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Koh Samui dishes out a disaster

Helen Ramsbottom is tongue thai-ed by an old favourite

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.

Koh Samui dishes out a disaster

It was a pleasant Wednesday evening as me and my mukka, boozy Suz, set out to find some tasty tucker. Thai was the choice so we hot footed it up Princess Street to the charming basement abode of one of Manchester’s originals. Koh Samui.

The Advertising Standards Agency would uphold any claims on this one as the description ‘Pan fried crispy scallops’ (£7.45) was deceptive. This was a complete bastardisation of batter making ability. It wasn’t cooked in parts. Large parts. Crispy it most certainly was not. And bland to boot.

Family-run, this restaurant has been one of my favoured venues, with a strong record in providing for clients with a penchant for fragrant food.

The basement location isn’t a detriment to the ambience either, especially if you’re looking for a quaint and chintzy, oriental home from home. It’s light and airy thanks to the wall of windows at pavement level with fixtures and fittings to suit the mood. The sunny staff makes a difference too. It’s all charming.

Bathing Bean Sprouts

Seated and skimming over the offering we wondered where to begin. Thirty-five starters could spell trouble. When it comes to food I find it tough to make my up mind.

Eyeballing the options, we agreed on a sharing strategy.

First up for demolishing was the King prawn satay (£7.45). Oh dear. I reckon Pirelli would serve up something more palatable. With the first mouthful I had to double check we hadn’t ordered chicken. Nope, the telltale tails told me it was definitely prawn. Disappointingly chewy they had the consistency of overcooked poultry. Fail. The satay sauce however was suitably scrummy with a cheeky sour cucumber dish, but alas I’m not out for a feast on condiments.

Boozy Suz after her bottle for one

Limp, premature and soullessly soft. No, this isn’t a description of a lacklustre lover. That was my take on the equally underwhelming scallop dish. The Advertising Standards Agency would uphold any claims on this one as the description ‘Pan fried crispy scallops’ (£7.45) was deceptive. This was a complete bastardisation of batter making ability. It wasn’t cooked in parts. Large parts. Crispy it most certainly was not. And bland to boot.

Horrifyingly having hoisted up the goo, we revealed beansprouts bathing in a big bowl of grease. Yuck. At least the scallops were cooked decently.

King Prawn Satay

Semi-salvation was to ensue with the final starter. No fibs with the ribs. Described as slow cooked meaty pork, marinated in red wine and brandy (£6.45), the flesh parted company with the bone upon meeting the lips. A sublime sauce and delightful dish, I made sure I got the lion’s share of this one. Yum.

Willing the main event to wow us, we waited with baited breath. In the interim Suzy tucked right into a very reasonably priced Chateauneuf Du Pape (£19.00) I was still on the blurdy Confidential challenge (click here) so lime and soda for me. Yawn.


Veggies aren't limited in Koh Samui as there’s an extensive selection but as we know quantity isn’t everything. Suz chickened out on the Jungle curry when she saw the whites of the waitress’s eyes as she told us it was ‘very hot’. Still seeking to be adventurous she went for the red pork curry with morning glory (£8.45). Right. Now when I consider the boy banter in our office - pork, pork sword, morning glory and other phrases too rude to mention - the mind wanders to question exactly what pig’s parts were going to get plated up. But this didn’t deter Suz, she had a pass out and she was fulfilling it to the max. The glory part of the dish was ‘green vegetable’ to quote the waitress. An aromatic offering with a delectable sauce.


Shame I couldn’t say the same about my roast duck with tamarind sauce (£8.45). Explained as an ‘exotic’ sauce I wouldn’t want to see Koh Samui’s efforts at a lap dancing joint. This dish was drier than a nun’s (You’ve missed a word here Helen. If I’m guessing right then I don’t think you can criticise the boys in the office. Ed). There’s crispy and there’s Sahara Desert, this was the latter. It sucked every bit of spittle from my mush and there was nowhere near enough sauce.

Super greasy, soggy noodles were simply off-putting.

The evening ended on a high note as we shared a dessert and went for the apple and cinnamon spring rolls with vanilla ice cream (£4.50). A good end to a poor meal. Sorry Suz, I’ll take you on the next review and hopefully make it up to you. She was half pissed after singlehandedly polishing off the vino anyway, so am sure she went home happy.

