I’ve always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the Thai House in Cardiff. I’ve never had an issue with the food, but I have with the service and attitude of the staff. However, when my Bahamian niece, decided that it was time for Aunty and Uncle to take her out for some oriental food before she returned home for a visit, I decided that maybe the Thai house was worth another try.
On checking the menu on the website, I was horrified to discover that they impose a minimum charge of £17.50 per person. Now I know full well that I am going to spend more than £17.50 there but we have all been out to dinner in large groups where somebody wants nothing more than a main course. With available noodle dishes at £8.50 then I think this £17.50 minimum charge is just simply extortion and something that I refuse to buy into. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I go there again whilst they are operating that policy.
With the Thai House off the list there was little alternative but to ask the Twitterverse to recommend a decent Thai restaurant in Cardiff. The normal Twitter foodies were strangely silent but then up popped @BangkokCafé . “A little cheeky” they said, “but why not try us”. Well why not indeed? I couldn’t book via Twitter but a simple phone call the next day secured a table for three at 7:30 PM.
Situated on Cowbridge Road East, the Bangkok Café, Cardiff is a bright and inviting space. Its vibrant colour scheme making it stand out from some of the more dark and grotty establishments in the neighbourhood.
Inside the staff are friendly, efficient and more than happy to explain the intricacies of some of the less familiar dishes.
The niece and I start with Bor Bia Sot, Fresh wraps of Thai herbs and vegetables with tamarind sauce. This is exactly how I expect Thai food to taste; clean, fresh yet aromatic and flavoursome. MrsA chooses Dom Yam Hed, Spicy mixed mushroom soup with lemon grass, galingale and coriander. I’m a little unsure of her choice, as although lemon grass is so synonymous with Thai cooking I have eaten at so many poor Thai restaurants where it becomes the dominant flavour to the detriment of all else. No such problems here though as the flavours are excellently balanced and there is just the right amount of spicy punch.
For main course we each choose our own path. The niece goes for Pad Thai the Classic Thai Noodles, soft ribbon noodles, stir fried with prawns, bean sprouts and ground peanuts. MrsA heads to the grill and opts for Ner Nam Dok, Slices of rib eye beef marinated in a typically north-eastern dressing with steamed rice and crispy vegetables. I had been contemplating this too but am draw away to the Gai Tord, Crispy chicken breast with two sauces, fresh green vegetables with a coconut dressing and Thai steamed rice.
All three dishes were excellent; well cooked, well presented and extremely tasty. The Pad Thai was exactly what you would expect of a classic Thai dish and a very well executed one at that. MrsA was, I thought, the one amongst us running the highest risk by ordering a beef dish. Again I should not have had cause for concern. The beef was well marinated, tender and well complimented by the accompanying sauce. My Gai Tord too was simply delicious, all components working together harmoniously.
This is by far the best Thai food I have had in a very long time and I doubt you’d find better anywhere in South Wales, with the exception maybe of the branch they have recently opened in Swansea.
Oh and it’s very reasonably priced too. In fact, discounting drinks, all three of us would have had to pay the £17.50 minimum charge had it been the Thai House.
The only down side? They don’t serve desserts. I totally understand why they don’t, better to not serve any than bring out those awful pre-made things, in fake coconut shells and the like, that you frequently run into (or run from) in other Asian/Oriental restaurants. But, hey guys, you could do a scoop of ice-cream to help cool the mouth after some of that chilli heat. You could even skip the normal flavours and do something like a ginger ice-cream to stay with the theme. For us the answer was easy, we slipped up the road to the Chapter and had coffee and a cake.
Desserts (or the lack of) notwithstanding, this is a truly excellent place and if you are looking for Thai food in and around Cardiff (and I guess Swansea although I haven’t been to that branch – yet!) you won’t find a better place than the Bangkok Café. Highly recommended!
Bangkok Cafe Cardiff, 207 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9AJ.
Tel: 029 2034 0455. http://www.bangkokcafe.co.uk