October 11 2016

Thaikhun opens in southgate

Having spent weeks building a feverish frenzy on Twitter, the lively Thai-themed emporium Thaikhun finally opened the doors to their brand new branch (the ninth in a chain) in SouthGate, Bath, last week.

Thaikhun is the first of three eateries to launch the SouthGate ‘food quarter,’ with Lebanese/Middle Eastern Comptoir Libanais restaurant opening shortly, and American deep south-themed diner Absurd Bird completing the glossy trio not long after that. While it’s a great shame that none of the new kids on the block are local, independently owned ventures, it’s not difficult to work out why: we’re talking massive, multiple-cover spaces and high-risk overheads here. It’s to be hoped, though, that increasing the SouthGate footfall will have a positive effect on smaller, local businesses in the area; unique independent ventures Mokoko, the Cake Cafe and recent arrivals Juno are currently thriving in and around Bath’s Shrine to Mammon, adding texture and contrast to the overall SouthGate “experience.” So what’s Thaikhun brought to the party?

From the get-go, the decor – think, the lanes within a Bangkok Street Market, and all the brightly coloured, eclectic knick-knackery that comes with such a theme – has turned what could have been a big, bland space into a a fun’n’funky canteen with an ambience that’s definitely more Thai bazaar than tastelessly bizarre. Super-welcoming staff wear the kind of clothes that you’d expect the kids to bring back from their gap year travels (brightly patterned harem pants, t-shirts adorned with Thai-to-English translations, etc) rather than traditional Thai garb, and the massive menus start with a cocktail selection that, while not necessarily reflecting the kind of authentic liquid refreshment options that you’d be offered in and around Silom and Salthorn Roads, definitely invoke a nostalgia for sunny days on distant shores. The food, meanwhile, dances along to the beat that’s already set the scene: easygoing starters and Sharing Platters (we opted for the Sukomvit 38 option, which includes Thai fish cakes, honey pork, spring rolls and steamed dumplings); mix’n’match Pintos; a lush main course salad selection; classic Thai curries (of course!); multiple stir-fries; a well-balanced grill section: if you can’t find at least three dishes with your name on it here, you’re not really paying attention – unless, that is, you’re not a fan of Far Eastern flavours. My Khao Moo Daeng Moo Grob (okay, barbecue pork on sticky rice) was a novel, tasty alternative to my usual order of Thai green curry, Mr Pig’s Pla Pao (sea bass marinated in oyster sauce, lemongrass and lime leaves, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over charcoal) was fresh and characterful, and prices are super-adaptable according to budget or occasion (you could grab a bargain supper here for less than a tenner to include a drink, or push the boat out and opt for a full-on feast with upper-end mains for around £17).

Will Thaikhun take trade away from Bath’s existing, independent, long-established and enduringly popular Thai restaurants? Personally, I don’t think so, because it represents a very different kettle of fish (sauce?) altogether. If you prefer to have your tastebuds Thai-tantalised in more mellow surroundings, then this experience may not be for you. If, however, you’re in the mood for a non-stop exotic cabaret in a festive environment, then it’s time to say Sawadee to the latest new kid on the SouthGate klùm.

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