15 Moneyhill Parade • Rickmansworth • WD3 7BE • 01923 896606
Reviewed by Alan Cox
Good Thai cuisine bursts with fragrant flavours of the Orient and imaginative combinations of tastes and textures. I love the look of cleverly presented dishes, too, where a flair for arranging food on the plate gets your tastebuds going before you’ve even lifted your fork. Always happy to be reviewing a Thai restaurant…
Inside, Thai Orchid is as smart and fresh as I recall from previous visits, with its modern, simple and unfussy interior: white with splashes of rich red, and a nod to the orient with carefully selected artefacts and prints, complemented with the more traditional linen tablecloths and napkins. It looks good. Service is still charming and efficient; our drinks, and a particularly good selection of prawn crackers, arrive almost immediately.
With the menu crammed full of mouth-watering dishes we struggle, not only with reading the rather small print, but agreeing on our selection. Was I really going to forego my favourite Red Chicken Curry and Pad Thai in favour of some new dishes?
To start… we can’t resist the seafood mixed platter. And what a great start. Tempura Prawns, Steamed Tiger Prawns, Fishcakes, Thai Calamari and Sesame Prawn Toasts. A stunning looking plate, beautifully put together and oh-so-appetising. I particularly love the steamed prawns, served on a china spoon in a hot chilli liquor. The handsome looking Tempura prawns are in the most delicate batter, and with three sauces accompanying the platter there is plenty of dipping to be had. The fishcakes are a little floppy but tastes are aromatic and flavoursome –and the Prawn Toasts are some of the best we’ve had, with a generous topping of shellfish atop the crunchy golden toast.
When it comes to the main course, my favourite curry and noodles do take that back seat. A brave decision, trust me, but as it turns out, a good one.
Instead, and stealing the limelight from the ‘Special Dishes’, is Choo Chee, a Thai dried aromatic curry with Jumbo King Prawns topped with shredded kaffir lime leaf. These prawns really are huge. This is certainly an eye-catching offering, neatly butterflied with the most amazing and fresh flavours. The rich sauce and juicy prawns make a perfect partnership. We also rather enjoy Pad Nam Prik Phow – a pan fried dish of chicken with chilli paste, onion, carrot, spring onion and green and red pepper. We can’t really fault the execution or the balance; this is another well cooked, well presented (and soon, empty) dish.
Pad Kee Mao – rice noodles stir fried with egg, vegetables, fresh chillies, garlic and holy basil leaves – proves to be hot and spicy, but full of flavour and nicely moist. All the juices of the mains are soaked up in the Khaow Krati – steamed Jasmine rice with coconut milk.
Not being a fan of banana, which seems to be the key component in quite a few desserts here (steamed, fried and sliced), and with cheesecake making an unusual appearance on the menu, we conclude with a shared portion of the Thai Orchid Ice Cream and Sticky Rice Pudding. Served with dollops of whipped cream, this doesn’t really do it for me. It lacks flavour and oomph, and certainly isn’t up to the standard of the dishes that preceded it.
For me, savoury is where Thai cuisine excels – and where this lovely neighbourhood restaurant continues to shine, producing delicious and impressive tastes of the Orient.