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The Garden Bar & Restaurant offers a full range of beers,spirits & boasts a superb wine list. The menu is unique in that it is the only restaurant in Chiang Mai that features Lebanese cuisine. However, other international viands along with delicious Thai food can also be found making this a favourite with locals as well as tourists. Do ask to see the wine list as you will be pleasantly surprised at the wide variety and the excellence in which it has been compiled. The Garden Bar and Restaurant is a very friendly place to go for alfresco dining,snacks or just a sociable drink and friendly conversation. Ample parking is available on the premises.
If you have never experienced Lebanese cuisine then you don’t know what your missing and if you don’t know a kebbeh from a tabouleh, the Garden Bar and restaurant is a good place to get your bearings. The food is fragrant, the service is friendly and the breezy garden is a nice change. It’s a cheerful little spot with fresh Lebanese, Western and Thai offerings but it’s the Lebanese dishes that make it a real dining destination. The Garden Bar and Restaurant are indeed a hotel bar and restaurant but they stand alone as a testament to one man’s passion for his native treats and sweets.
Among the many starters available, I think the standout as well as the best sampling dish is the “Mezze Platter” which includes a healthy portion of potato with coriander and garlic, braised cauliflower, hummus, babaganouj and mushrooms in coriander and garlic. Mezze is equivilant to Spanish tapas which means “little tastes”, a snacking tradition. Each dish is delicious unto itself but also scrumptious when blended together on a piece of freshly baked pita bread. And fear not…if you fall in love with one of the dishes they are all on offer separately in large portions too. Another personal favorite of mine is the “Head of Garlic Roasted in Olive Oil”. Here the chef takes a whole large head of garlic, slices off the top, covers the garlic in olive oil and bakes the whole thing in foil. The result is delicious, smooth cloves that are easily removed and spread on the accompanying toast for a yummy and healthy taste treat.
On the main course side, one should try the “Kafta in the Oven” made with fresh ground beef, parsley and onions, fresh tomatoes and potatoes baked in a tomato sauce with pomegranate puree. There is also an excellent “Chicken ala Kiev” consisting of a beautiful chicken filet stuffed with garlic, herbs and butter and baked in the oven. You may have noticed that the majority of the dishes on offer are healthy and many are also vegetarian. Another touch that sets the Garden Bar apart are the housemade pickles.
Any visitor to a Lebanese restaurant should also dip into the housemade Hummus, pronounced Hoomoos which is a Turkish word meaning “the real thing”. It’s a wonderful, smooth chickpea puree with a lemony tang and a deep flavor served on that fresh, puffy pita bread.
Desserts range from the Western housemade “Cheesecake” to the Lebanese “Namoura with Almonds and Cream in Lemon Curd and Caramel” and also include delicious sorbets made on site from seasonal fruits. Rumor has it that “Shawarma” (a Lebanese version of the Greek Gyro) is coming soon for you lamb lovers as well as a “Cherries Jubilee” for the sweet tooths like me. Plans are also in the mix for an indoor area for those who prefer four walls and an air conditioner.
No one is perfect and on some occasions the food can come out slow so order on arrival. Everything is fresh so go on a night when you can enjoy a slow food experience rather than a quick bite. If you want to enjoy any of these treats in the comfort of your own home the Lebanese food section of the Lotus Menu is available to order on Meals on Wheels for U. Bon Appetite!
Why, someone asked me recently, had I never thought about reviewing The Garden Bar and Restaurant, which is a place I eat at with modest regularity and pleasure – at least once a month. A good question, and especially apt since the sensibly modest menu has been expanded in the past months. I guess part of the answer is because one thinks of it firstly as a bar and also as an adjunct to a hotel, the Lotus – a place to eat conveniently on their monthly quiz night, (arranged by none other than the Mail’s chief photographer – that man gets everywhere!) or when visiting people who live near-by.
Certainly, it is worth a visit, not least because the clearly expressed menu comes in three sections: Thai, western dishes and Lebanese, of which there are some 20 choices in the first group and only slightly less in the others. The Thai food includes such staples as chicken with cashew nuts, fried rice with prawns, (95 baht), some salads and soups. The western choices range from such things as hamburgers, with a plentiful side order of French fries and pork chops with ginger at 145 baht. For the more unusual Lebanese options one may start off, (excellent to share and then move on to individual main course), with hummous with pitta bread or the same classic bread grilled with mozzarella cheese, each at 100 baht. The main courses come plentifully garnished, with potatoes, rice and vegetables.
Naturally, since the centre piece of the courtyard and garden restaurant area is a very well stocked bar, drinks are in plentiful supply and wine may be had by the glass or bottle. Beers include Singha at 60 baht and others including Heineken, plus a stock of spirits and soft drinks. There is a small, rather prettier, eating section to the right of the bar near the hotel entrance and some larger wooden tables around the bar itself. This is the more convivial area, since it is open and. if one is eating alone, one is likely to see familiar faces around and – happily – some fresher ones.
As you’ll have gathered from the few prices given, this is not an overly expensive place and the food is cooked to order – the menu says up to 30 minutes cooking time, but this has never been the case from my experience. And starters arrive especially promptly since they require less preparation – waiting time is therefore minimal.
This is an unpretentious restaurant with exceptionally friendly staff and a pleasant ambience. I think that many people – myself included – take it for granted. In one version or another, the hotel and its associated bar and eatery have always been with us. I certainly recall that on my first ever visit to Chiang Mai, (could it be some 20 years ago? Or more?), I certainly stayed at the Lotus. Whether I had food there other than breakfast, I certainly cannot recall. It’s rather like an old friend… taken for granted.