Koh Thai Tapas
Koh Thai Tapas, the newest Thai restaurant to open in the Portsmouth area, joins an increasing number of upmarket Thai venues. It’s a young business – the original one further down the coast in Bournemouth opened in 2009 – and Andrew Lennox, one its directors, plans to open six more in other eating-out hotspots.
The restaurant has taken over the old bank on Kings Road. You may have known it also as 8 Kings Road and Brasserie @.
Always a tricky interior to decorate and light – it’s a big box-like, two-tier restaurant – Koh (‘island’ in Thai) Thai seem to have discovered a way of making it a more pleasurable restaurant to dine in, the lighting being the only bugbear.
Long orange globes hang from the bank’s high ceilings, giving everyone a sallow look. But the balcony area has been charmingly Thai-afied with wooden carvings similar to what you’d find when visiting that art-refined country. Koh Thai has the same tables and chairs of previous incumbents and the bar remains the same glitzy one.
You will have already clocked the word Tapas in the title. How does it belong in Asia? Those small morsels found in Spanish bars surely can’t be translated into Thai? Well, Mr Lennox and co-directors think it can. But does it work?
The menu is broken down into Thai tapas; soups; salads; curries; rice and noodles; sides and stir-fries. Prices are very reasonable: from £4.50 to £13.95 but most are around £6.95- £8.95. Choose from well-known dishes: spicy Thai soup; spicy coconut soup; spicy duck salad; vegetable and vermicelli salad; sliced crispy beef; sweet corn cakes; green curry; duck and cucumber roll; chicken satay; prawn tempura; fried rice and yellow egg noodles with meat or vegetables some choices.
On a very cold night last week. what better than a spicy Thai soup? Then there was diced pork salad with spring onion, red onion, coriander, chilli and toasted brown rice. ‘Fairly hot with a good balance of flavours,’said the menu and, from the tapas list, Thai fish cakes featuring Grey Featherback (a prized Thai fish) and tiger prawns, minced and blended with a Bangkok-style mixture of herbs, spices and red curry paste.
The latter were certainly some of the better ones thanks to judicious mixing of these ingredients, the style of presentation (a large square plate) matching the smartness of the venue. A carved carrot set off a side salad next to three fish cake discs, the usual chilli sauce dampening down the hot chilli.
The soup and salad, both served at the same time as the fish cakes, came in ultra-smart (some would say impossible) lopsided bowls. Would it make it or slop all over the cloth?
The Thai spicy pork salad, billed as diced, was minced pork but no less delicious as a result. A vast portion with all those flavours, blended beautifully with the sauce and the toasted brown rice. I would happily eat any of these dishes again and again, the cooking hugely impressive. But why stop there, the other choices equally seductive. My delightful waitress confided that the Thai chefs were emulating Thai street food rather than European-Thai.
I applaud this ethos. Thai street food is some of the best to be found. My bill came to just under £17, not including the tip.
Koh Thai Tapas, 8 Kings Road, Southsea, PO5 3AH, (023)92 82 4825. Open from 12.30pm-3pm and 5.30pm–10pm
Disabled access: Yes.
How to get there: Kings Road is at the Museum Road roundabout. Koh Thai is by the corner on the south side. On-street parking.
Ratings (maximum *****)