I’ve been watching Westquay Watermark taking shape in Southampton for months now. Seeing such an exciting new destination coming to life and slowly opening its doors has been filling me with anticipation. With some big names in the dining and leisure worlds moving into the city, I just couldn’t wait to see it – and try it! – for myself.
Needless to say, then, that I was thrilled when the lovely folk at Thaikhun invited me to try their new restaurant in the city. This was to be my first experience of the brand new Watermark building – and of this particular chain of restaurants.
Southampton is Thaikhun’s tenth location in the UK, since they already boast restaurants in Oxford, Bath and Manchester amongst other destinations. They pride themselves on recreating the traditional Thai street scene in our very own hometowns – something I was extremely keen to try out.
I feel like I need to pop a little disclaimer here somewhere; I’ve never actually been to Asia (one day!), so my tastes and opinions are thoroughly from a western perspective. Saying that, I’m a big fan of Thai and asian food, and having never been to Thailand I was hoping for an authentic experience in the comfort of my own city.
Who knew that an exotic night in Thailand was only a bus ride away?
I met my friend Lissie last Saturday night, primped, preened and ready for Pad Thai and more. We had both been feeling rather stressed in the week leading up to our meal, and I thought it would be the perfect chance to have a ‘date night’, treating ourselves to a little time out together.
Westquay looked amazing in the dark, and Watermark is already incredibly impressive. Upon arrival, we were welcomed into Thaikhun’s warm atmosphere. The restaurant was a little smaller than I expected but by no means poky – this made for a cosy, intimate feel, enhanced by low lighting and fantastic decor. With so much going on around us, it really did feel like we were on holiday in (what I imagine it’s like on) the streets of Thailand. I think the view from the restaurant will be amazing in the summer.
Our waitress was the lovely Emma (with the winged eyeliner!). Emma took us though the drinks menu, and we made that all important first choice of cocktail. I picked the Coconut Mojito while Lissie went for a Street Sipper – which was hilariously served in a plastic bag! It really was all about that street-food vibe, and we loved it. My cocktail was certainly the winner, and it didn’t take me long to finish! I can’t recommend it enough to coconut-lovers.
Thaikhun’s menu is huge and there’s just so much to choose from. After much deliberation we decided to get two starters and share them between us, opting for a seafood theme; Goong Choop Pang Tord (tempura prawns!) and Tod Man Pla (Thai fish cakes), with some rice crackers to boot.
The prawns arrived and they were HUGE, accompanied by two onion rings which was a nice surprise. The batter was not the tempura I’m used to, but it was so, so good. The prawns were meaty and very tasty, and we decided these were already our favourites without having tried anything else! I highly recommend you make space in your tummy for these.
The fish cakes were really good too – spicy and very moreish, and you could definitely tell they were made with fresh fish. They didn’t feel too sinful either (not that I’m in the habit of counting calories).
Then came the mains. I’d been reading a review by fellow Southampton blogger Rachel from Illustrated Teacup and she suggested we go for the Pinto – a traditional Thai foodie experience which recreates their traditional packed lunches! I love to try as many different dishes as possible so this sounded like the perfect option for me, and Lissie thankfully agreed.
The Pinto lets you choose three dishes, and a side of rice, to share between you. We went for Pad Thai, Massaman Curry (a favourite of mine!) and the pork belly in red curry. These arrived very quickly and we swiftly tucked in.
I can honestly say I couldn’t tell you what my favourite was! The Massaman is a curry I usually order when I go out for Thai food – and this was rich (but not overwhelmingly so) with cashews (rather than peanuts) and very tender chicken. The Pad Thai was perfectly cooked, but the pork belly was out of this world. Succulent, soft and almost caramelised!
This may look like a light meal option, but don’t be deceived. We were about halfway through the Pinto between us when we realised we were already extremely full up. In the end we admitted defeat, but Emma kindly popped all the food into little branded containers for us to take home! This was perfect – it meant we didn’t waste any of the delicious food, which we were very concerned about. I hate wasting food! Especially food as tasty as this.
Since we were so full, we had to take a (long) break and ordered two more cocktails while we waited for our food to go down. My second cocktail choice was the Full Moon, which was a delicious watermelon and vodka mix, served with fizzy flying saucers! Lissie opted for the Coconut Mojito after coming down with some serious drink envy.
Eventually we felt we could have some pudding but, playing it safe so as not to be greedy, we shared two scoops of ice cream between us. I know, I know, I wish I could have eaten more! The desserts all looked amazing. We picked one scoop of coconut and one scoop of green tea. The green tea was an acquired taste – I don’t tend to drink it – but went extremely well when eaten with the coconut, and it was the perfect sweet treat without being over-filling! It was also a great contrast to all the spices we’d had earlier in the evening.
With our stomachs absolutely full to bursting, and our souls soothed and revitalised, we ended our evening at Thaikhun and headed out for a little dancing and a few more drinks.
We had a wonderful time at Thaikhun Southampton. It’s a fun venue for a cosy meal with best friends, a catchup with family or a big birthday celebration! In fact, if it’s your birthday, the staff will bring the party to you with music and maracas and lively singing (we witnessed this happening to surrounding tables and loved every embarrassing moment of it!)
The staff were friendly, the food was excellent, the service was spot on and the vibe was perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better evening. Everyone working at Thaikhun genuinely seemed to love their job, which really made a difference (and, on a side note, where can we get a pair of the comfy trousers you guys call a uniform!? They are amazing).
If you’re a Southampton local and are wondering how it fares against it’s rival, my beloved Mango Thai Tapas..? I’d say they both have a well-deserved place, side by side, in our city. Both restaurants have different vibes, in different locations, and both serve delicious food. Southampton has all the Thai food you could possibly want! And, until I make it to Thailand, at least I know I can get my fix of noodles with just a quick bus journey.
And what did my friend Lissie think? Well….here are a few words from her:
“I’d not eaten Thai food before and was finding it difficult to decide what to have for the main. The Pinto bowls were the perfect choice as I could have a (surprisingly large) taste of three different dishes. The chicken Pad Thai was a definite hit for me, and the Coconut Mojito was divine and dangerously tasty. I’m a big fan of coconut, so next time I would love to try the Thai Bounty dessert (when not quite so full!)
We’ll certainly be back, that’s for sure.
khop khun mâak, Thaikhun!