Restaurant review: The Giggling SquidBy Kim Francis
January 02, 2013
Spicy hot food is probably not the best idea when you’re suffering from the night before.
Maybe it’s okay for some, but for me when I first visited Hove’s Giggling Squid, I went for sea bass, which turned out to be really, eye-wateringly hot.
It wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Authentic Thai food can be very spicy – hence the liberal use of coconut milk in many of its dishes. It tempers the heat you see. Suffice to say, I didn’t get through all that much of the food in front of me.
So, anyway, when I heard there was a Giggling Squid opening in Henley, I was keen to give it another go, despite my previous ‘ordeal’.
I’d only ever heard good things about the chain, which has restaurants in Brighton, Crawley and Tunbridge Wells as well as Hove, and now the riverside home of the well-known regatta, and surely it deserved a proper crack of the whip.
It was Adam, the man in my life, who told me about the new place in Henley. So I felt it proper to take him with me when I booked a table on a chilly late November evening, a week or so after it opened.
You’d expect some teething problems from a new restaurant and I’d say the most niggling issue we encountered on the night was the length of time between courses – we did have to remind them we were waiting. Of course, there’s a careful balance to strike.
You don’t want to be ushered in and out too soon – but you also don’t want to wait forever for your food.
Fortunately, Adam and I distracted ourselves well enough with wine and conversation for it not to matter. The wine was a fresh and zesty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£19.95) that went down very easily.
A simple Seared Scallops starter (£7) was oozing juice and had a delicious dressing with a good measure of spice that I preferred to the scallops themselves.
Yummy Duck Spring Rolls (£6.45) came recommended on the menu and, although they were crisp and crunchy, were once again improved by the sauce – in this case, a rich plum sauce.
We went for a third starter to share – Salt & Pepper Squid (£6.50), which had a perfectly flaky coating, and wasn’t rubbery at all.
Then we waited for mains. And we waited. And we all but finished our wine and then we waited some more. And then we said something.
And then they came.
Adam had ordered the signature dish, called (what else?) Giggling Squid (£10.50). Sticking to the tentacled sea creature theme wasn’t a bad idea, seeing as the squid was our favourite of the starters, and Adam found these baby squids filled with minced chicken something of a curiosity.
Steamed and then fried in batter, the squid was a little chewy but the flavours in the dish were really something to write home about – a careful balance of hot and sweet – and I kept thieving scoops of sauce and garnish. There was plenty there for a hearty appetite.
I love prawns, so went for the Koong Prik Thai (£11.95), a dish of sautéed prawns with black pepper, coriander and garlic. The prawns were meaty but light, and though the overriding taste was of garlic it took the edge off any sweetness perfectly.
We shared some sticky rice (£2.95) and a helping of Prawn Pad Thai (£8.25) which turned out to be my favourite dish, all shredded vegetables, noodles, chopped nuts and sweet sauce encased in an eye-catching eggy web.
Whether I was full or not, there was no way I was leaving without trying the Sweet Sticky Rice Banana Parcel (£5.50) for dessert.
A traditional Thai street food concoction, it’s a really thick and sticky creation of rice that is soaked in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves then steamed.
On its own, it was pretty bland but with the coulis and ice cream accompaniments, it was quite wonderful.
Adam tried the black sesame flavour ice cream which mainly tasted of sesame seeds, and we decided you can’t knock them for that, that’s exactly what it should taste of.
I finished with a pot of Flora ‘flowering’ tea (£4.95), an infusion that had apparently appeared on Dragons’ Den. It had a delicate aromatic flavour that I found refreshing, Adam found soapy. But then he had just knocked back a double espresso (£3.50).
And so it ended, and we headed back out into the cold Henley night, appetites sated, cockles warmed.