Monday, 16 September 2013

Bangkok House, Hythe Bridge Street

Google reveals that Mexico City and Victoria in Canada are contenders for having the world's smallest Chinatown, but Oxford must edge them out: on Hythe Bridge Street two (well-regarded) Chinese restaurants and a Chinese supermarket are hemmed in by the Backpackers' Hostel, the Bridge nightclub, and Bangkok House - which, as the name suggests, serves 'authentic Thai cuisine'.
Not having visited Thailand, I can't judge the literal truth of that, but I've been disappointed before by Thai food in Oxford and wanted to see if I could do better. The interior of Bangkok House is less 'identikit minimalist' (as certain other Thai establishments round here are) and more The King and I: lots of sandalwood panelling, lights and ornaments, and some very unusual carved tables make it feel cosy and pleasantly kitsch.*
We were a little surprised to see crispy aromatic duck (£9.50 for a quarter) offered as a starter but perhaps it's the influence of the supermarket next door. Either way, Bangkok House carried off this Chinese dish very well: the meaty hunk of duck, 'carved' at our table, was crisp but not overcooked, and accompanied by a delicately-cut selection of raw vegetables. In fact, immaculate but not fussy presentation - and artful garnishes - were a hallmark of the whole meal. I had steamed dumplings (Kha Nom Cheeb; £4.50), which were definitely the best Thai dumplings I've had, as they were tasty, fell apart in a homemade sort of way, and had a meaty rather than merely spongy filling.
Main courses were also of a high standard: my prawns in garlic and pepper (Goong Tord Gra-Tiem; £8.50) looked slightly meagre and unpromising but proved to contain plenty of flavourful prawns in a sauce that combined umami and subtle sweetness and was nicely offset by the plain rice on the side. The Photographer's chicken with basil (Gai Pad Ka Prow; £8.50) was super-spicy, as billed, but well balanced all the same.
Fullness got the better of curiosity and we passed on the not-very-westernised dessert menu. Perhaps that was a shame, as this was certainly a very good meal, with which we couldn't find much fault (although the service was efficient but a bit grumpy, and downright idiosyncratic at times - be advised too that there's a 5% discount for paying in cash). It seems that the world's smallest Chinatown isn't a bad place to go for Thai food.

Bangkok House
42A Hythe Bridge Street 

01865 200705


* It turns out the building itself has a distinctive history

Bangkok House on Urbanspoon

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