Thai Bar and Kitchen, Glasgow

WELCOME back, the bubbly waitress says to my old mate Joe who responds with a look of surprised delight while I merely hoist a curious eyebrow.

Uh? Welcome back, I ask him, as she bustles off behind the open kitchen at the Thai Bar to join (we’ll later discover) her mother who is cooking away with a family friend.

“I was here on Valentine’s Day,” he reveals. Tinder? I ask, chuckling at my own wittiness. Nah, with a pal after footie, comes the less than interesting reply. Considering it’s way over a month since Joe last came in and also that he swears nothing out of the ordinary happened during that meal, tonight’s surprisingly warm welcome - apparently all good restaurants used to be like this - may just explain why the Thai Bar (and restaurant) is such a stealth hit.

This we discuss anyway whilst forking up crispy battered cubes of deep-fried tofu and dredging them in a very peanutty and clearly hand-knitted peanut and sweet chill sauce.

The strange thing about the Thai Bar (and restaurant) is that it sits like a wallflower in the culinary dance of life, almost hidden amidst a row of modern shops, and a supermarket, beside a railway bridge, on the outer fringes of Glasgow’s Shawlands. Which is itself on the outer fringes, almost, of, if not the known world, certainly the City of Glasgow.

I’ve driven past this place a million times and had never once been tempted to walk in until … I saw the results of the Scottish Restaurant Awards the other day. And, whoa, that place won Thai Restaurant Of The Year? I thought it was a take-away. 

Now, the awards industry, I pontificate to Joe (as we delve into a platter of Tom Yum Fried Rice, curly-wurly prawn tails, crisp fried egg, wedge of lime and a tangy heap of that sweet, sour rice) someone should start an awards ceremony just for awards ceremonies, to sort out the ying from the yang, because some of them surely just seem to be about making money.

But … then … this result struck me as a David v Goliath shocker. And so left field it could surely only be super authentic. 

The Herald:

Even more left field when we walk in here tonight and see the décor: kinda not that far off the Tesco Extra next door but one. Yes, it’s bright, surprisingly airy, there’s even an upstairs, and that spacious open kitchen does dominate; they’ve avoided the temptation to drop the place with geegaws from their homeland. Think clean then, almost Ikea-ish. Though still with a homely twist.

Everything, every single thing, the waitress has said on one of her cheery, chatty fly-bys, is made in here by ourselves, nodding at her mum and co in the open kitchen to our left.

Those fish cakes certainly confirm that, £8.60 for four whoppers, plus accompaniments, having the smack of the recently hand-made. The flavours bold, the appearance more hewn than machine-formed, the outcome familiar, reassuring and pretty satisfying.

I order up a plate of hot n’ spicy noodles, with beef, and they are exactly what they claim to be on the menu. Cheek-puckeringly hot, take-a-deep-breath-here, those are indeed birds eye chillies, the whole laced with sweet peppers, chopped onions, topped with snipped spring onion and then the beef itself? Tender and juicy slivers that are worth rooting down into the mound of food to find.

Now let’s not get carried away here. The food is more of the comfort variety than the achingly authentic - do they even have Tom Yum Fried Rice in Thailand? - and the menu isn’t trying to reinvent any wheels. Massaman curries, Thai Red Curries, Penang Curries and a Pad Kra Paow jostle for space with spring rolls, satay and chicken in Pandan leaves.

This evening, and yes it’s a Tuesday, the place is pretty full. A family down by that window overlooking Kilmarnock Road, a few older couples dotted here and there, a younger duo sitting directly across from us. It’s a gentle. Comfortable vibe. For a comfortable meal. I can see now why they won.   

Thai Bar and Restaurant
317 Kilmarnock Road,
G43 2XS
Hours: closed Monday

Tel: 0141-328-9156

Menu: the clue is in the name (though no sign of any bar). Thai food pretty much as we already know it, but with the added oomph that’s it all hand-made in here by the family. 3/5

Service: This is the real secret sauce of this restaurant. Mum and daughter business, fabulous, warm, welcoming and very capable service. 5/5

Price: Honestly? It’s not particularly cheap with starters hovering at the £8 mark and mains hovering between £14 and £16, but large portions. 3/5

Atmosphere: Honest hard-working people create their own atmosphere and this place hums with a wholesome vibe. 5/5

Food: The mum makes it all with her friends, it’s not particularly new stuff, but the Pad Thai had a tang, and the spiced beef had a zing; what more do you need? 6/10

Total: 22/30