‘EAT’ at the U Hotel:  By Brian Baxter

New restaurant and bar in the heart of old town

Whether a smart new boutique hotel in the centre of Chiang Mai is exactly what the economy ordered, only time will tell. But that is what we have here under discussion. More relevant to this column is its inclusion of an elegant new bar on the top floor, unambiguously called DRINK and an equally attractive restaurant named EAT, which is approached at ground level from Ratchadamnoen Road. So surely no confusion there, even if you are an American.
They open the food area at 6:00 am, no doubt to cater for hotel guests of the 41 room hotel who need an early breakfast. You’ll forgive me, I trust, for not sampling it, unless of course the editor wants to sport an overnight stay in one of their chic (for which read smallish, well appointed) rooms. Which I rather doubt… Luckily they stay open all day, until after midnight and so with the Mail’s cameraman defying Cole Porter and the notion that ‘tramps’ get too hungry for dinner at eight we dined at exactly that time. Our companions there were a couple and five pleasant and well behaved young English guys all of whom professed themselves well pleased with the place. With only 36 covers and a long rectangular space it could easily seem crowded.
Space is obviously at a premium since its position is very central, just opposite the Writer’s Club, about half a kilometer down from the AUA on what we know as the walking street on Sundays. There are no formal menus so one of the charming staff either holds or hands you a small board on which the day’s offering are chalked. The choice is fairly small, but offered plenty of acceptable alternatives. There are about five appetizers, a similar number of first course, five or six pastas and a selection of meat and fish dishes. A separate board offers a few desserts including ice cream. The choice is yours either singly or in any combination. Prices are modest (see below), for what is basically a farang menu, with Italian and modern English influenced food plus a Thai dish or two.
The drinks menu (we are still downstairs!) is quite wide, with a range of soft drinks, plenty of cocktails and several beers. They offer wine by the bottle and five red and five white choices by the glass. My companion stuck to beer Singha (90 baht) and I sampled a classy Sauvignon Blanc and, with my pasta, a Deakin Estate Shiraz, which was equally good. Perhaps it should be, since the measures were not over generous for the 250 baht price tag. We shared two ‘first courses’. A crispy bruschetta, topped with chopped tomatoes and parsley and more interestingly two delicious fish cakes made in the classic style of salmon .These were in light breadcrumbs, generously sized and very light and tasty - good value at 100 baht. Other possibilities included soup of the day (130 baht) and various salads (130).For the main course I opted for one of the pastas: spaghetti with olives, capers and anchovies in a rich and spicy tomato sauce (these dishes range from 160 - 190) Fish and chips was also ordered and on offer either bread crumbed or in batter. It was declared ‘the best I have tasted in Chiang Mai’. Other choices among the ten ‘mains’ included burgers and other meat dishes. Not then especially adventurous (Pad Thai for example was also on offer) but the accent seems to be on quality and good sized portions rather than originality. We were too full for dessert but the nearby Brits seemed to enjoy their selection. It seemed to me that the chef - certainly for now - is offering food which is universally popular, with good ingredients and which can be freshly prepared. Not a bad policy in such surroundings.
The room is very attractive, with a long mural and the flanking wall facing to the street. Tables and chairs are comfortable and the atmosphere quite subdued, with friendly staff who are - said the general manager - still at the training stage, since they have only been open for a month. They seemed faultless to me, if a little over eager to please. We had a quick look at the upstairs bar and that, too, looked elegant yet unpretentious and a good venue in to which to escape from Sunday afternoon crowds. Something new in town then, with a hotel policy that allows flexible checking out times, and well worth a visit.
Eat and Drink at U Hotel 70 Ratchadamnoen Street.
Open daily from 6:30 am. Telephone: 053 327 000.


Spanish Omelette

An omelette (also spelled ‘omelet’) is a very easy and quick dish and extremely versatile. Clever cooks will go their fridge and find all sorts of interesting ingredients to throw into an omelette. The following recipe can be adapted to what you have left over in your fridge too, but if you are new to cooking eggs in this way, just be guided by this good old standard.

Cooking Method
Break the eggs into a bowl. Add water, salt and pepper, and mix well. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
In a non-stick frying pan put in the butter and melt over medium heat and swirl around to cover bottom of pan.
Stir the eggs, add the onion, bell peppers, garlic and ham and pour into pan, swirling to evenly spread the mixture.
Reduce the heat to low, gently lifting up edges of omelette with a spatula as it sets. Add some extra butter if needed to avoid sticking. When the omelette is almost set, fold into three, sprinkle the cheese on top with some more ground black pepper. Cook for one minute and serve immediately.

Ingredients        Serves 4
Large eggs                            4
Butter                                 60g
Large onion (chopped fine)      1
Bell peppers (red and green) 2 chopped
Garlic (chopped)               1 clove
Ham (sliced and chopped) 50 gm
Cheese (grated)                15 gm
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Cold water                     1 tbspn