Friends who live here may wrinkle their nose and sniff, “Tourist trap.” But I don’t care. I was determined to have one meal at an old favourite restaurant, The Gallery, the setting for – the start of – many a great evening in the past. I insisted on eating there last year also, and wasn’t disappointed, the food as good as ever, and the setting hadn’t lost any of its magic. Beside the slow flowing Mae Ping, Chiang Mai’s silt-brown river, at tables beneath the lantern-hung branches of some spreading tree … charming. There is something very special about eating beside moving water. Sipping chilled Lao beer at one of the bamboo bars overhanging the Mekong at Luang Prabang … a glass of excellent Allan Scott riesling on the deck of a hotel in Port Vila, with small fish darting about in the water below … I won’t go on.
The food, on this occasion, old favourites … gai haw bai toey (chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, served with sweet chilli sauce), tom yum khung (the famous spicy prawn soup), red duck curry, banana flower salad with prawns …no disappointments, and remarkable really that the restaurant has remained so consistently good for so many years.
And for my money, this was a superior dining experience to the night before’s … the screamingly stylish D2 hotel restaurant, Moxie its name, which the staff tried to tell us was French, though un mot inconnu to the two Francophones I was with. There I also had their red duck curry, re-interpreted with lychees in the sauce, smooth texture, a little sweet, but ultimately less interesting in the mouth than the standard dish.