57 – 59 Calverly Road
TEL: 01892 545499
The gift that Thai food brings to the world is it appears simple in construction and taste but in reality it is one of the most complex sophisticated cuisines known to man. Worth noting when you visit the Giggling Squid, for visit you must. It is a place ‘Roger’s and Hammerstein’ would have been proud of their gift was to create wonderful memorable tunes that seem simple but are really complicated to pull of.
It’s part of a small chain with branches in desirable places like Brighton, Hove, Henley-on-Thames and Crawley. They are expanding but at their own rate not Jamie Oliver’s. This too is also refreshing.
The first impression when you arrive is calmness not a silent Zen Buddhist calmness but one of clarity and purpose. Yes, there were families there with young children, people were chatting away but it didn’t have that restaurant clatter going on. You could hear yourself think but not like being in a library type way. The décor is all driftwood walls and tables and wicker lampshades, old school chairs de rigueur, so a modern but sympathetic feel, more Deborah Kerr than Yul Brenner.
There are two menus one for the evening and a lunch. The lunch is constructed in an interesting tapas style. This is not only genius for Thai food but also for the lunchtime customers. We chose mainly from the tapas sets, which provide four dishes for around £10. This is unbelievable value. The plates are large and square divided into four sections, one for each dish. I went for ‘Starving Squid’, which provided Thai dumplings, spring rolls, chicken red curry and jasmine rice. All were faultless, the flavours, texture and taste length were what I had been hoping for. This food is ethereal, a beauty to the eye. Others on the table had ‘Giggling Squid’ this had a sublime sleeping honey duck, chicken stir fried with ginger, jasmine rice and more of those crunchy, fresh Thai spring rolls. There are a few more combinations but if that doesn’t suit then you order each dish separately.
The service is perfect. Quick and polite always with a smile and helpful advice, this is how the restaurants of my dreams work. Ice cold Singha Beer arrived less than thirty seconds after being ordered, the fresh juices were vibrant and pungent. It’s simple things that make a restaurant successful to me. I didn’t feel any pressure at any stage to do anything, surely the definition of a relaxed meal?
We still had room for something else, as the portions are just right. It feels after eating the tapas menu that you have eaten two good courses, so a little gap and off to the menu looking for more. The desserts are as pretty as the rest of the food. The ice cream is local and made specifically for them, so you have a unique lavender and honey, a subtle blend of distinct flavours. A black sesame ice cream tempted me, which wasn’t black but taupe in colour with black seeds in it, an unusual but not unpleasant taste, I did eat it all. A chocolate mousse was gone in seconds, eaten by my seven year old. Their magnum opus in my view was pink lemonade sorbet. This cut wonderfully and shamelessly though any Asian taste left in your mouth and made you its best friend immediately. This is where Giggling Squid is not afraid to break the rules and I applaud it for doing so. There are only so many baked bananas one can eat.
The memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the King of Siam clearly demonstrate she was brought to the court of King Mongkut to broaden the mind of his many children. At first they squabble but ultimately grow to respect each other. I feel a likeness of sorts with this wonderful Thai food. It has made some compromises and concessions, none of them major. So if you feel like being educated through the remembrances of a Victorian governess then try a plate of tapas. It will be quick, tasty and leave with a feeling of having crossed a divide and learnt something. As we left I found myself thinking of The King and I and humming Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘getting to know you’. I think I will get to know you Giggling Squid and so should you.
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