The Thai Orchid in St Clements in Oxford has been a long standing favourite restaurant of ours. We love their Sunday Buffet, as an easy go to when we have a special occasion to celebrate and would like to eat out.
Anyone with kids (or picky adults…No, Dad, I’m not pointing fingers!;-) ) soon starts to appreciate the ease of buffet style eating. There’s no pondering on what to choose, no waiting for the order to come. It’s easy to enjoy a variety of dishes or just stick to favourites.
When it came to choosing a place for going out with my parents and the kids to celebrate Mothering Sunday and a belated meal for both Mum and Dad’s birthdays then picking the Thai Orchid was a no brainer. There was a consensus!
We knew we needed to book and when we called on Sunday morning we were offered 2 slots: 11:30 or 1 pm. (An earlier option than usual, probably due to it being Mothering Sunday.) We chose the 11:30 as it was great timing with the kids.
I love the atmosphere of the restaurant: timber clad walls, lots of traditional thai carvings decorating the walls, carved tables and chairs and lots of plants.
We were seated on a big round table in one of the two conservatories. A favourite place of mine! It’s such a lovely dining experience in the bright, plant filled space.
The buffet was already getting busy when we got there, with everything fully stocked.
The past occasions we’d been there was always something Faulty Tower-esque about the place. You really did feel like you were stepping into Thailand and English was a definite second language. This time it was different, staff, still mostly thai, understood what we said immediately. It was refreshing. Even making the booking we didn’t have to ponder, did they actually understand what we said or just agreed in order to save face. Our booking was actually repeated to us in clear English and on arrival our table was set with the highchair as requested.
There is new management. This was evident from the new arrangement of foods- vegetarian and meaty options distinctly apart-, things flowing more smoothly, the buffet always being fully stocked.
The foods were slightly different too. Though the staples like pad thai, chicken satay and thai green curry were there.
All foods were labelled.
Flavouring the food, some were absolutely delicious, but some did not hit the mark. Some of the curries lacked the layers of flavours one expects from Thai food and were a bit bland.
Thai food is great for having veg with a crunch. However, some veg- like aubergines, potatoes and really tough green beans- are not the best half raw. (I mentioned this to the waitress and she was very apologetic that those weren’t to my taste and reassured me that the feedback would be passed onto the chief.)
There was one soup- Beancurd soup, which my husband found absolutely delicious. I’d been looking forward to a tom yum soup all week, so was disappointed not to find this. (I know I’m so predictable, but it used to be a staple.)
The curries used to include a prawn or fish option too, these were only available as a cold salad now.
There was a variety of salads, but most lacked fresh vegetables sadly.
The desert spread was great! Cakes, fruits, salads, meringues, pastries.
The service, despite the place being very busy, was prompt. Plates cleared regularly, asking politely what can be taken. Water brought as requested. Always with a smile.
It was lovely to see how the staff, despite being extremely busy and the restaurant being fully booked, tried to accommodate all those couple or single diners who dropped in without a reservation.
On balance it was a lovely dining experience even though the food was not what we were used to.
Since our last visit the price has dropped from the £14.95 to £12.95. Angelina and Hugo ate for £6 each and Max enjoyed his meal for free (he had about 4 spring rolls, a vegetable fritter or two and a couple of pieces of fruit).
I’m not sure when the new management took over, I hope they continue their improvements and take feedback on board too. I wish them luck and we will definitely consider the Thai Orchid for our next family celebration out.
What’s your favourite place to eat out? Do you like buffets?
Restrooms were clean, but only accessible via a flight of stairs. We forgot to check if they had baby-changing facilities, but from past I recall they do have.
There was a highchair with its own plastic tray available for Max. Had Max still been in baby led weaning stage and eating from the tray, I would’ve given the tray a more thorough wipe, but I found it clean enough for a 2 year old eating from a plate.
There is always some foods that are suitable for even the youngest ones.
The staff are generally very accommodating and friendly with kids.
Disclosure: We paid for all our food and drink ourselves and have received no compensation from the Thai Orchid (or anyone else) to write this review