I’m a sucker for an independent restaurant with a bit of a background story behind it. When you open the menu at the popular Chiang Mai Kitchen, you’re able to read all about it. Alive and kicking just off the High Street since 1993, the restaurant sits in a beautiful Grade II listed building steeped in history – with its old school dumbwaiter still in use today.
When inside, the restaurant takes over two floors boasting wooden beams and old, grand fireplaces.
The best thing about Thai cuisine is the sharing element; pick a dish each and mix and match until your heart, and stomach, are content. Whilst the menu recommends picking a dish each, to achieve a full taste test it was only right to go a little above and beyond that.
For starters, we chose the mixed starters for four, which included satay chicken, spring rolls, deep fried king prawns and stuffed chicken wings. My friend who I was with, demanded we also order the calamari, as apparently, “it’s just so good.”
You won’t be waiting around for your food here, as the dishes are served quick-fire. And when the starters arrived, the talked about calamari was more than just good. Seasoned with chilli, garlic and spring onions, it was so crispy and flavoursome that I could’ve had a good three dishes more.
Another favourite was the dumplings, which consisted of minced pork, water chestnuts and spring onions with a soy garlic sauce. Comfort food, with a Thai kick.
I highly recommend the mixed starter, whether it’s for two (providing you have a big appetite) or for a group. It’s the perfect option to explore the best of Chiang Mai’s bona fide offerings.
For mains we chowed down on 272 – garlic barbecue chicken packed with garlic and herbs; 37 – stir-fried beef with garlic and pepper; 954 – chicken yellow curry from the specials; 60 – crispy fried vermicelli noodles; 58 – pad Thai with king prawns; 602 – stir fried ho fun noodles with chicken in a soy sauce; and of course some sticky rice, just in case we hadn’t ordered enough carbs to fill us up.
These guys know their stuff; the pad Thai, which is an absolute favourite of mine, was perfect. The yellow curry was light and satisfying, tasting almost sweet without too much spice – despite never topping my love for red and green curry.
Whilst the stir-fried beef was my least favoured dish, solely down to my preference lying with chicken and seafood, the fried noodles became another quick favourite – sweet and crisp to the bite.
The barbecue chicken, which I originally wasn’t overly excited about, packed a flavoursome punch more than I’d anticipated. Still sizzling hot in its cast iron dish, the smoky, garlicky flavours married nicely with its chilli sauce. You’ll also find that all dishes are served with traditional Thai garnishes and a large dose of care.
We were more than full up, but somehow found enough room for Heavenly Desserts in Headington on the way home, although I’m not sure how.
Overall, if anything I’m disappointed in myself for not having visited sooner, especially as a major Asian cuisine lover. Ideal for both intimate settings or a group meal, Chiang Mai Kitchen is the real deal for authentic Thai cuisine, in an unlikely but lovely rickety, antique setting.
You can book a table online on their website, or over the phone. Alternatively, if you want to shake up your Friday evening takeaway, you can order to pick up or get delivery through UberEats. Opt for a casual dress code, and be prepared to spend around £50 for two, for starters, mixed mains and a drink.