If you’ve strolled through Southgate recently, you’ll have noticed that exciting things are afoot – where there used to be a rather gloomy corridor, the space has now been transformed into two large units for new restaurants. One of these is Thaikun, unsurprisingly a Thai restaurant, which particularly celebrates the legendary street food of Bangkok.
I’ll freely admit I am a complete novice when it comes to the finer details of Thai cuisine, but what I’ve tried so far I love, and I always get excited about trying new places – so when the invite came through to Thaikun’s soft launch, I was happy to say yes. On first entrance, I have to say the effect is fantastic – a huge amount of effort has been put into giving this space serious atmosphere. As you enter, you’re greeted by a shrine with a golden statue of Buddha, decorated with fresh flowers and hung with bells. Throughout, the restaurant is packed with interesting artefacts of all kinds, in a rainbow of colours: painted paper parasols, old tin street signs, bright loops of neon, bicycle wheels, mismatched lampshades, enamelled pots, cans with indecipherable labels – all crammed into haphazard shelves or dangling from the ceiling amongst the exposed ducts and pipes. It’s like a fabulous junk shop, the sort of place in a story where our heroes would unearth a magical trinket, but find its immense powers a double-edged sword.
Eschewing grand adventures for the time being, we opted to settle at our table and peruse the cocktail menu instead. I ordered a coconut mojito, which is not something I’ve come across before – I was worried it might be too sweet but it was fabulous. To start, unable to narrow it down to just one dish, we ordered a Bangkok street platter, which was piled high with chicken satay, prawn toast, pork & prawn dumplings and red-curried corn cakes. I have to say that I enjoyed absolutely everything and would definitely order this again – it’s hard to pick a favourite but I think the pork & prawn dumplings might just have edged it.
For the main course, I chose barbecue pork belly, served with rice and soy sauce, while my dining companion went for sea bass baked in a banana leaf. My dish was tasty but not especially exciting in terms of flavour, so I think my companion made the better choice – the fish was beautifully tender and juicy, and really flavoursome. For dessert, I picked a sticky date pudding with sake ice cream (the pudding was yummy but the sake ice cream stole the show for me – highly recommended) and my companion went for a lovely chocolate & almond tart (one of several gluten-free dessert options).
All in all, I think the starter was probably the stand out dish for me – the platter was fantastic, full of flavour and really good value for two people – while the other dishes weren’t quite as exciting. However, it was really hard to choose from the menu so I shall definitely be going again to try a few other dishes that caught my eye. Thaikun also gives you the option of trying several different dishes in a traditional pinto, a set of stacking boxes a bit like a Japanese bento or Indian tiffin used by workers for their lunch, which I think is a really nice idea if you’re not sure what to choose or haven’t tried Thai before. The staff were friendly and very efficient, the atmosphere was buzzing and the prices were very reasonable, so I think this will make a great addition to Southgate’s restaurant scene.