This small restaurant chain claims to produce staggeringly good Thai food. But does Giggling Squid live up to its own hype?
I wouldn’t normally review a restaurant that was part of a chain, but I’ve made an exception for Giggling Squid. There are a couple of reasons…
One. I love Thai food, and the folk from Giggling Squid claim to produce ‘staggeringly good Thai food’. So what’s a girl to do, but find out if these confident declarations have any substance.
Two. Giggling Squid is fairly small chain, with only 20 restaurants dotted around the south-east. And while the very first Squid opened for a giggle in Brighton, it’s tentacles are firmly fixed on Surrey with its HQ based in Guildford and three other restaurants peppered around the county in Esher, Reigate and Farnham.
And three. I’m contrary like that. Just ask Mr Muddy.
So, no doubt you want to know if the food at Giggling Squid is, as it claims, staggeringly good. The short answer is yes.
I dined at the Esher restaurant, and the decor is fresh and modern. It’s quite different from your typical Thai restaurant, with cool lighting, exposed brick feature walls, and bookshelves. No bamboo or palm trees here.
The menu also differs from traditional Thai restaurants in that it’s about lots of dishes that everyone shares. This is most notable on the lunch menu with choices to be made from the tapas set, the one big dish section or the two dish meal combi section. All the familiar favourites are there: Thai green curry, red curry, Thai pork dumplings, salt and pepper squid, spring rolls.
The evening menu offers a good choice of starters and salads, soups and mains. Mr Muddy and I decided to go for the tapas sharing platter to start. It comes with grilled pork on skewers, salt and pepper squid, Thai fish cakes and vegetable spring rolls. I asked to substitute the pork with the fried tofu from the vegetarian sharing platter and, while I’m sure the pork would have been great, it was a brilliant choice. I love tofu and this, like everything else on the platter was very yummy.
For mains Mr Muddy went for the Fishing Village, a mixed seafood red curry. He chose well, it was perfectly spiced with a generous mix of seafood. I almost had food envy. Almost. I chose the Stand Up Sea Bass, partly because I was intrigued by how a sea bass would be presented ‘standing on its tail, and partly because I’m a big fan of fish and sea bass is among my favourites.
I wasn’t disappointed – the fish was lovely. It was slightly fiddly separating the fish from the bones, but I’d expected that so it didn’t bother me. It comes with dressing made from peanuts, fresh chilli, shallots, limes, lemongrass and ginger, and it worked really well with the crunchy outside and soft moist fish meat.
I was planning to skip dessert as I think the puds in south-east Asian restaurants have a tough act to follow after the sumptuous mains. But when the dessert menu came out I was drawn to the offering of ice cream and sorbet, in particular the black sesame flavour. It’s made by a tiny shop in Brighton especially for the Giggling Squid. So, two scoops of ice cream it was: the black sesame flavour and the Brighton rose yoghurt ice cream.
I’d like to say that’s all we ordered, but the Caramelised Mango Cake also sounded pretty good, so we duly ordered both. (Piggy, I know!) They were beautifully presented, like all the dishes we had, and the both were divine, especially the ice cream.
So, getting back to the boastful claim about staggeringly good Thai food, and I’d have to say Giggling Squid have got it pretty right. Even if they do say so themselves.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone who loves Thai food, a buzzy atmosphere and sharing their food. Although sharing is not a must. It’s great for fish lovers, there’s plenty on the menu, and for those with food intolerances: there’s an allergy chart which tells you what contains gluten, MSG, and various other ingredients that may cause dietary problems including eggs, nuts, crustaceans, soya and sesame seeds.
Not for: Romantic one-to-ones, there are no quiet nooks to hold hands in here.
££: Good value I’d say. Most starters are £6-8, with the sharing platters £15.75-£17.25. Mains are around £15 for fish and seafood, with Thai chicken or veg curries around £10.
Giggling Squid, 57-59 High Street, Esher, KT10 9RQ. Tel: 01372 469 909. gigglingsquid.com