Giggling Squid Windsor
Fancy something totally different to traditional pub fayre, spice up your life and tuck into Thai tapas at the Giggling Squid. Fast, fabulous and fragrant.
Expect trumpets and flag waving on arrival, we’re off to Royal Windsor to the Giggling Squid! In the shadow of Windsor Castle, a stone’s throw from the River Thames and right next door to the Theatre Royal, the Giggling Squid is a brand spanking new restaurant serving Thai tapas.
What a great idea. I am one of those people who generally only eats Thai food on a Saturday night when I can’t be bothered to cook anything and don’t want the guilt of diving into the deep-fried depths of fish and chips. I always have the same thing – green or red chicken curry – and won’t ordinarily consider Thai unless I am in the mood to be fed up like a prize pig.
The Giggling Squid Windsor is a ch-ch- chain of 30 restaurants around the South East of England (including Wokingham, Marlow and Henley), that has seen a gap in the market for lighter, more varied, Thai dining and has attacked it with all the force of a ninja squad.
The interiors are quite stylish inside. The Thai restaurants near me are all in Ye Olde English pubs so to have something a bit more contemporary (even though the building itself has beams a-plenty) is a neat twist. There’s a large run of banquette seating, some booths like this one, and then a more traditional set up upstairs. There are faux flower panels, brass fittings in the loos – so there’s a nod to interior trends without being a dedicated follower of decor fashion.
On the Friday night I visited it was packed to rafters. There are three rooms (the place is a tardis) and pretty much every table was taken – creating a buzzy, fun atmosphere. The staff were amazing being the same fun feels to the night. They will help you navigate the menu, encourage you to try something a little different and will keep the drinks flowing.
SCOFF & QUAFF
I can’t pretend to be a connoisseur of Asian food, but when I went for dinner here, it tasted great to me, and I loved the dip-in nature of the menu and the mixy-matchy tapas conceit though of course if you feel like having a traditional pile-up, you can do that too.
Prawn crackers were essential while navigating the extensive menu – not the polystyrene packing foam crackers you get from your local Chinese takeaway, they were little spicy, thin and more of a crisp consistency. No complaints here. The starter menu is really good. Lots of faves and a few unknowns – watermelon salad and pork floss, anyone? Apparently, it’s bit like cotton candy with shredded pork. Hmm another time.
Mr Muddy and I wanted to try as much as we could, so we opted for a sharing platter: strips of hand-cut pork grilled on skewers, salt and pepper squid (my absolute all-time fave), Thai chicken wings, vegetable spring rolls. It’s served on a large wooden board and comes with a variety of dips (and heat). Great to try a little of everything and it was light yet packed full of flavour.
Moving on to the mains, I had to fight the urge to play it safe and have a green curry. Booooring! There are lots of meat, fish, seafood and veggie dishes to choose from, so it really is case of what floats your boat. We chose the Crying Beef, grilled sirloin marinated in Thai herbs accompanied with a spicy dipping sauce, with sticky rice; and the Sea Bass Pad Cha served with aromatic spicy Thai herbs and sauce garnished with basil leaves, fresh green peppercorn, grachai, lime leaves and coconut rice. Much needed to cool down my mouth which was feeling a little hot hot hot!
There is a helpful heat guide in the menu, and an extensive gluten free and kids menu. So everyone is catered. The sticky rice came in a cute basket, wrapped in plastic, which I think how it is traditionally served. Mr M was not convinced but it didn’t phase me in the slightest. The steak was cooked to perfection, the spices were fragrant and punchy. The sea bass was the star for me. Absolute perfection.
We were too stuffed for puds (sorry), and the menu is not extensive but there’s a nice choice of sorbets and ice cream, including the quirky black sesame flavour, alongside cheesecake, molten chocolate and mango cake.
Giggling Squid isn’t without its detractors – chains will often come in for some flack about authenticity and a lack of individuality – but for a lunch, bite to eat on the way to or from the theatre, or even an early dinner with the kids, I think it’s a great option.
OUT & ABOUT
When in Windsor a visit to the castle is the law or off to the tower you go. At the end of the month, Meghan’s wedding dress will be on display, so well worth a visit. A gentle stroll along the Thames towpath is always nice (swans, boats, rowers aplenty) and for the more enthusiastic take on the Long Walk and head up to the Copper Horse, an iconic statue of George III on horseback. Next door to The Giggling Squid is the Theatre Royal, so book in for a show, or panto will be coming and grab a bite to eat beforehand.
Good for: Anyone who loves Asian food for starters, but its extensive dining areas make it great spot for large groups, plus date nights, lunch with the girls (the cocktails are amazing) or nights when you can’t be bothered to cook. Eat in or takeaway, you can do either. Also veggies, vegans and gluten-free are all well catered for.
Not for: Those if you don’t like Thai, obvs. But also if you crave formality and crisp white table clothes, this is not going to be your bag. The menu isn’t going to excite hipsters, super-foodies or the super fussy, but it’s good for anyone who wants to break free from the same old, same old.
££: Good value. Starters are priced at £5.95, the platter was £16.95 and prawn crackers £3.50. Mains start at £9.95, up to £16.50 for a whole rack of ribs. Sides are for £2.95. Mix and match 2 small plates for little people for £5.95.