Plain and simple pub grub

Another newcomer in the pub grub stakes is the The-Hole-in-the-Wall, which will have its official opening on August 28. And like all restaurants there will be a time of subtle changes until it finally finds its place in the minds of Chiang Mai diners. Even on our visit, we were treated to a dish that manager Deville Wong said was not on the menu, but was something they thought they might try on Sundays!

On Ratchamanka Road it features a large dining area, open on two sides, but with a roof to protect the diners from the elements. Much of the furniture would be described as ‘picnic’ settings, but there are also chairs with padded bottoms for those who need their own bottoms padded. Clean terracotta tiles, whitewashed walls with dark wood beams, a dart board in the corner and a prominently displayed Union Jack completes the decor. In the far corner there is a bar area, and behind that the kitchens.

The menu is (currently) not very large, but prices are net, without the plus plus of the higher end establishments. It begins with a B. 90 cheeseburger and moves upwards to a B. 120 Ploughman’s Platter, with Bangers and Mash, fish and chips, beef stew and chicken in a basket all being offered for the same price. In fact the most expensive item on the menu is the seafood basket with scampi tails, squid, fish fingers and chips, coming in at B. 140.

There are various toasted sandwiches with tuna at the low end (B. 60) moving through grilled ham and cheese and BLT to club sandwiches with fried eggs, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and crisps at the top end at B. 90.

Also on offer are various salads (B. 40-85) plus spring rolls, samosas, chips and quiche as side orders (B. 45-80). Daily rotating specials are B. 90 and include a soup or salad, mains, coffee and tea.

We were a party of four and manager Deville suggested he would bring out a few dishes so we could try much of his kitchen’s offerings. We began with the Ploughman’s Platter which came with the traditional Branston pickle, pickled onion, cheese and toasted (non-traditional) French bread and butter pats. The pickle was excellent and I found later was actually made on the premises. Amazing. My only complaint was the butter, as I hate those fiddly foil pats!

We also had a club sandwich, with the usual problem of trying to get one’s mouth around triple deckers, and then a very nicely cooked beef stew with good gravy and the vegetables correctly cooked too. The fish and chips came with malt vinegar, a nice batter and no bones. Finally we had a chef’s special chicken curry with potato and carrot which I described as a khao soy stew, but great flavour.

When evaluating a restaurant’s food, I also take into consideration the ambience and the price. If you are sitting in a five star restaurant, paying five star prices, there is a need to look very critically at the total package. Is it delivering the value for those high prices? Like wise, when looking at the lower end of the market, such as in this case, I am looking at the value compared to the lower prices.

There was no getting away from the fact that the The-Hole-in-the-Wall was serving up English-style food at reasonable prices. When a bowl of beef stew is only B. 120 or traditional fish and chips the same price, the chef would have to be doing something dreadfully wrong to stop this being value for money. The-Hole-in-the-Wall’s chef did nothing wrong, making this venue a local example of good value pub grub. Management is not trying to gild the lilly. “It is pub grub,” said Deville Wong. It is also cheap enough that you have nothing to lose by trying it. Go with a group and make a night of it - especially if you can play darts.

The-Hole-in-the-Wall, 39/7-8 Ratchamanka Road, T. Phrasing, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 283 824. Open seven days, 11 a.m. until late. Street parking (or in the parking area for the wat).