SINCE opening in the heart of Jericho last year, Giggling Squid has been welcoming fans of Thai comfort food.

Light, airy and stylish, the premises are huge but still manage to feel intimate. A massive improvement on the previous occupants, the dreadful Loch Fyne (which couldn’t even get fish right), it offers exotic flavours and friendly service in oddly un-Thai surroundings. Instead of Buddha statues and weaving, expect a nautical ambience – with line drawings of sea creatures and lots of bleached wood.

Having dropped in for dinner shortly after it opened, and being bamboozled by the lengthy menu, I was keen to try out its slimmed-down lunchtime list – and to spend a leisurely afternoon dispelling the February gloom with light but vibrantly- flavoured food... and a decent bottle of wine.

As afficionados of Thai food will know, the preferred modus operandi is to get a selection of dishes and share – with small amounts of many dishes. It’s a sociable and enjoyable way to eat – especially if you dine as they do in north and, especially, north east Thailand, and eat with your hands, around a steaming basket of sticky rice.

Oxford Mail:

Giggling Squid is something of a ‘gateway’ Thai restaurant, with the more extreme flavours and searing chilli heat, softened and tempered for western palates.

Its lunchtime menu offers some exciting combinations, however, marketing them as ‘tapas’ – which is a reasonable comparison. It offers several fixed combos of three dishes, most including one of three varieties of curry, plus jasmine rice for between a tenner and £13.

We fancied ranging a bit wider though, so chose a selection from the ‘tapas’ menu – with all dishes costing about a fiver each.

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Three dishes each are probably enough, but so enticing is the menu it’s hard to hold back.

Between us, we covered the table with pots and platters of lamb Massaman curry (mild and sweet but thick and deeply satisfying), Thai chicken wings (like normal wings but daintier and garnished with thin slices of chilli), mah kwan pepper pork belly (tiny thumb-nail size chunks of sweet, glazed meat), tenderstem & pak choi (wonderfully fresh, juicy pak choi leaves and stems in a light soy sauce and tough broccoli stems) and salt & pepper squid – which is practically a signature dish and easily the best, with generous breaded knuckles of fresh, sweet squid with plenty of texture and a mild dip (ask for extra sliced chilli if you have a taste for heat).

Oxford Mail:

f you’re a big fan of one dish in particular, you can also order a full size portion for about £8 with rice. And being huge lovers of curry, it made perfect sense to order big portions of red and green – both with prawn.

Of these the reds took the crown, being zesty and warming with just a tickle of spice – certainly nothing to scare the horses.

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The green was mighty fine too, though lacked many of the ingredients you’d find in a truly authentic Thai recipe – though, admittedly, it is aimed at western diners, for whom chunks of pungent galangal, bitter baby ‘pea’ eggplant and stems of woody lemongrass lurking at the bottom of the pot, may not be appreciated. There was a generous amount of plump prawns, however, which were particularly fine.

The puds were also very un-Siamese, but nonetheless fabulous. The best was a chocolate fondant dish called, delightfully, melting heart chocolate dessert (£5.95). This was served warm, with a molten chocolate core which oozed out, melting onto creamy vanilla ice cream.

Sensuous and satisfying it was described as "the best pudding ever!" which isn't a bad accolade. With its oozing warm chocolate, it was also great fun – and that seems to be Giggling Squid’s great appeal.

Oxford Mail:

Yes it’s a chain, and more truly complex and authentic food can be found elsewhere, but it’s a fabulous place for great food with a genuine Thai smile.

  • Giggling Squid
  • 55 Walton Street, Oxford 
  • Book at oxford@gigglingsquid.com
  • 01865557696
  • MENU: gigglingsquid.com/restaurant/oxford/
  • DO TRY: The salt and pepper squid is fabulous – juicy and with just the right amount of chewiness. All the curries are great particularly the red. If you like noodles, go for a pad Thai –a ‘Thai fry’ of rice noodles, tofu and your choice of meat or veg, plus a sprinkling of peanut and chilli. As the Thais say: “aroy dee” – delicious! 

OFFER: 'Granentine’s Day'

While Valentine's Day is for lover and 'Galentine’s Day; is all about celebrating the amazing females in your life, the family-focussed team at Giggling Squid have hit upon a new way of celebrating the ultimate gal pal, your grandma!

This week, the restaurant is spicing things up for grans and is renaming 13th February, Granentine’s Day!

With caring for family and elders at the heart of Thai culture, Giggling Squid is going against the grain, launching Granentine’s Day to celebrate grandparents. It is offering a free dessert to grandparents when they’re treated to a meal out by their family on the 13th February.

Pranee Laurillard, who cooked up Giggling Squid alongside her husband Andy, back in 2002, says: “Giggling Squid’s entire ethos is centred around Thai culture, and in Thailand we believe that showing respect to elderly friends and relatives is the root of good manners. So, what better way to show our respect for our elders than to dedicate an entire day to celebrating them?

Oxford Mail:

"In Thailand we also treat elders as an honoured guest, whatever the occasion, so we’re rolling out the red carpet to grandparents on this special day, welcoming them to Giggling Squid as if they are coming into our home. We want families to enjoy our food, soak up the Giggling Squid atmosphere, and leave with happy hearts and fond memories of their time together.”

Giggling Squid’s free dessert offer will be available on 13th February 2020 only. Details at gigglingsquid.com