According to the old proverb, ‘a Sunday well spent brings a week of content’. On this basis, when Nyssa and I were invited for lunch with friends in Manchester we obviously couldn’t refuse.
After finding out we would be dining at the relatively new Thai ‘street food’ restaurant in Spinningfields, Thaikhun, I had some reservations. I’d read mixed reviews about the restaurant and I’m not a massive fan of that particular area, but of course I wanted to give it a try for myself.
Thaikhun attempts to bring a taste of Thailand to Manchester, hence the name, which is supposed to be pronounced tycoon (in “celebration of the street food vendors who are the real foodie entrepreneurs on the streets of Bangkok”).
The interior is the most perfectly planned and expensive array of Thai ‘tat’ ever assembled, however it was interesting and on the whole reminded me of my travels, and I always appreciate a little reminisce on a typically cold, wet and windy English weekend
The menu, like the décor, has a lot going on. To make things easier (and it was excellent value for money at £17.95), all the table opted for the Christmas set menu.
The thai crackers came out in a wicker basket and they tasted good. Crunchy, not overpoweringly fishy, and with a hint of spice. The sweet chilli dipping sauce had limited heat and was a little sweet but it wasn’t a bad start.
The Bangkok street platter was next and this was the highlight of the meal. Everything was cooked very well and had excellent flavours, with the chicken balls being particularly tasty. My only issue with the dish was that one of the dim-sum I tried was very slightly soggy (and I do mean very slightly) but it still tasted excellent. The satay sauce was a winner also, with a nice heat that was sadly lacking from any of the other sauces.
The street platter was what we would recognise as the starter, and thereafter each of the dishes were brought out pretty much one after the other. I’m not sure if this to make it seem more authentic as street food, but it meant a lot of the dishes morphed into each other and also meant that there wasn’t much room on the table. However, it was nice to have a bit of variety and pick out the dishes I particularly favoured and spoon more of those ones on to my plate.
The Pla Poa (marinated seabass wrapped in banana leaf and grilled) came out first and was delicious. The fish was soft and flaked away perfectly. The flavour coming from it was also excellent and the banana leaf was a welcome and authentic addition.
The Phad Thai came next and was… OK. Not the worst I’ve had but not the best. Even with the picture below I am struggling to remember this dish at all to be honest.
Next up was the Guay Tiew Phad Sie Eiew (wide rice noodles stir fried with marinated beef, kale and egg in a mild soy and oyster sauce). This was one of my favourite dishes. The beef was tender, the kale added a nice texture, and the soy and oyster sauce add a hefty salty kick.
The Gai Phad Med (deep fried chicken pieces stir fried with peppers, mushrooms and cashew nuts in a Thai chilli sauce, and topped with roasted chilli). This was definitely my least favourite dish. It reminded of something you would get from a typical Chinese take-away. It was a little too oily, the chicken was slightly overdone, and lacked flavour. Not all major issues on their own but as a combination they really let the dish down. Also, as a fan of all things spicy I missed the heat I was expecting given that chilli is mentioned twice in the dish description. A disappointment.
Finally we had the Gang Kiew Wan Gai (green thai curry). It was fragrant and aromatic like a good thai green curry should be, but again (and although I do have a strong tolerance for spicy food) it lacked any kind of fire that I like in a thai curry.
The service was slow to start and relatively nondescript after that, with staff cramming dishes on the table and walking off without explanation. However, as we asked for the bill, the manager (Caleb) came over to me to advise that a member of staff had dropped a pot of satay sauce on my coat. He brought me wipes and helped clear it up, and also offered to pay the dry-cleaning bill for me if needed.
Overall Thaikhun wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as great as it could be. Some dishes showed potential and I’d recommend it for a group like ours looking for a decent bit of food and drinks in a pleasant setting. My view however is that the perfect Thai food should set your world alight. It should be sweet, salty, spicy, hot and exciting, and Thaikhun doesn’t quite deliver on all of those. That said it might be an unfair conclusion considering we only had the ‘appeal-to-all’ set menu. The excellent service at the end left a positive taste in my mouth and I’ll be back to give the full menu a try.