Favola at Le Meridien
In reviewer’s parlance, the term a ‘serious
restaurant’ refers, of course, not so much to the tone
of the place but to its ambition: where the skill of the
cooking matches the sourcing and quality of the
ingredients. The Favola at the five star Le Meridien
justifies the term. But thanks to the personality of the
ebullient executive chef, Gustavo Maurelli, and the team
who surround him, that is where the term serious ends.
It’s a classy venue, not that cheap (how could it be?),
but the tone is relaxed and not precious.
In short, Maurelli takes his job seriously, indeed
passionately, but years of international work and travel
(Buenos Aires, Italy, Toronto and Dubai included), are
reflected in a cosmopolitan approach that says ‘welcome
to the world’.
pollo alla cacciatore comes well presented in a cast
He is determined to ‘raise standards’ in Chiang Mai and
this smart new 110 seat venue is clearly intended as
bench mark for others. Open only a month or so, it is
already attracting attention and it will be fascinating
to see within the present economic climate whether such
an ambitious venture will succeed. Given the enthusiasm
on display, I’d say the chances are very good indeed.
The second floor restaurant with its adjoining bar
features a large open-to-view kitchen, gleaming with
state of the art gadgets and chrome implements, spotless
work surfaces and masses of copper pans. There’s also a
large wood-burning oven for pizzas, and in the centre of
the large eating area is a wine store with glass walls,
set next to a private dining room for up to 16. The chef
delights in showing all this off to customers, although
I suspect that with four delegations at the hotel for
the Asean conference later this month, he may not have
as much spare time as was the case on a recent Monday
Favola is described as an Italian restaurant, but the
sourcing of the dishes on offer indicates further
influences - certainly it is a million miles from most
conventional trats and osteria. Sadly, space will not
allow justice to be done to the complexity of the
dishes, since here is a chef in the manner of the U.K’s
Heston Blumenthal, who constantly reworks dishes,
invents new ones, juggles flavours and blends the most
unlikely ingredients and textures. Our Chiang Mai chef
‘dreams’ of recipes and puts them to the test following
Getting the best possible ingredients is key: if they
are not available locally, then the next stop might be
Bangkok. Even so, the sea bream comes from France, the
guinea fowl from Europe too, the grass fed lamb from New
Zealand and the steaks from Australia. No less than
eight varied salts are utilized and the range of aged
balsamic vinegars and superior quality olive oils (all
from Italy) - along with the delicious breads - almost
made a meal all in themselves.
Foolishly, my cameraman companion had eaten lunch so he
forwent a starter. I made up for that with an elegant
plate of scallop and sweet prawn ‘custards’, served with
baby calamari and vine tomato salsa. It was a delight to
the eye and the palate. This was one of the five
antipasti at 290 baht and another, especially
recommended, was the carpaccio at 480 baht. There were
three salads available from 120 baht, three soups and
three risottos, including one with prawns and capsicum
(280), which I marked off for a future visit.
There are also ten pastas (210- 645), the same number of
pizzas (190- 280), and a dozen secondi. These high
quality dishes are, inevitably, more expensive but, as
can be seen from the above, much of the menu is
moderately priced given the setting and immaculate
service and freshness of the food (pizza dough is made
every day and abandoned if not used, the same goes for
My companion went for the hearty pollo alla cacciatore
(340), which was presented in a cast iron pot,
accompanied by a smaller pot of vegetables. I think he
mumbled ‘delicious’, but the delighted expression on his
face made all comment superfluous. Other secondi
included the sea bream (830), two wagyu steaks and a
rabbit stew. The concentration is on meat rather than
I opted for a pasta dish, a fettucine, with an elaborate
sauce based around vanilla, with lobster and finally
decorated with edible flowers. There are a few more
conventional pasta, along with the hand thrown pizzas,
all of which sounded delicious and more complex in their
make up than would normally be the case. To prove his
point, our chef insisted that we try his latest
‘creation’ – a pizza which combined marinated cherries
along with goat’s cheese and a variety of other
ingredients that made it a perfect savoury-sweet.
Defeated by it, we found willing neighbours to help us
out. Generous chaps!
Our reluctance to eat more was based on the knowledge
that a tiramisu was to follow – the chef’s signature
pudding, and as far removed from the conventional
version as one might imagine. And if my ears did not
deceive me, he was promising a month of tiramisu, with
‘additions’ mentioned including lobsters and truffles.
But then perhaps I was dreaming too.
We each drank the house wine and I tried both the white
– a South African Sauvignon Blanc – and the red, a
Merlot from the same country, both at 210 baht per
glass. The wine list is an impressive affair with
bottles ranging from around 1,400 baht up to a heady
8,000 plus for a Pomerol. There are 30 cocktails on
offer (190- 220), and a vast range of soft and alcoholic
drinks, including eau de vie, Cognacs and grappa, plus
six variations on the classic martini – with one
dedicated to 007. I settled for an espresso!
So, all in all an impressive place. If I had to
criticize I’d say that the room seemed a little large
and over-full with seating, and the background music and
sound system could stand a little improvement. But the
overall impression is cool – in both conventional senses
of the word. Delightfully cool and decidedly serious. A
pretty heady combination.
You will find it open from 11 in the morning until 11 at
night. The recently opened Le Meridien is at 108 Chang
Klan Road, Chiang Mai, next to the night bazaar.
Chinese prawn with bean sprouts
We have just had the annual vegetarian festival, which lasts
nine days. Whilst this is not strictly a vegetarian dish, it is an original
Chinese dish from Peking, but over the years has been progressively refined, to
make it more of a western item these days. However, it is very flavorsome - just
don’t overdo the tomato ketchup!
Wash the bean sprouts under cold water, then
line a colander with paper towel and shake until dried.
Remove head and tail and shell of prawns, wash, dry on a
paper towel and chop roughly into small pieces.
In the wok heat the oil and add the crushed garlic and
stir-fry until golden brown, then scoop out the garlic and
discard. Add the finely sliced chilli, then the bean sprouts
and stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds.
Now add the salt, vinegar, sugar, tomato ketchup, ginger
root, chopped prawn and chicken stock. Bring quickly to the
boil and leave for one minute.
Serve in a warmed dish with steamed jasmine rice.
Ingredients Serves 4
Prawns, de-shelled, chopped 125 gm
Sunflower oil 4
Garlic, crushed 1 clove
Red chilli seeded, sliced 1 small
Salt 1 tspn
Icing sugar ½ tbspn
Tomato ketchup 1 tbspn
Ginger root, grated fresh ½ tspn
Chicken stock 4 tbspns