Thaikhun Restaurant Children’s Menu – A Review

In May I was invited to the launch of a new restaurant in Guildford, specialising in Thai style street food. Thaikhun (pronounced Tycoon) are a small chain with 8 branches across the UK. I had a lovely evening at the launch, meeting the joint owner Kim Kaewkraikhot. We talked all about her life in Thailand, making award winning noodles. How when her now business partner, tasted them, he was inspired to invest in her and develop Thaikhun in the UK. Such an interesting story!

The Look

The decor of the restaurant is fantastic. Authentic and fun it’s designed especially to remind diners of the street markets of Kim’s home country. She even explained how she hand picks many of the items used for decoration on her trips back to Thailand. It was clear to see the time and thought that had gone into it.

A replica of the cart Kim sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to remind them of where the idea for Thaikhun came from. You can see the 'train tracks on the floor too. These run throughout the restaurant. Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

A replica of the cart Kim originally sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to represent Thaikhun’s humble beginnings. See the ‘train tracks’ on the floor? Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

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The decor is authentic down to the old sets playing Thai TV in the corner!

The Food

I love Thai food, but I don’t get out to eat it much since moving away from London. The food I tried at Thaikhun was hands down some of the best I’ve had. Noodles, of course, but also curries, salads, various stir fried dishes and options from the grill. The enthusiastic staff seemed keen to explain that Thai food doesn’t just begin and end with Pad Thai. And I’m so glad they did. It’s the thing I always order in Thai restaurants, partly because I love it and partly because it’s the dish I’m most familiar with I guess. However, when I was given the Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce (Moo Prik King), well, all that changed. Juicy pork, with a flavoursome heat and crunchy beans!  I could have eaten a bucket of just that. With some sticky rice perhaps. Delicious!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starters

A selection of starters. The Fishcakes were gorgeous little morsels!

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Take your pick. A selection of mains including the ever popular Pad Thai

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My new favourite Moo Prik King. Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce. Amazeballs!

While I was chatting to the management I asked whether they felt the restaurant was suitable for children (once a mummy blogger always a mummy blogger after all!) I could see there were plenty of high chairs and a changing facility, but wondered if the busy decor and bustling feeling might be too much for some children. They told me that they were actually working on their children’s offering and asked if I would be willing to come back when it was launched to let them know my thoughts. I said I’d love to.

High chairs

Plenty of (decent) high chairs!

Children’s Menu

I have to admit I was concerned whether Oscar would cope with the busy decor and the unusual food. His autism means we can never be sure how he’ll cope in new places, so to be sure I could offer a fair review I actually took him for lunch a few weeks beforehand. He did brilliantly and loved the busy decor, especially the Garfield Phone! We ordered the PopCorn Chicken from the old children’s menu and I gave him some of my rice. He tried it all, including the spicy prawn crackers. I actually thought the children’s options were pretty good (and tasted lovely!) The only niggle was that I had to ask three different people to bring him crayons to colour his menu mat and by the time they did he’d lost patience and wanted to leave.

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What else do you do with the cloche over the condiments?

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

Going back he was much calmer and knew where he wanted to sit. It was interesting to see the new menus. They had retained the Pad Thai and Pop corn style chicken and rice options, but had introduced a Mix n Match option. I loved this idea as it allows children to pick the elements they liked and mix with a choice of three sauces, making the dish as flavoursome or not as taste dictates. Brilliant!

The new Thaikhun Children's Menu

The new Thaikhun Children’s Menu

All children’s meals start with crudités (vegetable sticks), then I chose him the plain noodles, the char grilled chicken and a nut free satay sauce. My thinking was that he likes chicken, occasionally eats noodles and adores peanut butter! It came, not on a plate as before, but in a yellow version of the compartmentalised school dinner tray, with plastic cutlery. I couldn’t really work out why, although I know some children prefer the compartmentalised approach to food, so maybe it was that. I have to say it didn’t really add anything to the experience for us.  The chicken was lovely  and the noodles were, well, noodles. He wouldn’t add the sauce to them, which was a real shame, as I think it would have been much tastier if he had! Ahh well that’s my boy. Maybe next time. But all in all I loved this idea. Children love control over the food they eat and this hands it to them nicely.

