Horapha Thai Cuisine – Queensway
Horapha, meaning “sweet basil” in Thai – a base ingredient of that country’s cuisine – is an unassuming place that claims to be “the one and only authentic Thai restaurant located on Queensway Street”.
With a Halal sign discreetly affixed among a number of other notices and advertisements to the shop front window, it has a seating capacity of 70 that includes the option of privately hiring a room downstairs with a capacity of 20.
But, as unassuming as it may look, don’t let appearances deceive you, because on closer inspection of said notices, you’ll come across one which strongly suggests that it’s punching above its weight.
Since 2013, Horapha Thai Cuisine has held the prestigious Thai Select certificate awarded by none other than the Director-General of Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce, Ms Sakuntanaga.
More impressive, however, is some of the clients who have dined here.
Aside from a royal member of Dubai having hired the entire place out for five straight hours one evening, other notables have included Leicester City chairman and Thai billionaire businessman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, as well as Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The interior decor is decent enough with Thai-oriented decoration adorning the place. But the most impressive piece is this strikingly beautiful wall painting below, that confronts you immediately upon entering, and which depicts what’s known as a floating market along an old canal in Bangkok.
The Horapha Mixed Platter provided us with a sufficient sample of starters which, on the whole, were underwhelming.
Well cooked and well marinated in a sauce that had a mild curry smell to it, the Chicken Satay had a delicate peanut taste to it, but was a few notches below what we would hope for in a good one.
As for the non-crispy Fish Cake, then it split the crowd somewhat with its peculiarly springy almost soft, rubbery texture. It had a fairly fishy flavour too with the distinct smell of lemongrass coming through.
The tiny Deep Fried Chicken Wings were nice and crispy on the outside, yet disappointing on the whole, not least because of their size. Although we were presented with two types – one plain and the other not so – the distinction between the two was negligible.
This platter also came with two in-house sauces, peanut and chilli. The former was thick, though more tamarind than peanut alone, and really good too with a hint of chilli. The latter sweet and equally nice with a pleasantly strange chilli aftertaste.
A superb Thai Papaya Salad this with all the complexities you can think of.
What we had here were textures across the board ranging from the crunch of the nuts, carrots and French beans, to the watery wet bean sprouts and tomatoes, all of which was dressed in a light lemony, fish dressing of sorts.
There was also some heat there generated by the few thin slithers of green chilli.
But the most interesting part of the salad was the addition of these small, chewy dry shrimps which, if you kept chewing, slowly but surely added a salty aftertaste.
A slightly incoherent dish, but one that we appreciated for its complexity.
Subtlety is what defines this Prawn Tom Yum Noodle Soup since the flavours are all extremely mild to the point of being barely discernable.
With a hint of chilli, the prawns were the only good thing about this soup – superbly cooked. Otherwise, this isn’t worth it.
CURRY & STIR-FRIED
What a delight this turned out to be; a Green Curry to rival even the one had at the fine-dining restaurant Mango Tree.
Yes, it wasn’t as thick as its far more expensive rival, but that didn’t matter at all, it was that good.
The dollop of coconut cream on top, though absent from the broth, was perfect in countering the heat of the chilli sauce that accompanied this. But, be warned, unless you intend to destroy the delicate balance of this intensely fragrant dish, we wouldn’t recommend more than a single spoon.
In the end, with chicken that was ultra-soft, and bamboo shoots providing some bite, this was great value for money too at just £8.95.
And you can understand why this Fresh Lobster Pad Thai comes under the menu’s Recommended Dishes section, and why it’s the restaurant’s “most popular dish”.
With the bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and lime presented separately, this beautiful dish was the show stopper of the evening.
In breaking down the lobster, quite literally, then the claw meat was far more tender, sweeter in tone, and thus, tastier, than its tail and body counterpart.
The Pad Thai itself was equally delicious with all the ingredients being brought together into an harmonious, coherent and extremely satisfying whole.
It was also presented with a Prik Nam Pla – an incredibly fiery fresh chilli and fish sauce which, despite the heat, was quite satisfying. Nonetheless, given its intensity, we’re not quite convinced that it marries with such delicate flavours as that of the lobster.
Recommended all the way though!
And here was another sublime dish set before us in the smartest way imaginable – a large fish-shaped dish resting atop a cooking heater that continued the process of simmering the broth, which, in turn, intensified the flavours therein.
By the end, we were left with a hot stock that had a deeply soothing strong chilli, lemongrass and fish flavour that would be perfect for clearning any congested nasal cavity.
As to the fish, then why bother inquiring? Just look at it! Could that be anything other than the softest, moistest most deliciously made Sea Bass you’ve ever had?
Nothing more to say other than recommended!
If only Wagyu was available, sigh! Having said that though, if it’s quality was comparable to this Beef Sirloin substitute, then perhaps we shouldn’t lament too much.
Cooked medium-rare at the insistence of the co-owner, this, in spite of its softness, turned out to be disappointingly bland.
Although the sweet tamarind sauce sprinkled with crushed rice powder and chilli flakes provided some much needed taste, all three Lions were agreed that it simply didn’t marry well with the meat.
In the end, the entire dish comprised of a sweet sauce coupled with soft meat and veggies.
Subtly sweet, but certainly not as good as Chuba Rasa‘s Malay version – the Teh Tarik Ice.
These desserts are said to be traditional Thai dishes enjoyed right across the country.
Not being Thai ourselves, we found them to be both challenging, re taste and texture, and surprising.
They contained warm sweet, sticky rice and a Thai banana that was texturally soft and stringy in nature, with peculiar dark red patches.
Consequently, to call it strange, yet intriguing, would be the only way for novices like us to describe this.
There was definitely the aroma of banana; but, if we were to compare the taste to anything familiar, it would be, as one Lion put it, akin to “the dried banana snacks available from supermarkets”.
The Taro Pearls in Coconut Cream were small globules that had an almost marshmellow-like texture albeit slightly firmer.
The warm semi-thick liquid in which they sat, was almost gelatinous in consistency.
Very subtly sweet, almost rice pudding-esque. Yes, it’s a strange one, but more in an interesting and pleasant way, rather than its opposite.
This, on the other hand, was the strangest of them all!
Sago pudding is a typical dessert enjoyed not just across Thailand, but other parts of the region too.
But what we couldn’t get our heads around, and our taste buds for that matter, was how something sweet, i.e. Sago and coconut cream, and something not sweet, but rather earthy, i.e. black beans, could marry together?
Acquired taste? For us? Most definitely!
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Having said that though, not everything left us slack-jawed. There were a number of dishes that were, at best, standard, and others still, quite challenging. Nonetheless, it was an intriguing evening and one which, if you're looking for something different, we'd recommend.
Horapha Thai Cuisine is MSG-free and will be introducing a new seafood "bomb" to its menu.
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