I imagine the term ‘Thai tapas’ would be lost on the people of Thailand. I also imagine that if you ask for tapas in certain parts of Bangkok you’ll get a very different experience to what I had. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll also part with a fair wad of money and receive an ending anything but happy. Thai tapas is an ugly term, as incorrect as a mezze of sushi, or a Mexican thali. It’s an excuse to sell small plates in multiples so that you forget about the bill. It’s a ploy to convince you to share when the portions aren’t large enough. Thai cuisine is mostly enjoyed ‘family style’ without the need to attach a Spanish term to it that people may have heard of.
The Thai tapas menu is one of three menus provided here at the recently opened Giggling Squid. One for drinks and another for the evening menu, which you’ll need to find the descriptions of dishes like ‘golden money bags’ which are listed by name only on the tapas menu. It took me five minutes to work out that ‘Hawker style moo pigs’ wasn’t an edible personalised birthday card. We order drinks. Another person arrives to ask us what we want to drink. Then another. It’s haphazard if well meant. The drinks arrive. They’ll appeal to a crowd that isn’t me. Everything is sweet.
Four tapas dishes between two kickstart our meal. They are all dreadful. Phuket mussels need the British pronunciation treatment; bouncier than a pair of fake tits and nowhere near as fun, they sit a Panang gravy that is tasty and likely made in a central kitchen. Sumai prawns are overcooked and have a whiff of iodine, whilst a quad of pork dumplings arrive in shotglasses, skin an inch thick and in urgent need of circumcising. Remember what I said about the sharing scam? Two tiny skewers of chicken satay, saccharine and gloopy are yours for £6.50. Over the road at Sabai Sabai you’ll get four larger ones in a balanced sauce for under eight quid.
If you are going to display a lack of taste by booking a table here, at least take the duck red curry. The sauce is balanced, and the duck is deboned with crispy skin, reinforcing my thoughts that the chain has a central kitchen to carry out the hard work. It’s a sauce that would benefit from a few days in a bag before being reheated. Don’t, unless you are sixteen and here on your first date, take the sticky chicken. It’s coated in a tamarind syrup of sorts that has none of the sourness and all the sweet. The chicken is dry. The only sticky part is explaining to the nice young gentleman why I don’t like it as he removes the plates. There’s roti and egg fried rice, and a side of pak choi that’s at least serviceable. We didn’t need dessert, but we took it; a sorbet based on pina colada which was actually very nice and an overset coconut panacotta in a bowl of coconut milk and raspberry jam. My dining companion says it tastes like the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference jam. Given the lunch we don’t rule it out.
Service was polite if naive, and the Italian red we shared was really very good for thirty quid. A quick look on the internet indicates that you’ll likely see a lot of bloggers writing about Giggling Squid over the coming weeks, though almost certainly none will be parting with a bill well north of a ton, even with a 50% discount applied to the bill. Sabai Sabai sits 100m up the road, a family owned Thai of a similar price point where the food is cooked fresh. Spend your money there instead.