“ Address: 149 St. Pancras / Chichester PO19 7SH / Tel: 01243 778 881 „
Thai House is a relatively new Thai restaurant; it's just about to complete its first year of trading in Chichester (West Sussex). I adore Thai food, but I was a bit slow to notice that we had a new Thai restaurant in Chichester. It wasn't until a rival Thai restaurant (Lemon Grass) opened up virtually opposite Thai House that I realised that they were there. Having gone from no Thai restaurants in Chichester for the last ten years, we now have a grand total of three (the other two are the nearby Lemon Grass at 5/6 St Pancras and Spicy Tan at 3 East Row). I guess Thai House have been hit rather hard by the opening of a nearby rival, so they seemed to have upped their game with extensive local newspaper advertising recently. Offering 10% discount on all dinners and 20% discount on lunches seems to have done the trick and when we dined there the restaurant was full to capacity.
~*~ WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THAI FOOD? ~*~
Thai food is a mélange of recipes and dishes from all over Asia, heavily influenced by China, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Thai food is generally medium spicy rather than blow-your-head-off hot, and overly spicy dishes tend to be doused down a notch with the addition of coconut milk. Classic Thai cooking uses simple but fresh ingredients, with most dishes being based around rice or noodles accompanied by a variety of different meats or fish. Dishes are more often flavoured with garlic, peppers, lemongrass, basil, coconut milk, tamarind and galangal (Thai ginger). You'll often find dishes are cooked with shrimp paste, fish sauce or a simple sweet and sour sauce to bring out the flavour of the meat or fish. Thai cooking relies heavily on chilis - both green and red - and these can be incredibly spicy...so do beware. As a simple rule of thumb, the smaller the chili the hotter the flavour.
~*~ AMBIENCE ~*~
Thai House is housed in a rather lovely Georgian building. The building has long been a restaurant, but has seen off no fewer than three other restauranteurs in the last ten years - all going bust. One hopes that Thai House can make more of a success of the building than the previous incumbents. Inside, all traces of the previous unlucky occupants have been removed, and the décor is now truly Thai. Bamboo coloured walls and wooden floors provide a neutral backdrop for more intricate Thai style décor - wooden carvings, paintings and golden dragon-head gilding.
The staff glide around in traditional Thai silk costumes in stunning jewel like colours, lending a lovely authenticity to the venue. The restaurant is quite a large square shaped room with lots of natural light from large picture windows to the front of the room. My partner felt that the restaurant lacked atmosphere, but to be fair he was seated with his back to the room, facing the kitchen. That said, I was facing the room and there wasn't much to see or watch. I couldn't hear any background music, only the noise of other peoples' conversations.
Tables are simply laid with bright red napkins, bamboo placemats, tea lights and cutlery. Each table is adorned with one stunning orchid blossom in a vase - a lovely touch and it's rather nice to see a venue not using plastic or silk flowers nowadays. Diners are all seated in simple bamboo chairs, which my partner found rather uncomfortable, but I had no problem with. The restaurant can be only be entered via the street outside, St Pancras, and there is a small waiting area (to collect any takeaways) and bar in the entrance hall.
~*~ WHAT'S ON THE MENU? ~*~
Thai House offers a rather large choice from more than 90 dishes. There are 21 starters alone, not to mention various salads or soups in addition to the starters. Main courses are divided up into curries, stir fried dishes or seafood dishes. Accompanying the main courses is a vast selection of different noodle, rice and vegetable based dishes.
The appertisers selection not only consists of your usual Thai stalwarts (dishes like Satay, Thai Fish Cakes, spare ribs, spring rolls or dumplings) but more exotic choices such as Pla Muk Phrik (battered squid served with chili, salt and garlic) or Tofu Grob (crispy bean curd served with crushed peanuts and sweet chili sauce). I was very tempted indeed by one of their soups Tom yum poh tak, which is a particular favourite of mine and is basically a hot and sour soup served with mussels, prawns and squid and delicately flavoured with coriander, lemon and black pepper.
Main courses are divided up into curries, stir fries or seafood dishes and the choice is truly bewildering. At Thai House you don't just get to choose a Red or Green Thai Curry - they have a Yellow one too :o) Stir fried dishes consist of old favourites like sweet and sour dishes or dishes cooked with Black Bean sauce. I thought the Jungle Curry (Geang Par) sounded rather interesting, but possibly a little too spicy for me, as it appeared to be a Red Thai curry cooked without the usually calming coconut milk. I decided to stick to a safer option instead :o)
Vegetarians are well catered for with plenty of choice and a large V marking appropriate dishes.
~*~ OUR MEAL~*~
We gave up very quickly in trying to chose from 90+ different dishes on the menu and plumped for the safest option, a set menu. We chose Set Menu B for two at £16.95 per person. Things started off very well with my favorite part of any Thai menu, the starters. Mixed starters at Thai House consist of six different Thai starters, which are served beautifully presented with carved vegetables on a large platter. We had spring rolls, crispy king prawns, chicken satay, minced pork dumplings, Thai fish cakes and spare ribs. These dishes were accompanied by three tiny delicate saucers of dips consisting of soy sauce (for the spare ribs, dumplings and spring rolls), warmed peanut sauce (for the satay) and sweet chili sauce (for the prawns and fishcakes). The chicken satay was delicious with a slightly warmed spicy and nutty sauce to accompany. The crispy prawns were basically king prawns quickly deep fried in a light batter (tempura); although they were rather on the small side, they were nonetheless very tasty. The spare ribs and the spring rolls were both very flavoursome, but nothing out of the ordinary. The dumplings were small but very tasty and jam packed with pork mince and various spices. I found the Thai fishcake to be rather on the rubbery side, but it was tasty enough. Full marks for their starters - there were tasty, but not so filling as to put you off your main course.