Child's meal tray

Children’s meals come in these trays. Great if your child likes to keep their food separate, but plenty of room to mix it up if they would prefer.

As a bit of fun the restaurant also serve all children a small pot of ‘creepy crawlies’ or Buffalo Worms as they’re actually called, to try. Oaty in flavour they were perfectly inoffensive, but Oscar would not touch them, telling me “You don’t eat worms Mummy!” Far too sensible my chap 😂. The dessert for the set childrens menu was a Mini Milk Lolly. Which I have to say I wasn’t sure about. A branded lolly, very squarely aimed at young toddlers, in a culturally specific restaurant, after a meal aimed, I would say, at children of all ages. It felt a bit odd to me, but the boy didn’t seem to mind and it would have meant we could have taken it with us if we’d needed to leave in a hurry, something I’m always appreciative of!

Buffalo Worms to try.

“You don’t eat worms mummy!” Buffalo Worms to try.

Green tea ice cream

The Boy got a Mini Milk, I got Green Tea Ice Cream. Mummy wins this one kiddo!

Thoughts

I like Thaikhun child’s offering. The food is well pitched and can be adjusted to how adventurous the child is feeling! The only thing I was a little disappointed with was what came with the food. On the new Menu it talks about “Fun Facts and Activities with National Geographic”. I like this idea. Something more than just a colouring option would definitely raise it above other children’s dining options on the high street. However other than the worms, we saw nothing of these. Oscar was just bought an old menu to colour, albeit much quicker than before. It was perfectly nice and all and I don’t have anything against colouring as an activity. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting something a little bit different.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Would I recommend it as somewhere to take children?

I like that the children’s menu is flexible and the staff have always been unremittingly helpful and warm. If you have a child that is happy to veer away from the beige choices of potato based meals, then I would absolutely recommend it.

And if you’re taking them, it means you get to have Moo Prik King. You lucky thing 😉

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

 

 

Thank you so much to Thaikhun for their generous hospitality. I was not paid to write this review and as always all opinions are my own.

You can find your nearest Thaikhun here

Haslemere Fringe Festival and why we’ve never been before

It’s (allegedly) Summer. ‘Tis the season for fetes, fairs and festivals. What fun! Or rather, what fun? If you have a child who is all to easily over stimulated then the summer events season can be hard work. We’ve had mixed results with summer fairs . When Oscar was younger they always resulted in at least one of us leaving in screaming tears. And over the years that’s made us wary. But I’ve said it before, it’s not up to us to just assume what Oscar can and can’t handle, what he will or won’t enjoy. Regardless of his Autism, he changes all the time and if we don’t keep giving him the opportunity to try things, how will he, or we, ever know what works and what doesn’t? It’s for him to tell us if he likes something or not. Which is why we decided to go to our local summer fair, the Haslemere Fringe Festival (otherwise known as Lion Fest) today.

We’ve never gone along before, for various reasons. Firstly, it’s on a local green which is flanked on two sides by busy roads, which scares the bejaysus out of me. Secondly it’s just so busy, what if he can’t cope? Yep, I think quite a lot of not attending has been to do with my fear of the unknown and, if I’m honest, of my inability to control the situation. And that’s not fair on Oscar. We walked past the festival being set up several times this week and Oscar was most interested. He told me it was ‘a party’ and that he could see ‘ladders’. He also told me he wanted to ‘go to the party’. This year they had fenced the entire operation in, meaning I only needed to fear the unknown element 😉 . And that’s my problem and not his. So today we went.

We nearly had a false start, as after walking down there and him getting very excited to ‘pay the lady’, we realised we didn’t have enough cash. We waited while Ben ran off to get some and while waiting is not Oscar’s strong suit, and he did get a little upset, it did also give him a chance to check the site out from the other side of the fence. By the time we’d paid to get in he knew exactly which ride he wanted to go on first. And so he did.

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He loved this ride and went on it twice. Once in a helicopter and once in a plane.

