Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock of late, you’ll have seen a tonne of new arrivals hit intu Metro Centre’s snazzy new food court in the yellow mall, aka the Qube. One of these new arrivals is national Thai street-food and casual dining chain, Thaikhun, which landed on our shores a little over a month ago.
Owned and operated by Thai Leisure Group, responsible for the more-upmarket Chaophraya restaurants found in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Thaikhun is the purse-friendly sister offering from the group, offering authentic Thai food “from the streets of Bangkok” to our plates here in the UK. These new eateries have popped up quite quietly and in quick succession, calling many of the UK’s smaller cities home. Not sure if that’s a conscious decision by the Group – the big ones get Chaophraya and we get Thaikhun – who knows? I’d like both, please.
So, the bold claim is that they’re bringing authentic tastes as you’d expect on the streets of Bangkok. So err, do they?
Well, sort of, but I’d say it goes a little further than just the food. The restaurant is quite the spectacle, with such granular attention to detail that I was genuinely impressed.
It’s just SO outrageously Bangkok! Chaotic, colourful, carefree – with plenty of exposed LG air conditioners attached to stone walls, piled with newspaper cuttings and posters. I was transported straight to Khaosan Road in an instant. Everywhere you look there’s something to see, with every area decorated a little differently (we were in this cute little back-street area) to give a necessary nod to the Thai capital’s vibrancy and diversity.
One minor complaint about the venue, was the yellow strip lighting in some areas (this should also explain the awful tint on the photos in this review!). I’m prone to pretty violent migraines and my eyes were going haywire because of the distorted light, so perhaps one to warn customers of if they have light sensitivity.
Or perhaps I’m just a pansy, but I just felt it was worth mentioning. If you’re prone to migraines and the like, stay away from the street-scene bit! A seat-swap with my boyfriend helped a bit, but I did spend a lot of time covering my eyes, which isn’t ideal. Luckily, the food was worth looking like a diva for…
And so, on to the food. We decided to go for some Thai Crackers and one of Thaikhun’s highly-recommended platters for two, opting for the Sukumvit38 platter (£8.50 per person based on two sharing), comprising of Salt and Pepper Squid, Fish Cakes, Spring Rolls and Honey Pork, along with some Thai sweet chilli dip (unfortunately quite tight servings, I must add, which isn’t ideal with that much to dip!) all served in little banana boats. While the sauce may have been served sparingly, the rest of it wasn’t, and all of it was super tasty. Points redeemed!
My personal favourite was the fishcakes, served with cucumber, carrots and cashews, and the succulent Honey Pork, which was pleasingly plentiful and really well cooked. I’m probably the biggest fan of squid you’ll ever meet, but Thaikhun’s version I could take or leave, as it was a little overcooked on this occasion. Luckily, they were able to redeem themselves with two piping hot and crispy Spring Rolls, so all was not lost. With a bit of work on the squid, I’d say they’re onto a winner with this sharer starter, and even the price isn’t too bad when you consider the volume of food served.
To wash it all down, we opted for two of Thaikhun’s signature cocktails: the Thaikhun (£8.50!) and the Gin Cooler (£7.95), which were both bursting with authentic Asian flavours and served in little metal cups to keep them extra cool. The ‘Thaikhun’ was especially flavoursome with ginger, lemongrass, chilli and mint (in a cocktail – yep!) but for £8.50, I did feel a little bit mugged off. Later my boyfriend went for a couple of bottles of Chang and I had a glass of white wine, which was far less fanfare but just as good to complement the food.
And on to main courses…
I couldn’t go to Thaikhun and not try a quintessentially-Thai dish, so I opted for the (drum roll please…) Green Thai Curry with Chicken and a side of sticky rice. This I’ve had many, many times before; all over Thailand during a 3-month trip there a few years ago, made at home, and at at few restaurants in London (yes, I order this a lot – but if it ain’t broke…) and this one actually held its own against some of the best I’ve had.
The chicken was perfectly cooked and super fresh, the veg deliciously crunchy and the sauce was rich, packed with flavour but softened with coconut milk, and the perfect consistency to boot. So good. I really can’t fault it, and at £12.50 (curry) and £3 (rice) respectively, you can’t really fault the price, either.
I thoroughly enjoyed my main course and ate every last morsel, so what more can I say? If you want a fail-safe Thai curry during a shopping trip or before a cine-date, Thaikhun are delivering the goods in that department.
My boyfriend was a little more adventurous (one of us had to be!) and went for the Nua Phad Kra Prao (or beef with chilli and thai basil!) which was gorgeously tender slices of beef, rustled up with onion, green beans, pepper, fresh chilli, garlic and holy basil. So tasty and quite a large portion for one at only £11. I would definitely be tempted to go for this little number on my next visit to Thaikhun!
He also went for the Sticky Rice, which came in a traditional little straw box and was cooked to perfect consistency. I nabbed a few mouthfuls of the beef dish and can confirm it was exploding with flavour, so a must-try for any food fan who favours a bit of a kick in the palate.
There was categorically no chance we were going for a dessert after all that, but for sweet-fans, look out for authentic Thai/Pan-Asian desserts like Banana Fritters or Thai pancakes, served with ice cream. To me, the dessert menu felt like a bit of an after-thought (it’s really not as exciting as it could be), so I didn’t feel compelled to indulge in the calories. I have to wonder if we were the only ones or if Thaikhun are doing themselves a disservice in the dessert department, when compared to the rest of the varied menu. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you’ve been!
Throughout our visit, the service was friendly and attentive, despite the fact they were quite clearly short-staffed. Everything was handled with utmost professionalism and Lauren, our server (easy name for me to remember, not that I’m singling her out!) was confident in her recommendations and super efficient. There was a bit of a dispute on a table nearby but she handled it with finesse and that was that.
The staff are encouraged to use Thai greetings and gestures, so there’s a lot of head bowing and stuff, but it’s not cheesy or over-the-top like you’d get sometimes at other themed restaurants (not naming any names… TGI). They also have these awesome printed cotton trousers, which I’m gonna need a pair of for my next holiday, for sure.
They’ve also had the restaurant blessed by Buddhist monks, and there’s a shrine to the left of the door when you enter, so look out for that. Beware that the little things on plates are not samples, it’s blessed items! Not saying I made that mistake, but it was a close encounter. For anyone who loves all things Thai though, there’s plenty to see, and the open kitchen allows the restaurant the wonderful smells of fresh Thai cooking, which I’m a big fan of.
Would we go back? Certainly. I’ve told a few people about how surprisingly good the Green Thai Curry was, and with other regional dishes dotted about the menu, it’s somewhere I’m looking forward to sampling again on my next trip to the Metro Centre (I’ve got my eye on the Pork Belly in red Thai curry sauce, especially!).
Like anywhere new, there may be teething problems with service or whatever, but it’s a welcome addition to the shopping complex and the region, so give Thaikhun a visit next time you’re nearby!
You can discover Thaikhun for yourself at the yellow mall in the intu Metro Centre, Upper Qube, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, NE11 9YG – right beside a whole host of new eateries! Their website also has their menus, the Thaikhun story and some special offers etc., so check that out.
We were offered complimentary food for the purpose of this review, however all views are true to experience on the day of our visit. Drinks were all paid for by ourselves. Thanks to Jenny at Karol Marketing and of course, Thaikhun, for inviting us to visit. We look forward to coming back soon!