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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Despite its faults, Thaikhun scores 8/10
For more info, go to thaikhun.co.uk