The name is long. But also its history. For ‘The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar’ was once the British Consulate in Chiang Mai back in 1921. This is the place once bustled with political economic, trading and diplomatic activities that were highlights of the day. And if you love things of the pasts (as well as good food – like me), you will sure appreciate the fact that they managed to preserve this building so well. And not just the building building, but also some key elements of its glorious (and some quite grim) pasts. Like, the torturing chamber (now a very exciting private drinking room) and the secret room (now the very special private dining room:).
We once visited the Chiang Mai Gymkana Golf Club just to take a look at this very very magnificent ancient flame tree. Recorded to be around since the year 1898, that tree can unquestionably give a strong reminiscence of the days when Chiang Mai was practically a rich rich tropical rainforest dense with the precious teaks that were the sources that attracted the influx of foreign traders into the kingdom. British apparently played a key role and somehow, given the circumstances of the eras, Thailand never had to announce a national day. Everyday has been our national day since the day of Siam. And we all have our Kings and ancestors to thank for.
Anyway, back to this gorgeous place. Now it is the highlight, if I may, for the Anatara Chiang Mai. The downstairs is the bar with wrapping outdoor balconies where guests can also choose to savour a set (or more) of afternoon tea or chilling with some cocktails al fresco. There’s also an air-conditioned area (which was our choice) by the real bar, where we perched during their happy hours (with 50% off the cocktails), enjoying our refreshments in the making and snacking on the delicious tapioca crisps (มันกัลยา หรือมันอาลู อร่อยมากหยุดไม่ได้ ไม่มัน เนื้อเบา รสชาติเค็มเพียงเล็กน้อยซึ่งดีมากกับเครื่องดื่มค่ะ).
But there’s more to the place than drinks. The meal served at the upstairs restaurant was also hearty and delicious. The menu consists of Thai northern, Chinese, and Vietnamese selections – a rare menu combination, but well reflecting the histories of this area. Also, dining here is a lovely experience. They just put everything so well together, from the themed uniforms of their staff to the menu (came in an envelop with ‘TOP SECRET’ stamp), as well as utensils and glasses that gave a camping feel. Well, if you were here back in the 1920s, camping you needed to do to be here anyway. Rainforest..remember?
Anyway, given the amount of food on the menu, it was quite hard for us to make the decisions. So we ordered two dishes that were Northern Thai (แอ๊ปปลา Baby Sea Bream Fillets Grilled in Banana Leaf 泰北风味烤鱼 Bt320++) that came in two big pieces of fish wrapped in banana leave. So delicious. Aromatic with mixture of herbs. Went excellently with the rice, of course.
We also had this lovely ต้มยำไก่ใส่หัวปลี Tom Yum Gai Sai Hua Plee 辣鸡肉汤 (Bt220++) which was interestingly served Japanese ‘Kami Nabe’ style in a flame-resisting paper pot. The broth of tom yum also contained coconut milk, making the soup quite similar to tom kha gai, but not exactly. This soup was hearty, so well flavoured. Loved it very much.
We didn’t know how big the portions of the food here would be, and coming from Bangkok, we ordered two more. One was the fried prawns in tamarind sauce (very tasty and big portion) and a whole fried fish Szechuan style (Bt555++) which was fantastic and big.
For dessert, we had kluay buad chee (Bt120++) and tabtim krob (Bt120++). And here’re some lovely twists. See how these two usually normal Thai desserts were served here? My kluay buad chee which is usually made from local white banana called kluay namwa was made from the yellow one (kluay kai) and served with a scoop of coconut ice cream that was meant to make a hot-cold combination to this otherwise very ordinary dessert. Also, for tabtim krob here, instead of serving the jewels in coconut milk like everyone else, they served it as a creamy and rich pana cotta, together with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, giving this well known Thai dessert a new lovely taste.
If you are looking for a special place to drink and dine, just come over. This is an excellent place to spend some great time in Chiang Mai. Good food and services and the fact that this place is historical and beautiful is a huge plus on top of their excellent fares. Also, the prices were quite reasonable with generous portions of food.
The Service 1921 Restaurant and BarAnantara Chiang Mai
Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Asian Light Bites: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Tel: +66 53 253 333