He then decided the Big Wheel was next, however I could see he needed the loo. He’s getting quite good at giving me signals when he needs to go and today he also announced he needed the ‘bathroom’. As we’d gone sans nappy today, we ran (and he held on) until we reached the other end of the fayre, where he had his first experience of a urinal (with a little help from daddy!). What a guy! When he was done he headed straight back to the Big Wheel, which he announced he wanted to go on with Daddy. And when your child asks like that, you pack away your fear of heights and you do it. Thank you Ben!

Oscar looked so happy the whole time he was on the Big Wheel.

Wave to Mummy! Oscar looked so happy the whole time he was on the Big Wheel.

Then as soon as that was done he headed off to the inflatable slide and then the bouncy castle. What larks!

He he comes!

He he comes! Happy Boy

But my favourite moment of the afternoon has to be when he announced he wanted to go to ‘the farm’. I wasn’t sure when he meant, until I remembered we’d seen a music tent near the loos, with bales of hay for seating. He happily led the way and we were confident enough to let him run ahead without needing to be holding on to him. We sat in the tent and watched the young girl singing. Oscar also told us she was ‘playing a guitar’. Which she was.

I guarantee this is cutest picture you'll see today

I guarantee this is cutest picture you’ll see today

Mummy and daddy enjoying the music too!

Mummy and daddy enjoying the music too!

One of the hardest parts was leaving. We softened the blow by going home in stages, first to the park where he had a great time sliding, swinging and playing on the roundabout with a new friend. Then on the way home we stopped into Dylan’s Ice Cream. I’d won a competition to design a flavour for the festival and my prize was free ice cream. Thank you very much! My winning entry was Lion Bar (for Lion Fest geddit!) flavour, and I tell you it has ruined me for other flavours. Delicious!

Chocolate, Caramel, Wafers and Rice Crispies. Oh. My. Gawd!

Chocolate, Caramel, Wafers and Rice Crispies. Oh. My. Gawd!

Going to Haslemere Fringe Festival was a bit of a spur of the moment decision, not something I do often with Oscar. But today it worked. Yes it was expensive to get in, just to pay for him to go on the few rides and not really enjoy any of the other things on offer such as the live bands or the market stalls. But do you know, he had an unbelievably good time, with waiting and queuing and running but not running off and laughing and big smiles. Oscar won’t necessarily smile when he’s having fun, but I can tell you now, he doesn’t smile if he’s not. And today he did. Loads.

 

The crossroads at which we stand

I’m finding it hard to write anything lately. Slimming World updates are OK, because they are about a thing, they’re structured and easy to formulate. My head, not so much.

At the beginning of the year I really thought stuff was changing for the better. I felt positive for the first time in ages. We had decided to throw caution to the wind and go ahead and build our long awaited kitchen extension, which made me happier than I can explain (or understand to be honest) and Oscar’s progress continued to be phenomenal (to us). We’d definitely decided which path we wanted his education to follow and had applied for schools, along with everyone one else. I joined Slimming World and Yoga and started to take some time for me. Ben was doing the same to great effect (taking time for his own mental wellbeing, not joining Slimming World!) Yeah, in one way or another, everything felt like the path ahead was clear.

Then all of a sudden everything isn’t clear any more. The extension is proving a much more difficult and expensive proposition than we envisaged and has made us question whether it’s actually worth doing at all. We’re getting more quotes to be sure, but if it really is going to cost that much then maybe it would be better to move?

And then there’s Oscar (and there’s always Oscar ?). We had a terribly negative meeting with his team two weeks ago and for the first time it’s made me doubt my choices for him and worse than that it’s made me doubt myself. And I’m not just having a wobble that’s going to be solved with a pat on the back, a high five and a ‘you follow your instinct girl’. In fact it’s more than a wobble (why do we play this shit down?) it’s a cannon shot. It’s winded me and knocked me off my feet completely. I no longer feel what I’m doing is the right thing. And that is petrifying. Even when you don’t really know, but you have that gut feeling, it’s ok. But that’s gone. And that scares me more than anything. It also makes me so angry. How dare anyone make me question whether what I’m doing for my son is right! But they have.

