This January, we visited Koh Thai Tapas on the Triangle for the first time. I’m well aware that it opened a while ago, but we went to the launch party and to be honest, it didn’t stand out to us as a place to try for real. However, this month we were invited to come in and review the place, and after reading some positive reviews and comments on Twitter, we decided to give it a go.
The Bristol restaurant was the fifth opening in four years for this small restaurant group, which also has sites in Boscombe, Bournemouth, Southsea and Bath. Formerly home to Zizzi, the interior has changed a lot, as you’d expect, since its Italian days. Walk in and you’re faced with the front room, which houses the bar and seems more laid out for drinkers – while the back of the restaurant is more of a dining area. There’s plenty of dark wood, dark leather chairs, Buddha statues and dimmed lighting, while each table features a single tealight in an attractive holder to add to the intimate atmosphere. Outside, the garden remains present, decked out with plenty of potted plants which – while a little sad-looking in the winter – will no doubt be a great place to enjoy an al fresco drink or meal during the summer months.
After being seated, we began our evening with a cocktail each from Koh’s extensive cocktail menu (there’s also plenty of wines, beers, spirits and soft drinks to choose from), with standard cocktails priced at £7.95 each or two of the same for £12. We went for their take on the Mai Tai: a fruity blend of rum, almond, Cointreau and lime juice, with a kick of fresh chilli spicing it up beautifully. A pretty good cocktail – but with the glass filled to the brim with crushed ice, we weren’t convinced about the value for money…
The Koh food menu is designed to be shared: there are two pages of Thai tapas dishes from which to choose, alongside curries, rice, stir fries and noodle dishes for those looking for something a little more substantial. Tapas dishes are generally priced from around £5 to £8, with curries given two different prices depending on whether they are ordered as tapas dishes or as a main.
What intrigued us was the Thai Tasting option: Koh’s “bespoke ordering style” that allows you to spend £20 (mostly chicken and veg dishes) or £25 (includes more meat and seafood – the option we chose) per head, with the value of the dishes that you are served guaranteed to exceed that of the equivalent a la carte order. We were asked whether there was anything we particularly liked or disliked (tofu for the latter, in our case…) and asked about any allergies or dietary requirements. We were also asked what level of heat we would like in our dishes, having been told that “as the chefs are Thai, anything listed as hot on the menu is indeed hot!”
What we were presented with was a selection of three starters, followed by three mains with rice – and if our calculations are right, the total cost would have been £53 from the a la carte menu, £3 more than the £25 per head that this option cost. This surprised me a little, as I was expecting the saving to be a bit greater…
On with the food, and we started with a portion of Koh’s special crispy squid (£6 a la carte), which had been pan fried in a light batter and were served with a hot and sweet sauce. The sauce was fantastic, beautifully sticky and the chilli seeds evident. This is where all of the flavour was, though – the squid itself was pretty bland and the batter seemed a bit overcooked.
We loved the chicken satay, though (£5 a la carte): four generous strips of marinated chicken with plenty of flavour – the lemongrass came through nice and strongly. The peanut sauce was great too: sweet yet salty and with loads of texture.
We also tried the dim sum (£6 a la carte): while a Chinese dish at heart, it had been given a Thai twist in terms of flavour. The minced prawn and pork combo worked well, with nuggets of crunchiness from the water chestnuts, while the dim sum wrapper was lovely and thin and pretty much melted in the mouth.
Our three mains began with a lamb massamann curry (£11 a la carte): meltingly tender chunks of lamb leg, a rich and mild coconut-based sauce and chunks of new potato. I was surprised not to find more peanuts in the sauce, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Our beef and cashew stir fry (£11.50 a la carte) was a bit of a mixed bag: the vegetables were perfectly cooked (including huge chunks of chilli) and the thin strips of beef imparted a wonderful smoky flavour, the two elements combining to give a great variation in texture…but the huge chunks of water chestnut were simply too big, and not a pleasant surprise to bite into.
Our selection of main courses was finished with a prawn Phad Thai (£11 a la carte): a steaming heap of flat noodles and beansprouts, the sauce full of flavour and used sparingly enough to avoid reducing the whole thing to a pile of mush. They were generous on the scrambled egg front too, although not so much with the prawns. I was glad to see the pile of chopped peanuts for garnish – but a little surprised at the choice of a wedge of lemon instead of lime…
A bit hit and miss, on the whole – some great flavours and generous portions, but a few disappointments in there too. We were pleased that our waitress (incredibly helpful and friendly throughout our meal) offered to box up our leftovers to take home, as we would otherwise have wasted a fair amount. I think they’d also benefit from bigger tables: as a table of two trying the Thai Tasting offer (as I’m sure many couples do!), we found that it was a little hard to fit the dishes plus our individual plates on the table without risking sleeves in food or knocking over drinks.
An enjoyable evening – but I think there are other Thai restaurants in Bristol that I would choose ahead of Koh.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.