Chiang Mai Kitchen can be found just off the High Street in a Grade II listed building with a rich and varied history. It's been a place to eat since 1928 - in that time it has hosted tea rooms, Chinese, Indian and French restaurants, and since 1993 has been home to
Hidden away down Kemp Hall Passage, it would be easy to walk straight past Chiang Mai if it weren't for the enticing aromas wafting out through the kitchen windows. I can imagine many a passer-by has been tempted into the restaurant by this alone. Inside, the building is gorgeous. Period features abound, with panelled walls, stone fireplaces and an especially beautiful carved oak staircase.
The waiting staff were polite, attentive and courteous throughout our visit. When we ordered a few vegetarian dishes we were particularly grateful that they double-checked exactly what our dietary requirements were. The service was quick too - the only waiting we had to do was for one of our own party to turn up at the start of the meal! In addition to a history of the building, the Kitchen's menu provides some information about eating Thai food. It suggests that a selection of dishes are chosen to be divided amongst the table - as many dishes per course as there are people at the table. This was advice we were more than happy to follow, and selected three starters and mains to share.
To start, we ordered Pak Chup (deep fried vegetables served with a sweet chili sauce), Tofu Tord (deep fried tofu served with sweet chili and crushed peanut sauce) and Popia Thod (vegetable spring rolls with plum sauce). We probably should have thought about the amount of fried food we'd ordered between us and tried a soup or some of the vegetable dishes instead, but the speed at which the starters disappeared proves we didn't make a bad decision! A particular highlight were the sauces, all of which were delicious and evidently lovingly homemade.
For the main course, I opted for Kang Lueng, a vegetable yellow curry, and my companions chose the Pad Pet Pak, stir fried vegetables with curry paste and Thai aubergines and the Kung Gratiem Prik Thai, prawns cooked with garlic pepper and coriander, plus some jasmine and egg-fried rice to share. As a tip - you definitely don't need to order as many rice sides as there are people at the table! My curry was flavoursome, if slightly salty, with the vegetables cooked perfectly; the same could be said for the Pad Pet Pak - the aubergines were a welcome addition to the dish. However, the standout choice was the garlic prawns, a dish so good that my friend insists on ordering it every time he visits.
Feeling very full, we headed home, certain that we would head back to Chiang Mai Kitchen at some point in the (very) near future with more friends in tow. After all, the more people around the table, the more dishes you get to try!