So all this has conspired to throw life back up in the air again. We’ve started to look at schools again, something I had assumed we were done with. Having never felt it was so, perhaps specialist schooling would be better for him. I seriously don’t know anymore. All I know is I want him to be happy. And for me never have to sit through a meeting like that again. I think we’re going to look at more schools less to find him a place but more for my own self assurance. I’m happy to come away saying, ‘ok I was wrong, this is better’. But really what I’m looking for is to come away saying ‘do you know what? I was right!’ Because at the moment I can’t feel either.

And then there’s the house. If we can’t get the extension done, our small house remains small and that raises the question should we move? And if so to where? Can we afford to stay round here? Do we want to stay round here? Do we need to stay here?

I feel like as a family we are stood at a giant crossroads. That there are so many paths we could take, in a way I haven’t felt before. It’s frightening yes, but in a weird and probably masochistic way, it’s almost exciting.

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I’ve found myself listening more and more to 90s indie lately. I think partly it’s because it’s familiar, partly because it makes me happy, but partly because it makes me reminds me of a time in my life I felt powerful and sure of myself. Something I need reminding of.

Also some of it is loud and a bit shouty. Just like I’ve always been ?

The 90s Indie chick who knew where she was going.

The 90s Indie chick who knew where she was going.

The Application – applying for schools from an SEN perspective

Last Friday was, if you have children starting school in the UK this September, the deadline for getting your school application in. Did you get yours in? I did, just! I applied to three (I could have applied to four but there wasn’t a fourth I particularly wanted) local schools, online, same as everyone else. Only my application wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I have written before about schooling for those children with an SEND diagnosis and the weight of responsibility I felt to ‘get it right’. And I still do to some extent. I visited mainstream schools and a specialist unit. I saw what was on offer locally. And not once did I look at an Ofsted report. Call me crazy, but Oscar’s needs are going to be just that little different and what grades he’ll get an English and Maths, at least to begin with, don’t bother me in the slightest. I need a school, that’s going to, minimum, understand him and include him. How good the facilities are, or what grades other pupils are getting really aren’t that interesting to me.

So yeah I visited a bunch of schools. I didn’t get a bad impression from any of them other than the specialist unit. Call it a mothers hunch, but the woman running the unit was so uninterested in the children and more interested in herself that I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. The school is so oversubscribed that she didn’t need to ask me my son’s name or anything about him. She would fill her places whether we chose to go there or not, twenty times over. It just gave rise to an impression of complete ambivalence to the children and that made me want to cry.

Anyway back to the application process. We received a letter to confirm Oscar would be considered for an Educational Health Care Plan (the system that has replaced the old ‘Statement’), back in November and he’s had extra Educational Psychology and Speech and Language reports done to that effect, but we have still yet to hear whether he has one or not yet. It’ll be discussed at a forum some time this month is all I’ve been told. Which is great, but not particularly helpful for the application process, the deadline for which was 15th January. It means I had to apply like all other parents, but then fashion some form of evidence to back up that the ECHP was (possibly) in the pipe line. The reason for needing to do this at all is that having an EHCP would put him in a different place in the admittance list (even though where in the list seems to vary from school to school). As we live in a really weird corner of three counties and various catchment areas, we have applied to two schools we are technically out of catchment for. However, if the county take into account his SEN, this might not matter.

Do you see? I’m living in a world of “ifs” and “buts” right now. But (hahaha see what I did there), what is done is done. The application is in, the evidence written, the EHCP decision in the hands of someone else. So we wait. Same as every parent. And hope we’ve made the right decision, hope we get the place we would like, hope the forum agrees to support him in the way I believe he needs.

Not worry. Hope.

Not to mention the fact that this all means my baby will be starting school in September. School! Arrrggghhhhh!

No let’s not think about that at all. Let’s just go back to focussing on the process. Yes. That’s much less frightening! ?

