Shropshire Star

Food review: Ultimate taste of Thai delights at the Giggling Squid in Shrewsbury

Just around the corner from Giggling Squid, in Shrewsbury, were two traffic wardens. They’d just walked the length of a street in Shrewsbury at too-late-to-be-working-o’clock, stickering cars that were using unused loading bays because other car parks were full. ‘Tis the season for goodwill, and all that. And it makes you wonder where the political will is to save ailing town centres?

Squid bits were a real highlight

At a time when online shopping dominates, and at a time of day when there are no deliveries, wouldn’t it be sensible for policy makers – that’s the people for whom we vote – to either relax parking restrictions or install payment meters, rather than clobber people with fines. If there’s one sure way to drive people away from town centres at a time when councils need to attract them, it’s putting late-at-night fines on vehicles that are safely out of harm’s reach.

Town centre restaurants would benefit and councils would receive lots of small parking payments, rather than the occasional fine from people who’d be deterred from visiting again.

But I digress, because Giggling Squid, an exceptional new restaurant, was doing a busy trade earlier this week.

The restaurant chain was founded by Pranee in Brighton and it’s since spread to around 40 or 50 towns and cities across the UK. Lucky old Shrewsbury to get one of the UK’s most enjoyable chains.

Pranee wanted to to create the ultimate Thai experience here in the UK and devised a restaurant that replicated the way people eat their meals in Thailand.

In Pranee’s words: “It’s about sharing lots of dishes, celebrating the abundance of flavours and ingredients in a relaxed setting – no standing on ceremony or dressing up to enjoy the food and each other’s company. It was also important for me to focus on beautiful décor – to create a place where customers can delight in the surroundings as well as the food.”

She’s smashed it, frankly, and created an exceptional restaurant that should fly here in Shropshire. That’s not to say there aren’t areas for improvement. There are, and mostly in the front of house, with a young and inexperienced waiting team, perhaps to be expected as the restaurant has only just opened. An experienced and mature restaurant manager brought a sense of calm and was constantly offering words of wisdom and reassurance when I called in for a midweek supper.

The interior was delightful. While it was over-staffed – there must have been six front of house staff when three experienced team members would have managed – the space was great.

Light and airy, colourful and modern, it matched the food, providing a fresh and vibrant place in which to eat.

In its own words, Giggling Squid is all about the spirit of Thai mealtimes with delicious dishes to share with your friends and family. Featuring an iconic botanical interior, Shrewsbury’s branch offers a stunning setting and welcoming atmosphere.

The menu was magnificent and helped to bring Thai dining into the 21st century.

Each dish – from the chain’s famous Salt & Pepper Squid to a crowd-pleasing Sticky Chicken – was a work of love, exploring Thailand’s richness of natural ingredients from the land and sea.

I started with a small bowl of prawn crackers, not realising I was coughing up £4 for the privilege. The crackers were fine and a sweet chilli dip was also good, although might have been served in a more generous portion.

Prawn crackers

My starter was great – the stand-out dish of the evening. Squid bits – well, when in Rome, or, more accurately, when in Giggling Squid – were a treat. They featured squid tails in a light, delicate batter that were garnished with chilli, lime leaf, spring onions, fried shallots, and garlic. A magnificently zesty lime, garlic and Thai herb sauce was provided for dipping – and it packed a flavoursome punch. The dish made for easy, enjoyable eating and sashayed its way across my tastebuds like a high-kicking, can-can dancer.

Chicken in sticky sauce

The main was almost as good. Sticky chicken featured a bowl of crispy fried chicken served in bite-sized pieces in a sweet’n’sticky glaze. It was magnificently tasty. Served with a bowl of tom yum fried rice, with plenty of lime, galangal, chilli, and soy sauce, it was light, refreshing, satisfying, and filled with flavour.

I intended to stay to enjoy a dessert – they serve mini portions, so that you can try things out – but service was a bit apples and pears and a mix-up on the order – meant it was easier to get my coat.

First impressions count and mine had been impressive, when it came to Giggling Squid.

An inviting presence

It’s a great concept that’s been executed well and, with the exception of a need for more experience among the front of house team, it’s already flying.

Shrewsbury has long needed more high quality restaurants serving Thai and Chinese cuisine and Giggling Squid does just that. In a great, welcoming environment, it serves well-priced, deliciously enticing dishes that are good fun, are light and spicy, and leave customers wanting more.

Giggling Squid is a very welcome addition and will doubtless become a must-visit for county diners.

It will doubtless improve its front of house offering – and let’s hope the local council also improves the way it attracts people to make the most of Shrewsbury’s night time economy.

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