A late lunch at The Chiang Mai Kitchen, Oxford

We are spending the weekend in Oxford and on Saturday evening we were booked in to go to the panto (although it wasn’t really a panto) starting at 7.00pm sharp. We needed somewhere too eat beforehand. We thought briefly about having food afterwards but trying to get some good food at 9.30 on a Saturday might seemed like too much effort so we went for late lunch option.

We were tempted by a review by Jay Rayner from a few weeks back for a pub called The Magdalen Arms were he had eaten a pie for two that could only be described in glowing terms. It was almost next door to the theatre but it transpired they closed for food for the afternoon and by the time they reopened we would only have about half an hour to enjoy our pie before we would have to leave for the theatre. That would be cutting it fine. So we sat down and thought through our other options.

It is three or four years since we have been to The Chiang Mai Kitchen. For a while it was our most visited restaurant. When the kids were small and we could leave them behind to go shopping in Oxford we would go for a quick lunch promising ourselves that we would restrict ourselves to just a main course. Inevitably when we got in and sat down resolve went out of the window and we would be seduced into have one of the starters. We had taken the kids there for lunch once but it had not been a great success. They were happy with the plates of rice but fidgeted and moaned over everything else.

We looked at the menu. They did a plain plate of noodles. That would keep the youngest member of the family happy so we booked to go there.

Afterwards we agreed that the meal had been slightly disappointing. The menu was the same as it was twenty years ago and although it still tempted the starters felt slightly tired. The still tasted good though, pork dumplings and sate sticks of chicken and beef, stuffed, deep fried chicken wings, tiny spring rolls  and deep dried prawns with a sweet clear sauce and plates of sate sauce. There wasn’t much left.

My main course was minced beef with chilli and garlic and plain boiled rice. I think I have had it every time I have been there and last night it was just as good. I have tried to make it at home but have never managed to get it right. I think that it because I have always sliced up the beef rather than mincing it. It tasted of those things you want from Thai food, clean flavours, hot and sour. I will need yo give myself another go making it at home.

Earlier in the afternoon I had managed to squeeze in an hour or so by myself in Oxford. I wasted some of the time drinking a pint of Young’s Winter Farmer and eating a home made pork pie in The King’s Arms looking at the cook-books I had bought in the Oxfam bookshop. I then made my way down the Cowley Road to my new favourite record shop to spend money I don’t have on too many CDs. Listening to one of them now. Syrian wedding day music. It just needs to be louder.


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