 

 

 

Boo Face Pony Pals Photo Shoot

A couple of weeks ago a picture of a little girl running alongside a tiny pony popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. The image was whimsical, almost magical and it took my breath away. I didn’t know this girl, or her family. It was in fact a picture taken by a local photographer, who I’d started following after she photographed Oscar’s friend Cecily and her family back in the summer. I don’t know what it was about the image, but I just kept looking at it. It was beautiful.

We’ve never had any professional photos taken of Oscar. We’ve talked about it a few times, but from fairly early on, we were pretty sure that a studio shoot would be a disaster and when we thought about an outdoor session, I was convinced all we’d get were a hundred photos of the back of Oscar’s head, as he ran away into the distance. It didn’t strike me as much fun for anyone; or worth it to be honest. So we left it. We have one image, taken in Tesco (of all places!) when he was 18 months old. My friend wanted to enter her daughter into the local paper’s ‘beautiful baby’ competition and convinced me to let them take some photos of Oscar while we were there. I wasn’t going to, but she badgered me enough that I gave it and apologised in advance. As it was he posed like a pro and all the family have one from that ‘sitting’. But that one image is the only professional one we have.

So when, last week, the picture of the girl with the horse reappeared in my newsfeed, I was compelled to look into it a bit closer. It transpired the company, Boo Face Photography, were running mini sessions where the children would be photographed with miniature horses. The 20 minute sessions would be held at a local farm and the horses were all trained Pets as Therapy (PAT) animals from a company called Pony Pals, meaning they were used to being around skittish or inexperienced people (aka small children!). I figured that if the horse was there to give Oscar something to focus on, then we might just be able to get some good shots of him.

I contacted Kerry at Boo Face and explained about Oscar’s Autism and how this may (or may not) impact on the session. She couldn’t have been more understanding. She explained she had previous experience of photographing autistic children, but also explained that she realised this meant she didn’t know Oscar and that the most important thing she could be was patient. This gave me hope and we decided to go ahead, with an early morning session (before he’d have chance to get hungry or tired!) booked for that Saturday.

Despite not being completely sure what to expect ourselves, we explained to Oscar what was happening, showing him pictures of the miniature (or as he christened them ‘baby’) horses and even photos of Kerry. We rocked up on Saturday morning with my mantra of ‘expecting the best and preparing for the worst‘ firmly in our heads.

We were welcomed into the farm and taken to meet the ponies. Oscar insisted on being carried to begin with, but within minutes of meeting the horses and their handler Caroline, he asked to get down. Caroline took him down to the lane and gave him the very gorgeous Mr Kellogg’s lead to hold and that was it. The session was under way. And we’ve not laughed or smiled so much in a long time. Just look at the joy on this little boys face!

Pony_Pals_Oscar-1

© Boo Face Photography 2015

Copywright Kerry Jordan Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

We mentioned to Kerry that Oscar had enjoyed brushing the donkey he met in the summer and Caroline rushed to grab him a brush. Oh my!

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

We then moved to the barn and let the boy climb all over the hay bales, all while holding on to his new best friend!

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

As the session drew to a close, we started to worry how Oscar would cope leaving something he was clearly enjoying. Caroline took him to see some of the other horses, while we talked to Kerry about what would happen next and when he came back Kerry presented him with a completely unexpected party bag full of exciting little Christmas themed gifts and a balloon, which diffused any sadness and resulted in an amazing bonus shot.

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

We can’t explain how amazing the session was. We laughed so much and the boy spent the whole weekend both calm and talking about ‘Baby Horses’, which is amazing to me as he so rarely shares memories with us in this way. I’m so, so pleased I followed my instinct on this one. With the advent of camera phones and accessible editing software you might be forgiven for asking why bother with a professional photographer.

I hope this answers your question.

© Boo Face Photography 2015

© Boo Face Photography 2015

 

 

Thank you so much to Kerry and Caroline for their unbelievable patience, understanding and care taken throughout the shoot.

I have not been paid for this review and I paid for the shoot with my own money. I just wanted to share these amazing photos with you.

For more information about Boo Face, including any upcoming Pony Pal sessions, please visit their website

 

 

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