Review: The restaurant that’s a fan-Thai-stic addition to Preston city centre

Posted on - 21st October, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - City Centre, Food & Drink, Opinion, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Restaurants in Preston, Reviews, What's On in Preston
Khao Thai curries
I tried being a bit arty with this one

This week I took my 77-year-old mother Yvonne with me to Khao Thai Eatery, a new licenced restaurant situated towards the ring-road end of Church Street in Preston city centre.

Khao Thai is a modern, smart looking restaurant that occupies premises in the same building block that houses Action Records, but they’re at opposite corners.

It’s not the swankiest of locations. If that block was a person on a makeover show, Action Records would be some cool vintage shoes and Khao Thai would be a smart new hairdo, but what’s in between would still smell like roll-ups and be wearing a saggy old pair of nylon slacks held up by a piece of electrical cord. However, every new business that opens at that end of town is a shot in the arm for our city centre, so hopefully Preston’s foodies will start venturing down that way more often and more restaurants and cafes will start popping up.

We were given a warm welcome by the smiley manager/owner who was speedy with drinks and the menu, and told us that they serve real, absolutely authentic Thai food that’s different from anything else we could get in Preston, which was exciting.

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We made our choices from an extensive number of options, each accompanied by a concise description of the flavours and ingredients they contained. I was familiar with all the main ingredients such as duck and sea bass, but a little taken aback by the dish containing morning glory.

My first thought was that I’m way past wanting to see anyone’s morning glory sat on a plate in front of me, thank you, or their swamp cabbage, which Google informed me is another name for it. Eventually I found out that it’s also a type of crunchy vegetable so I calmed down a bit, but not enough to ever order it because it’s in my head now.

We chose a sharing starter: two chicken satay sticks, two triangles of prawn toast, two crispy chicken wings, two Thai fishcakes, two vegetable spring rolls and a little salad. They were accompanied by two tiny pots of dipping sauce: one sweet chilli and one that looked and tasted similar, but with more heat and of a different consistency.

Khao Thai mixed starter: satay sticks, fishcakes, prawn toast, spring rolls, chicken wings
Clockwise: satay sticks, fishcakes, prawn toast, spring rolls, chicken wings

The satay sticks were tender and liberally smothered with a delicious peanut sauce that didn’t overpower the chicken. The wings were crispy and mildly seasoned with just the right amount of crunch, as were the spring rolls, though we found the fishcakes were tasty but rubbery and the prawn toasts and spring rolls were inoffensive, albeit a touch on the greasy side.

Our main courses followed quickly. We’d decided to share a beef massaman curry (£12.95), a green chicken curry (£11.50) and one portion of jasmine rice (£3.25).

Yvonne had been off the restaurant scene with her dicky heart for a few months, and in that time I’d forgotten that she views an invitation to share as less an agreement, and more as some kind of speed-eating throwdown where only the fastest survive. I got just one mouthful of the beef massaman that was placed closest to Yvonne, but it was everything I could have hoped for.

Khao Thai beef massaman
Beef massaman. Yes, I know it’s a terrible photo but it’s the only one that didn’t have one of Yvonne’s meat hooks hovering over it
Khao Thai almost empty plate of beef massaman
My ‘half’ of the Massaman. Cheers Yvonne

For me, the meat and chunks of potatoes combined with the eastern spices that give warmth without heat puts a good massaman curry into wintry comfort food territory, along with pumpkin spiced lattes and parched peas. Khao Thai’s massaman was like a hug in front of a roaring fire in a cosy cabin on a snowy day although – if we’re running with that simile – I only got one toe over the threshold before Yvonne swapped the hug for a high five to the face, shoved me back outside and bolted the door. Cheers, Yvonne.

An introduction on Khao Thai’s website says ‘we bring you healthy and tasty Thai dishes like you eat at your own home in Thailand’, which isn’t the most ringing of endorsements as I’d gone there in an attempt to escape my own cooking, so the last thing I want is for it to show up at my table like a creepy ex.

Unlike my creepy ex, Khao Thai’s green curry was hotter than any I’ve had before. It was also slightly bitter, not unlike me. I realised why when I read a complaint in a TripAdvisor review that Khao Thai’s green curry ‘should have been thick and creamy, but was like water’, and the manager replied that ‘authentic Thai curries should not be thick and creamy at all’.

Khao Thai green curry
Thai greenish curry

Despite the quality of authentic ingredients, the generous amount of chicken and the obvious care and attention that had gone into making this green curry, it wasn’t to my personal taste as I like the sweetness that lots of coconut milk adds. However, I took it home for my daughter who thought it was excellent, despite disliking other coconut based curries, so the enjoyability of that dish was a matter of preference rather than a lack of quality.

I’d be happy to visit Khao Thai again, as the service was great, the atmosphere was warm, and the ingredients and quality of the food was impressive, but I would order some different dishes next time. Instead of a mixed starter, I’d stick with just the chicken satay (£7.25). I’d have the beef massaman again if I’m not with Yvonne, but instead of the green chicken curry (£11.50) I’d go for one of the more adventurous house dishes.

Khao Thai is a welcome addition to Church Street, and a great place for an evening meal or a quick lunch for anyone working nearby.

Has anyone lobbed their morning glory on to a plate and tried to convince you that it’s food? Name and shame them in the comments.

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