By Davey Pearson
It is true to say our lovely town of Horsham certainly has a lot to offer despite it’s planning decisions and parking ticket wars.
Whilst we as Horshamites may grumble about the increase of coffee shops, estate agents and restaurants these aspects still bring trade to the town and more importantly our local economy.
However, as residents and consumers new and longstanding, we must not forget, some of the ‘old guard’ who have helped and continue to help make Horsham a great place to live and visit.
One of such is the reason for this article.
The River Kwai restaurant has served its loyal customers for nearly 30 years and continues to provide an authentic Thai experience.
Sue and Tony Utthayanin moved to Horsham in 1985 and set their business up in the historical market square, number six market square, which I have been reliably informed by my friends on the Memories of Horsham Facebook page was previously used for many purposes.
Some remember it as The Pump Room night club, where of an evening you could find the young Horshamite sipping a pint of King and Barnes bitter or necking a glass of barley wine, or as Daphne’s Place, a day time tea room where the more reserved members of the public could enjoy a cup of tea and one of Daphne’s famous scones.
It was once even an Italian cafe, potentially sparking an ongoing Horsham trend.
When Sue and Tony moved in they wanted to recreate a feeling of home Thai style and had the front half of the building redesigned to incorporate wood panelled walls, ceilings, Thai ornaments and paintings, one of which is the painting of the bridge over the River Kwai from which the name of the restaurant was taken.
The back half still remains the same as it did back in the good old days with its oak beams and crooked floors.
People who know me, know that I have a love for all things oriental so when I was invited to sample the Rivers Kwai’s new express lunch menu I promptly ‘tuk-tuk’ myself along with an empty stomach ready to indulge.
Welcomed at the door by Angie, a long standing member of the team I was shown to my seat and handed a menu.
The menu is made up of four parts, starters, noodles, stir fries, currys and the chef’s special.
Prices range from £4.75 to £10.95.
I opted to miss the starter and went straight in for noodle dish, gweteow nam (noodle soup with chicken or duck) which was served in a bowl the size of Bangkok and was most satisfying.
The next treat was a favourite of mine the Kao Ram Paneng, a rich creamy curry with lime leaves and chili served with rice.
Classic Thai coconut curry flavours with fresh chili hits and refreshing lime undertones makes this dish not only delicious but leaves you feeling well fed without the need for the habitual nap, I did have to go back to the office and continue my days work after all.
This all being said I have to admit my absolute favourite on the lunch menu has to be the chef’s special, OK it’s the most expensive dish at £10.95 but boy is it worth it.
The Som Tum & Gai Yang is made up of three elements; spicy salad, grilled chicken and sticky rice.
The salad, a favourite amongst Thai women I’m told, is made up of green papaya, bamboo shoots and fresh cherry tomatoes. The chicken was grilled to perfection with a dry rub of Thai spices, and the staple sticky rice was indeed sticky.
This dish works well as a lunch treat in many ways, the portion is good size but not too much, the flavours aren’t too pungent so you won’t need any gum later, the healthy salad refreshes the palate and makes you feel proud you stuck to your five-a-day.
With all the great restaurant choice available to us, it is easy to miss or even forget some of the originals who still continue to serve us delicious cuisine.
If you are like me and enjoy good authentic Thai food, characterful settings and warm and friendly staff, book a table you, won’t be disappointed.
After all if it’s Thai it’s got to be Kwai.