THEY say first impressions count for everything. This is certainly true of Bournemouth's Tiien Thai restaurant, where the wonderfully warm welcome we received upon walking through the doors set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Situated underneath the Highcliff Marriot in St Michael's Road, the eaterie was opened in January 2011 and now forms part of a chain of restaurants also found in Westbourne and Broadstone, with another due to open in Southbourne later this month.

The success speaks for itself. That and the fact that the large Bournemouth restaurant was surprisingly lively on a wet Monday evening.

With its dark wood floor, cane chairs, wood panelling and plenty of candles, the decor has a definite Thai feel and a relaxed ambience. The beautifully crafted floor and walls are built with exotic Merbau and Sapele hardwoods, both of which were chosen for their popular use in Thailand and sourced from environmentally managed stock.

On opening the menu, I immediately knew I was going to have some tough decisions to make, as each of the options on the starter menu alone sounded so appealing. Thankfully, on reaching the end of the list, we noticed a Mixed Starter for two (£15.95), which did the job perfectly, with a selection of spring rolls, barbecued chicken wings, chicken satay, prawn toasts and Thai fish cakes.

Again, we found it hard to decide on our main course choices, with the menu featuring a range of curries, soups and salads, fish dishes, stir fries, noodles, chargrilled options, some Chef's Specials and a Chinese Corner, as well as a Tasting Menu.

Eventually seeking help from the uber-polite, but very knowledgeable waiting staff, we settled on the Phad Thai with chicken (£11.95), Chilli Lamb (£14.95) and a portion of Egg Fried Rice with Vegetables (£4.95) to share.

We nibbled on a basket of spicy Thai crackers, with sweet chilli dip, while our starter was prepared, but hadn't even had time to polish them off before the sharing platter arrived.

Artfully presented, the food was served with a selection of accompaniments including peanut sauce, sweet chilli sauce and a cucumber salsa.

It was hard to choose a favourite from the crispy spring rolls, tender chicken wings and satay, the succulent prawn toast and the fragrant fish cakes, but we were left feeling worryingly full after polishing off the lot with gusto.

That said, we didn't have much difficulty in tucking into our main courses when they arrived shortly afterwards.

The Phad Thai was a plate piled high with stir-fried rice noodles. bean sprouts, spring onions and sweet turnips, mixed with cuts of tender, chargrilled chicken. The dish was surprisingly light and full of flavour.

I was a little worried that my husband's choice of Chilli Lamb would be a bit too spicy for me (the waitress had checked several times that he liked hot food!). The small chunks of yet more tender, stir-fried meat served with a curry paste, krachai, fresh chillies and basil leaves but, while it had a definite tang, it was perfectly palatable.

Our small bowl of sticky egg-fried rice was the perfect accompaniment, mixed with fresh carrots, beans and peas.

At this point, a big dessert would definitely have been pushing it, despite the tempting-sounding traditional Thai offerings, so we just settled for ice cream ­— me for the coconut half and my husband for the vanilla with cherry sauce. Both were generous portions and deliciously creamy but it was finally time to admit defeat.

Tiien Thai prides itself on its renowned hospitality, perfect ambience and great food. After our evening there, we had to agree.

Tiien Thai, St Michael's Road, Bournemouth

01202 299412