinner, Monday-Saturday; brunch, Sunday. Around £110 for two for dinner, including wine and service

Second helpings: More Thai temptations

Sukho

855 Fulham Road, London SW6, tel: 020 7371 7600

This Parsons Green establishment goes beyond the usual Thai suspects to more exciting options such as soft-shell crab and duck confit with lemongrass and tamarind

Sukhothai

8 Regent Street, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, tel: 0113 237 0141

Owner/chef Ban Kaewkraikhot opened in Leeds in 2002 and quickly converted locals with her Thai fish cakes, pandan chicken and crisp mee krob noodles

Chaophraya

Chapel Walks, off Cross Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 832 8342

Pre-Vermilion, Chaophraya raised the bar for Thai dining in Manchester. The food is the real deal, from the Thai fisherman's soup to grilled seabass in banana leaves

Read Terry Durack's new column at independent.co.uk/eat

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn