Writers’ Club and Wine Bar

Gina Hahn

The menu at the Writers’ Club and Wine Bar invited us to “make yourself at home in our reading corner or TV lounge”, but we settled into a nice sidewalk table for a leisurely evening of homemade Thai food and cold drinks. We had come on a Monday evening, sure to be a sparse crowd so we would have plenty of opportunity to spend time with the owner and his wife, Robert and Tong Tilley. We were wrong. No sooner had we picked our table than the entire place was full. Families and singles, couples and a group of friends all sat and enjoyed the mild weather, cold drinks and good Thai food.

The Writers Club and Wine Bar became the city’s favorite spot for journalists and other writers almost as soon as it opened its doors in 2003. Owner Robert Tilley, a veteran of the London Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph, remains involved in journalistic pursuits and is currently working hard as an editor. There are newspapers and magazines in the reading corner. Reference books and other works are also there, and you are encouraged to borrow what interests you. Local writers wander in. Reinhard Hohler and Bertil Lintner exchange ideas and information near the library with Robert and others. Friday evenings, writers from as far away as the Big Mango come in for a glass of wine and a bit of networking. And Wednesday nights bring special meetings of writers’ groups.

But don’t think you have to be a writer to enjoy an evening at the Writers Club. Just come prepared for a relaxing evening, no rushed meals or “fast food” here. Indeed, an insert in the menu points out that fresh food, prepared to order, takes a little more time and is well worth the effort. And, unlike the unenviable franchised food that we think of as fast, the chips are prepared from fresh potatoes and do not come frozen in a bag from the supermarket.

Although the Writers Club offers a wide range of western food, we decided to try the Thai selections. We started our meal with fresh spring rolls, which were served crisp and light, just right for dipping into the sauce. Our choice of soup was the lovely galangal and lemongrass soup with chicken, Tom Kha Gai, and it was excellent. Enough spice to be authentic, with a rich coconut cream base and tender bits of chicken breast. We next tried a red pork curry and found the pork to be tender and the sauce to be just right. No overpowering chilies, but a nice “kick” to remind you that you’re eating the food that Thai families eat – real home cooking. Chicken larb, Isaan style arrived with the fried rice. The onions were lightly cooked and crisp, and the chicken spiced just right. My favorite of the evening, though, was a Thai style spicy salad of snow mushrooms with shrimp. Spicy, yes; tasty, yes; and an interesting combination of textures, flavors and colors. The snow mushrooms are like clouds, almost fluffy. The shrimp were cooked just right, and the seasonings were perfect.

The food at the Writers Club is well priced. Our tom ka gai was 80 baht, but most of the other dishes are priced at 60 baht. The delicious snow mushrooms with shrimp is also priced at 80 baht. The restaurant has a good selection of vegetarian Thai food, all priced at 60 baht.

Although we concentrated on the Thai food, the western food is equally varied and well priced. Salads and sandwiches begin at 60 baht and mains such as beef filet in mushroom sauce or ham, asparagus and creamed potatoes are all priced at a very reasonable 99 baht.

While the Writers Club has a full range of drinks, don’t forget that the second half of its name is “Wine Bar”. The restaurant stocks a variety of good wine, and Robert is negotiating for an even more varied selection. House wines start at a quarter liter for 90-130 baht.

The Writers Club and Wine Bar, 141/3 Rachadamnoen Road T. Phrasingh, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100. Telephone 01-928-2066. The Writers Club and Wine Bar is open Sunday through Friday from Midday until Midnight. Parking on the street.