The Garden Bar: By Brian Baxter

Friendly Restaurant with Thai, Western and Lebanese Menu

Why, someone asked me recently, had I never thought about reviewing The Garden Bar and Restaurant, which is a place I eat at with modest regularity and pleasure - at least once a month. A good question, and especially apt since the sensibly modest menu has been expanded in the past months. I guess part of the answer is because one thinks of it firstly as a bar and also as an adjunct to a hotel, the Lotus - a place to eat conveniently on their monthly quiz night, (arranged by none other than the Mail’s chief photographer - that man gets everywhere!) or when visiting people who live near-by.
Certainly, it is worth a visit, not least because the clearly expressed menu comes in three sections: Thai, western dishes and Lebanese, of which there are some 20 choices in the first group and only slightly less in the others. The Thai food includes such staples as chicken with cashew nuts, fried rice with prawns, (95 baht), some salads and soups. The western choices range from such things as hamburgers, with a plentiful side order of French fries and pork chops with ginger at 145 baht. For the more unusual Lebanese options one may start off, (excellent to share and then move on to individual main course), with hummous with pitta bread or the same classic bread grilled with mozzarella cheese, each at 100 baht. The main courses come plentifully garnished, with potatoes, rice and vegetables.
Naturally, since the centre piece of the courtyard and garden restaurant area is a very well stocked bar, drinks are in plentiful supply and wine may be had by the glass or bottle. Beers include Singha at 60 baht and others including Heineken, plus a stock of spirits and soft drinks. There is a small, rather prettier, eating section to the right of the bar near the hotel entrance and some larger wooden tables around the bar itself. This is the more convivial area, since it is open and. if one is eating alone, one is likely to see familiar faces around and - happily - some fresher ones.
As you’ll have gathered from the few prices given, this is not an overly expensive place and the food is cooked to order - the menu says up to 30 minutes cooking time, but this has never been the case from my experience. And starters arrive especially promptly since they require less preparation - waiting time is therefore minimal.
This is an unpretentious restaurant with exceptionally friendly staff and a pleasant ambience. I think that many people - myself included - take it for granted. In one version or another, the hotel and its associated bar and eatery have always been with us. I certainly recall that on my first ever visit to Chiang Mai, (could it be some 20 years ago? Or more?), I certainly stayed at the Lotus. Whether I had food there other than breakfast, I certainly cannot recall. It’s rather like an old friend… taken for granted.
You will find The Garden Bar and Restaurant at 2/25 Viengbuk, Chotana Road, Chang Puak. Tel 053 215 376.


Bell Pepper Oysters

Oysters are plentiful and cheap in Thailand. You can buy a bottle of shelled oysters at your local fish market for less than B. 100. This recipe calls for the oysters to be baked at 450 degrees, so no worries about eating raw oysters either. The alternative name for this dish is ‘Oysters Casino’.

Cooking Method
Put a layer of rock salt along the bottom of a baking dish. Embed the 24 oyster shells on the rock salt and now place the oysters on the shells. In a small mixing bowl, cream butter; blend in onion, parsley, and green pepper. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and add salt and black pepper to taste. Spoon butter mixture on to oysters and top each with a small piece of the partially cooked bacon. Bake at 450 degrees until bacon is crisp and oysters have curled at the edges. Serve with additional lemon juice.

Ingredients                              serves 4
24 oysters and                                 24 shells
Butter                                                  1 cup
Chopped onions                                   cup
Chopped fresh parsley                        1/3 cup
Green bell pepper finely chopped        2 tbspns
Bacon, partially cooked, cut in quarters 6 strips
Rock salt
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and cracked black pepper