The main course consisted of two meat based dishes, a seafood dish, a platter of vegetables and a bowl of rice. Our menu included Phad Maan Hoy, otherwise known as beef with oyster sauce. The dish consisted of thin slices of beef, onions, mushrooms and spring onion liberally doused in a delicious oyster sauce. It wasn't at all spicy and slipped down a treat. The second meat dish was Phad Phrik Sod (I kid you not....), which is easier to describe as pork with fresh chilis. This consisted of thin slices of pork, flash fried with garlic, onions, green beans and red and green peppers. However, I think they must have forgotten to garnish it with the fresh chilis on the night, as the dish was tasty but bland. It really needed the chilis to give it a kick in the proverbial and rack it up a notch flavourwise. The seafood dish was Priaw Wan, commonly known as stir fried sweet and sour prawns. This dish consisted of medium sized prawns fried with onions, peppers and pineapple smothered with a sweet and sour sauce. The dish was very flavorsome and moist, but it had no "bite" to it at all. The dishes were accompanied by a plateful of stir fried mixed vegetables, which were served nicely al dente and consisted of broccoli, mushrooms and peppers. I'd like to have seen some baby sweetcorn in the selection as well, but nothing doing here. All four main course dishes were accompanied by a bowl of egg fried rice, which was very tasty. However, you can have steamed rice instead if you prefer.
Although I enjoyed all the main course dishes immensely, I thought that the selection lacked the spiciness that you expect from a Thai meal. It was more like eating a selection of Chinese dishes to be honest. None of the dishes packed any punch at all, and that was a tiny bit disappointing. I guess that the omission of the fresh chilis from the pork dish on this occasion didn't help matters. I think if I chose the Set Menu route again at Thai House, I'd maybe go for Set Menu A as that has a Thai Green Curry as one of the choices, thereby racking up the spiciness a little bit.
~*~ SERVICE ~*~
The service was truly exemplary on the night we dined there. The staff were very friendly and solicitous. We were asked whether we were ready for our main courses after they'd cleared our starters or whether we'd like a break. One thing of note was that when the waitress cleared our main courses, she asked us if we'd had enough food to eat, as their kitchen would be delighted to bring us additional dishes if required. This was a first for me - never before have I been asked if I'd like more food cooked for me - even at one of those All-you-can-eat-buffets . Sadly we were unable to test the authenticity of her offer, as we were more than replete.
One thing that really also impressed me at Thai House, was the appearance of a couple of unexpected "freebies" - not something you tend to receive too often in the UK nowadays. When we eat out abroad, we often receive a complimentary drink at the end of our meal or a brunch of fresh grapes to take-away, but in the UK I find you very rarely get anything you haven't had to pay for. Upon being seated, we were brought a bowl of complimentary prawn crackers to accompany our drinks whilst we perused the menu. I'm not normally a lover of prawn crackers as they're often enormous, great things that taste slightly plasticky. No such fears here, the prawn crackers were smaller and crispier and served alongside a homemade sweet chili dipping sauce. We had bog standard creamy coloured prawn crackers and darker, more orangey coloured ones that were flecked with chilis and slightly spicier. Having thought that was the end of the freebies, we were more then delighted to receive a complimentary platter of fresh fruit after our main course had been cleared away. This consisted of black and green grapes, strawberries, water melon and pineapple. Despite being full, we managed to polish off most of the fruit. It was very cleansing on the palate and the perfect ending to the meal.
The only slightly jarring note with regard to the service was upon our arrival. On the night in question it was raining cats and dogs and we'd had a ten minute walk in foul weather as we were unable to find a parking spot nearby. Therefore my coat was absolutely dripping with rainwater as I reached the restaurant foyer (himself had no coat as he's well-hard...). I was slightly surprised that the waitress did not offer to take my coat and hang it somewhere to dry, and instead had to make do with hanging it off the back of my chair. No matter - the restaurant was warm and dry enough for my coat to be significantly less damp on the return marathon hike to the car.
The entire dinner for two came to around £43.00. The set menu for two costing £33.90 and the remainder of the bill made up of two large bottles of still water and a small glass of white wine. However, due to the local rival I mentioned earlier on in the review, Thai House have stepped up their advertising and we were in receipt of a 10% discount voucher snipped from the local paper. This brought the bill down to just under £40.00, which made our meal out even more reasonable.
~*~ RECOMMENDED? ~*~
I really enjoyed my meal at Thai House, and I hope to return again soon. I'd really like to try their Tom yum poh tak soup next time. All the dishes we ate there were splendidly cooked and presented - the main courses just lacked a little fire. The service was particularly impressive and the attention to detail second to none. Throwing in a 10% discount voucher, as well as a couple of freebies certainly makes the diner feel they're getting their moneys-worth at Thai House. Long may they prosper.
A five star recommendation from me.
~*~ FURTHER DETAILS ~*~
149 St Pancras
* Thai House is open seven days a week for dinner and for takeaways. Opening hours: Lunch - 12.00pm to 2.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday only) and Dinner - 5.30pm to 11.00pm
* All the major credit cards are accepted.
* Disabled access may be a little tricky as there is step up to the entrance foyer.
* The restaurant offers no parking but there is a pay and display (parking charges do not apply after 6pm) car park accessed from New Park Road, but spaces are rather limited.
* Thai House has an additional room upstairs which can be booked for private functions.
If you'd like to read my thoughts on their rival Thai restaurant, Lemon Grass, my review can be found at:-