A couple of months ago there was some terrible news: the owner of the Bangkok Brasserie and the Bengal Sage, the best Thai and Indian restaurants I had ever eaten at, had run into tax difficulties and was closing his restaurants! This was heartbreaking news; these two restaurants, the Bangkok Brasserie in particular, were two of the places that made Winchester great. Team Elitistreview felt much sadness.
Then joy! We heard that Shah, the Maitre d’ at the Bangkok Brasserie had taken over the lease to the Bengal Sage and installed his staff there. The Bangkok Brasserie had been reborn as Manow[ref]Manow means ‘lime’ in Thai.[/ref]. Team Elitistreview felt elated!
We visited last week and found Shah distinctly happy to be his own boss and, as he always has been, friends with everyone who walked in the door of Manow. He is more charming than any member of the wine trade – I suppose he gets the immediate pleasure of seeing people being made happy by his food.
Shah is going to to try and experiment with more fresh flavours and local ingredients than he could at the Bangkok Brasserie. Since he has the best Thai chef I have met in this country I feel he will have no problems doing so.
Which brings me to the subject of ordering in Thai restaurants, and any type of restaurant where you share the dishes. The chef will have a far better idea of what is in season and, perhaps more importantly, what he thinks he makes well and enjoys. Your order should always be, “I would like what the chef thinks in best, prepared how he would like to eat it, please!”If you have one dish that you would particularly like to try, it is acceptable to ask for a portion of that. We wanted to try a new thing on the menu, duck larb, and so asked if we could have a portion of that. Tits, it was stellar in its fresh flavours, unctuous in its rich duckiness – first rate food. We may be ordering that as a special favourite for many a visit to come.
What you are definitely not allowed to do is suggest you know better than the chef and give asinine instructions about how your food should be prepared. The biggest piece of cretinous twattery that people come out with at Thai restaurants is “Not too spicy, please.” This is like going into Hawksmoor and saying you would like your steak, “Not too meaty, please”.
Moreover, it insults the chef by suggesting that you know better than him about how Thai food should be prepared. Very few people know how to make Thai food better than the chef at Manow and you should consider yourself god-damned lucky to be getting the authentic stuff made by a true master.
If you are thinking “I like Thai food, but I don’t like it very hot”, then you clearly love some bastardisation of Thai food rather than good, real Thai food; so you should not be dining at such a brilliant place as Manow, where real Thai food hangs out.
Someone at the table next to us muttered that there we not many vegan options – if I ran a restaurant the vegan option would be showing the silly fart the door.
That being said, having ordered “What the chef would like to eat prepared how he would like to eat it” I do not recall global thermonuclear war in any of the dishes we had. Some dishes were definitely lively and it may be my experience of chillies could have made the food seem, to me, less frightening than other diners would have. It was good that when The Editor and I left Manow for home, the only things warming us were the weather and a shared brilliant experience.
Now, I cannot overstate that last statement: dining at Manow is a truly great experience. It is far better than any Thai restaurant I have ever dined at, including all the flash ones in London. Every single dished oozed with the complex, subtle, spicy, aromatic flavours of Thai food, but cooked with peerless skill and style.
Each dish is an exciting, subtle, perfectly balanced entity of unparalleled pleasure. And they are cooked with love – love for the ingredients, love for the process of preparation and love for the guests. This clearly true as everything is so utterly lovely and filled with charm. This is THE destination restaurant for Thai food.
Now, I’ve written enough, I hope, to tempt you to visit Manow, you will not regret it. Therefore, rather than write an essay about each dish we had, I shall just present a picture gallery of what we ate. If you was some more details about Manow food you can look at my Bangkok Brasserie posts here, and just imagine the food is considerably better.
Book you table at Manow now, it will easily be one of the best meals you will ever have!
Here are the Manow food porn pictures:
Far be it for me to criticise your esteemed review but I should perhaps mention that I lived in Thailand for a few years and my daughter in law is a Thai. She is staying with us at the moment,and advises me that it is perfectally acceptable to advise the restaurant the level of spice you wish in your food. In fact,she did just that (in Thai of course) when we were at dinner two evenings ago
Otherwise,a good review and ,like you,I love authentic Thai food
There may be some wiggle room for a native or one who has had time to assimilate the local culture and etiquette . However, when one rarely has a Thai meal, or in this case knows the chef to be a master of his art, I would suggest one would get the best food and most enjoyment if they followed my ordering advice.
I didn’t know you liked Thai food, Mr P! It’s great stuff, one of the most interesting cuisines in the world, historically as well as flavourfully. If you ever have a lunch time devoid of serving amazing wines at three-stars, you must come down and be delighted my the food at Manow Thai. The food is so good you’ll be spirited back to that five-year stint, only with Dani and me there to provide witty banter!