Pork & Morning Glory

I wanted to enthuse about this old friend. But as with people, restaurants change. It was a far cry from food I’ve had served up on its namesake’s island. I’m not sure what’s going on with Koh Samui but hopefully they’ll get their kitchen in order and revive the things I loved about it in a past life.

Uncrispy Scallops
Rating: 9/20
Breakdown: 3/10 food
3/5 service
3/5 ambience
Address: Koh Samui
16 Princess Street
Manchester M1 4NB
0161 237 9511

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Leigh ScottJune 23rd 2010.

This dish was drier than a nun´s (You´ve missed a word here Helen. If I´m guessing right then I don´t think you can criticise the boys in the office. Ed)

What address do I send my dry cleaning bill to?

Coffee everywhere!

GordoJune 24th 2010.

Course, Rambo, course. I will never be able to introduce you to my mum. 'mush' ?! Oh dearie me.

ramboJune 24th 2010.

you're clearly still pissed from the footy. as i don't imagine you're agreeing with me. the spelling you're looking for is 'coarse' and it's 9.31. still not here. you're late. big day today with your cook off. get your arse in here pronto.

AnonymousJune 24th 2010.

Koh Samui used to be a fine place, I am so sad.

AnonymousJune 24th 2010.

Speaking of Princess St - I went to Tokyo Season the other day, not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. The food was great - v good sushi. Afterwards the waiter told us 'you come back and have the more popular Japanese food next time' which made me laugh as I guess he noticed we ordered the stuff that most people wouldn't. But we loved it as we went to Japan earlier in the year and were looking for something to remember it by - hence the more random selection (you don't know what you getting half the time in Japan so we ate some wierd and wonderful stuff). Throughly recommended - and worth a review.

Katie AmosJune 24th 2010.

I didn't want to be annon - post about Tokyo Season was by me - ktfairy!

NortherngeezerJune 24th 2010.

This place used to be in my top 5 of Thai restaurants in the UK. The rot started to set in here about a year ago. I ranted about a particulaly poor meal then, and i've not been back since, seems they are still in free fall. As an aside............porn of the highest quality Helen "The flesh parted company with the bone upon meeting the lips" well did it for me ;-)

RealManchesterJune 24th 2010.

Limp, premature and soullessly soft...

... could your mind have been taken up with other distractions I wonder? :)

I certainly won't be placing Koh Samui at the top of my Thai-tastic list of places to scoff.

AnonymousJune 24th 2010.

ktfairy, the review had been done already some time ago here. If you might be happy, that's ok, but be careful: they are not "real" Japanese.

Katie AmosJune 24th 2010.

Couldn't find the review under Japanese food on the website. Thanks fro the warning Anon - but I cook a damn good (non anglocised) chinese and I'm not chinese - so I'm sure it doesn't really matter if I found the food good and authentic.

AgricolaJune 24th 2010.

It has gone downhill recently. Not up to previous standards, maybe the management have changed or taken their eye off the ball.

mcnultycopJune 24th 2010.

I had a meal here for about 12-14 people over a year ago. It was banquet type fair and the food reminded me of Thai food cooked by someone who had never tried Thai food before. Bland and completely lacking in spice. Everything was cooked OK, but just didn't give you any form of "wow" at all.

Nicholas DrakeJune 24th 2010.

I was told a couple of years ago by a Koh Samui regular that the restaurant's long-standing main chef had upped and left for the Try Thai place on Faulkner Street.

MarkAJJune 24th 2010.

Try Thai is consistently excellent, and the manager Andrea is a real ray of sunshine. I would categorically recommend it to anyone as the best Thai in the city. ( and I did really rate Koh Samui in it's day. Sad to hear it's continuing to slide )

NortherngeezerJune 25th 2010.

Seems like 'Try Thai' might be a little busy this weekend eh.

NortherngeezerJune 28th 2010.

Did the "Try Thai" on Saturday......as good as ever.

KnowitallMay 24th 2011.

Went to Try Thi on Monday- tasting lovely as ever the food there! I would be so bold to say that it's the best Thai in Chinatown! Roayl Orchid and Koh Samui standards have simply dropped over the years...its a shame.
Why hasnt MC reviewed Try Thai?

the Whalley RangerMay 25th 2011.

exactly! why not?

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