Secluded rendezvous

You can choose the restaurant, but you can’t choose who sits at the table next to you. We were squeezed between a table with a blonde Australian woman in pink, who announced to the restaurant – and her subdued companions – her reasons for becoming a vegetarian, and a table of Americans who were screeching less loudly but no less obtrusively about shows in New York. A few Thais chatted in hushed tones in a corner, hopefully unaware of their dining cohorts’ bad manners.

The great art beaming down at us from the walls – it’s a mixed-media exhibition entitled ‘The World According to Kongpat’ by Thai artist Kongpat Sakdapitak – took on another quality: silence.

This was my second visit to Eat Me. The first was made late last year, when candles were dotted up the wooden staircase leading to the second floor restaurant which looks out into a small green courtyard.

The intimacy of the small restaurant was then a positive attribute; there were just a few tables of softly-spoken people enjoying the ambience enhanced by the great jazz playing over the soundsystem. I had a duck dish that was so fabulous I did something I had never done before: I asked for a doggie bag to take the portion I couldn’t finish home.

This time, the candles are gone, but the jazz is still creating an urbane mood which is further extended by the chatty staff who seat us. The tables are a little high, making us feel a bit like kids in kindergarten: the butcher paper covering the tables and accompanied by a glass of well-sharpened colour pencils only further made us want to indulge in being demanding kids once again.

The drinks menu isn’t extensive but covers good ground: try the tangerine juice (Bt 60) for a change, or the iced lemon and cinnamon tea (Bt 60) which comes with free refills if you’re off the hard stuff, or maybe a frozen blue daiquiry if you’re not. The wine list offers a reasonable choice, with house wine at 95 baht a glass.

I was actually most impressed by the presentation of the water, which is served in translucent glass bottles with a sprig of vibrant green mint inside.

While waiting for our second round of drinks we got an inkling of the standard of service to come. There was confusion over what we asked for, wine glasses were unnecessarily brought to the table and a bottle of beer arrived without a glass.

The service was not so much poor as confused; the staff were very obliging but there actually seemed to be too many waiters dealing with us. If this is not already done, assigning waiters to particular tables might be a good way to improve things on busier evenings.

Drinks in hand again, we perused the menu, which changes weekly. When we visited it offered a great international selection, leaning towards but not dominated by Italian-influenced dishes.

Eat Me wins big points for its complementary bread, brought to the table warm and doughy (twice) with accompaniments. The whole cloves in the bulb of roasted garlic are sweet and creamy and extinguish all thoughts about the scent of one’s breath tomorrow. I would seriously return for more of this garlic alone, and it’s not even on the menu. Olive oil with a dollop of balsamic vinegar, tangy horseradish and a capsicum mixture are also good offerings.

Our gang ordered each of the three soups on offer (Bt 70 each), bypassing the five other starter choices which included a bocconcini, basil and tomato salad (Bt 180) and a warm spicy chicken salad with almond flakes and champagne vinegar dressing (Bt 180).

The tomato and basil soup was delicate and struck a good acidity. The potato and leek was smooth and satisfying while the sturdy minestrone also drew favourable comments. I confess that I was intrigued by the side order of fat potato chips (Bt 80) and tried these too. They were, indeed, chunky and fat.

A dozen choices were carefully weighed up for mains. Vegetarians could try the pumpkin ravioli with tomato sauce (Bt 180) or the grilled eggplant bocconcini stack (Bt 250), while seafood lovers could go for the fried fish with chips and tartar sauce (Bt 230) or the grilled trevally filet with spinach and seafood sauce (Bt 250).

One of our party tried the smoked salmon and vegetable lasagna (Bt 220). A bit heavy with the cream, this diner was furthermore disappointed by the size of his side five-lettuce salad (Bt 50) which arrived towards the end of the meal.

Two ordered the slow pan-fried duck breast with dijon sauce (gruyere cheese is a second sauce option) (Bt 290). Both complained that the generous serving of duck was slightly dry; but the two who demanded a taste declared it to be rather delicious.

I was very pleased with my choice: the lamb chops with rosemary, vegetable stew and a red wine sauce. It was full-flavoured and perfect comfort food after being soaked by Songkran revellers on the way to the restaurant. The three chops were meaty and streaked with a nice amount of fat.

We placed a dessert order for two sticky date puddings with hot butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (Bt 110) which we spent some time waiting for. When we tried to cancel, one pudding quickly appeared with the complements of the restaurant. We enjoyed it, finally, in the calm that descended on the restaurant as the loudest table left.

There’s a good range of coffee and tea if you choose to linger: good to see decafe and soy milk on the menu.

Eat Me was a great restaurant when I last visited, and this visit indicated that it still has the makings of a classy contemporary restaurant. It was unfortunate that our dining cohorts didn’t enjoy the atmosphere as much as we were trying to, and a shame that the service wasn’t up to scratch, but a third visit will certainly be due in another few months.

Eat Me, Soi Phipat 2. Prices quoted above do not include a 10 per cent service charge. Reservations can be made by phoning 238 0931. Open 6 pm to 1 am daily.

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