A week or so ago, Smithdown Road was trending nationally on twitter. But it wasn’t for its independent shops or places to eat, nor for the excellent Secret Life of Smithdown Road display at our new Museum. Loved by locals as a place to shop, have a coffee with friends, a spot of food or drink in the evening, Smithdown Road instantly gained itself a far less positive – albeit temporary – reputation.
We feel a strong affinity for Smithdown, and know that this minor blip won’t impair its reputation. The road’s reputation for friendly independent establishments such as Oommoo, the Eastern Food Store and Dafna’s Cheese Cake Factory is a far more accurate reflection of the community than the hysterical coverage it’s recently recieved.
A recent addition onto the area’s food map is The Thai Kitchen, on the corner of Arundel Avenue and Smithdown Road. This little restaurant offers what it calls authentic Thai street food, just as you might find in the colourful street cafes in Thailand.
The interior is clean and simple, the atmosphere benefits from not being over crowded with kitsch Thai objects of the stone Buddha and elephant variety. It’s nice to see a Thai restaurant that hasn’t clung to an over the top cliched interior, unlike the tackily OTT venue in Chavasse park.
The menu is more restrained than you find in some Thai restaurants too: rather than a extensive banquet style, the Thai Kitchen offers are more limited, but still interesting array of dishes. Sadly, like TriBeCa, the menu is very difficult to read, and takes a bit of deciphering to grasp everything available. The prices are not difficult to appreciate though, at £5ish for a starter, and most of the mains hovering at around the same price point. Thus a curry and steamed rice can be as little as £6.45.
For starters we chose the corn cakes (£4.95), which were like onion bhajis, except with a light batter holding together kernels of sweet corn, they were soft – if a touch oily – and packed with savoury flavour. The Thai sausages (£5.00) – little pork and onion bites – were well seasoned, really porky (almost gamey) and served with little strips of raw ginger. The spring rolls (£4.00) had a nice homemade filling, and while there was nothing pasty or bland about them the pastry was a bit thick and gave an overall stodgy lasting impression.
For mains, you simply choose your style of dish: stir fry, salad, curry or soup, then pick the type of meat or prawns (or veg) you want in it. We had Lard-nan with pork (£5.00), a rich noodle dish served with a thick meaty sauce, which was a touch over seasoned for our tastes. The pork was, however, delightfully soft and tender and portions generous. Our Massaman beef curry (£6.00), was a delicous sweet, salty and slightly hot curry, the sauce was perfectly judged – not at all oily, which can be a common problem with less precise Thai cooking.
Few Asian restaurants are known for their desserts. However, for completeness, we chose the deep fried ice-cream (£3.50), and, as feared, it was awful.
The Thai Kithchen does what it sets out to do: offering decent food at a reasonable price.
Our masaman curry and rice was £8 in total, the equivalent dish in Chaophraya – a poorer experience in every respect, apart from the chandeliers – is £13.45.
The restaurant fits in very well to the Smithdown Road vibe: decent food and decent prices in a friendly neighbourhood. It’s another surefooted addition to a neighbourhood that’s very much on the up.
104 Smithdown Road
Tel: 0151 735 0139