Thaikhun

WE’VE all heard the old joke: “Waiter, waiter, there’s a bug in my food.”

“Please keep it down sir, otherwise all the diners will want one.”

Well, the people at Thaikhun – the ultra-funky Oxford Thai street food restaurant – seem to have taken this message to heart when they unveiled their new children’s menu.

As an eye-catching gimmick, all kids’ meals come with tubs of crispy creepy crawlies. It certainly caused a stir with our four young diners, aged between eight and 12.

We were invited to the George Street venue to give our verdict on the new menu for youngsters, heralded as “unique and refreshing in its approach the ‘mix and match’ concept”.

Children get a pot of crunchy vegetables to start and an ice lolly to finish, and can then custom-build their main course.

img_0052

They get to choose noodles or Jasmine rice, then grilled chicken, pork or mixed vegetables, plus a sauce – nut-free chicken satay, slightly spicy green curry or sweet BBQ. There’s also phad thai or breaded chicken and rice with a sweet chilli sauce. They all come with juice, water or milk and cost £5.95.

The restaurant was bustling when we arrived, and were ushered to a table where one set of seats was built out of an old boat – a big hit with the children, but not so good for the aching backs of the ageing parents.

It has to be said, the children’s meals didn’t go down particularly well. The first mistake was the plates they were served on – reminiscent of American-style school trays, with compartments for each item. It accentuated the difference between the adult and children’s food, and looked a bit canteen-ish.

The grilled chicken was a bit dry, the sauces were reasonable, but it was all a bit underwhelming on the culinary front.

My friends’ 12-year-old Niamh said: “What I really liked about Thaikhun was the ambiance – it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the lay out of the whole restaurant, from the working traffic lights to the idea of turning a boat and a bathtub into seats.

“The decorations and the music too really gave of the feel of a street in Bangkok. The service at Thaikhun was also very good; the staff were all very smiley and friendly.

“One of my few criticisms would be the children’s menu. I was disappointed with the lack variety and the presentation of the food on it, particularly the dessert. After seeing the variety on the adults’ menu I was expecting a little more than just a mini milk ice lolly.”

img_0045

However, as if to prove that siblings hardly ever agree, her 10-year-old brother Johnny said: “The kid’s menu at Thaikhun was lovely although I wasn’t so pleased with the dessert. I’d expected more then a mini milk although this might be based on younger children.

“The creepy crawlies though were a clever and delectable addition to the meal.”

Yes, the bugs were a hit with three-quarters of the youngsters around the table, and even the adults were forced to give them a try.

img_0055

Not that the grown-ups had any need to resort to eating insects. Our food was sensational, beautifully presented, and really delicious.

I couldn’t find fault with my barbecued pork on rice (£11), with unctuous pieces of belly pork and a sticky, lip-smacking sauce. My wife’s spicy seafood noodles (£11.50) were equally eye-catching, full of huge mussels, prawns and squid. One of these meals – I’m not sure which, but I polished it off anyway, just in case it was mine – came with a superb, clear savoury broth that proved a perfect palate cleanser.

img_0056

Our friends went for the curries – well, when in Thailand… – and made short work of their aromatic chicken massaman (£11.50), with chunks of potato, cashew nuts, and a hunt of cinnamon, and the almost obligatory prawn Thai green curry (£13.50). It was the sort of meal where everyone is eyeing up each others’ food to see who made the best choice – and no-one could decide.

I’ve never been to Thailand, so I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but I have eaten poor Thai food and this was most definitely not poor. Very, very, good, fresh-tasting and consistent quality.

Desserts were almost as good. I devoured the banana fritters with vanilla ice cream (£5.50) and a lovely, sticky syrup – or at least I would have done if my children hadn’t kept stealing spoonfuls of it from me. And the Thai waffles with green tea ice ice cream (£5.50) also disappeared in an instant.

So, much like Brexit, the generations were divided. But hopefully we can come together if they decide they can manage another taste of Thailand in the future. I’ll let them choose though – I promise not to bug them.

img_0006

Despite its faults, Thaikhun scores 8/10

For more info, go to thaikhun.co.uk

 

The Pint Shop

img_2880Walking into The Pint Shop in Oxford’s restaurant-packed George Street is a little like walking into a 1960s pub – although it’s actually inspired by the beer houses of the 1830s. The venue looks sparse, with the type of benches and bar stools I can only remember from the dingy dives frequented in my university days. But don’t be fooled. This new bar-cum-restaurant is so on-trend, providing a wealth of ales, lagers and stouts for the would-be craft beer connoisseur, as well as a menu of 102 gins. While Marc supped on pints (including a deeply chocolatey stout called Holy Cow Bell), I tried my hardest, dear reader, to sample as many of the gins as I could. I simply ran out of time.

Below the bar is a simple and spacious restaurant which immediately makes you feel relaxed. The staff are friendly and know exactly what they’re talking about (whether your question is booze or food related). The food is cooked on coals – giving the meat a rich charcoal edge.

Browsing from the menu got my taste buds exercising, and choosing was a trial that no-one should have to endure on a date night! Just so many of the dishes looked enticing to someone normally used to a sloppy TV dinner in front of The Apprentice.

Marc had the unusual shrimp pasty with pickled red onion to start, while I had the southern fried chicken with saffron aioli. Both were delicious, although we agreed that while the pasty pastry was delicious, it did slightly overpower the prawns inside.

For main, I plumped for venison haunch, with squash hash and crispy sage, while his nibs had an all-time favourite: pork belly (cooked deliciously overnight) with braised hispy cabbage in an apple and mustard sauce.

img_2884

Both plates were soon depleted, along with the side orders of honey roasted carrot, celeriac and parsnips, red cabbage slaw with cider mayonnaise, and triple-cooked spuds – which were divine, despite the fact that I had failed to notice that they came in a truffle cheese sauce (yes, I am a Philistine who does not enjoy truffles!) Be warned, would-be-Pint-Shopper, the sides are big enough for two or more people, so you really don’t need too many.

At this point Marc and I were both sated, and had little room for anything else, so we sacrificed the coffees and begrudgingly had puddings instead *winks humourously*. Not wanting to mix my drinks, I decided on the gin float.img_2887

This was the most beautifully delicious damson sorbet bobbing in Broker’s gin and framed by a yummy ginger snap.

Marc was slightly disappointed at the size of his tiny espresso and chocolate pot, until he realised it was such a dark, rich delight that it was more than enough to savour with the accompanying shortbread.

img_2888

All in all, an evening well spent. Great food and drink, and welcoming staff wrapped in a friendly and relaxing hostelry.

Date night score: 10/10img_2889

For more information, go to pintshop.co.uk/

 

Amuse Bouche

Welcome to the Evans troops. Marc is the real foodie and has been an avid lover of cuisine since time immemorial. Whether its Chinese or a Sunday roast, Marc is the man to have around the kitchen.

Vikki eats the food Marc produces and, as chief parent, tends to be in charge of the nightly battle to nutritiously sustain the children! We’ve all been there: prepare a delicious meal and spend hours persuading the little ones that you’re not trying to poison them; cook an oven ready meal, which they wolf down with ease, and feel the guilt for the rest of the evening (over a well-deserved glass of plonk).

Can’t win can we? Well, we hope to help.

Grace, aged 10, and Barney, eight, will be guiding us through the pitfalls of this blog. The girl is a tea-time treasure, while the boy prefers to eat breakfast like a king and starve himself for the remaining 23 and a half hours! But both of them love eating out, so we’ll be reviewing all the places we eat.

Enjoy!