Following on from our ‘date’ at Sirocco, high above the bustle of Bangkok, Monsieur and I descended the sixty-something floors with ears popping in the express elevator and jumped in a cab to The Blue Elephant. Our driver looked more like a cutting edge DJ than a taxi driver (perhaps he was both?) with long black hair and some interesting man-bling. He didn’t really understand us. We definitely can’t speak Thai. Somehow, with some sign language and the restaurant’s business card, we finally made it to the two-storeyed colonial villa housing this international Thai food phenomenon.
The building itself was beautiful but it was dwarfed by the neighbouring high-rises. Its quaint charm made it look fragile. Once through the doors, though, we were transported. Well, sort of. The furniture and interiors were Thai all the way but, given that everyone else in the ground-floor dining room was Western, we felt a bit cliché, having been drawn to an obvious tourist mecca.
Once seated, we enjoyed our welcome drinks (which are always non-alcoholic tropical juice from a carton) and ordered. The rice was spooned out of a partitioned basket, slung over the shoulder of our waitress; in one side of the basket was white rice and in the other, brown. That definitely felt authentic.
We had prawns wrapped in leaves and soft shelled crab (my favourite when dining in this part of the world), and Thai curry and wiped our hands on hot towels scented with lemongrass. Naturally, we made the mistake of ordering wine which is always a rip off in Asia. We savoured it, knowing we may not be ordering any more for a while, but in reality, the local beer tastes good and is far better value. I’ve also been told that when travelling, you should always drink some local beer because it should be made with local water and is a relatively safe way of acclimatising your digestive system to a foreign place.
We couldn’t fault the food or the service. The Blue Elephant really was a slick operation, but it’s not great to sit surrounded by other tourists. It makes you feel like, well, a TOURIST. Gone in a flash is any sense of the intrepid traveller, which we’re all aspiring to be.
Then, on the way out a waitress handed me a long orchid in a tube. I’d heard of this happening at the London Blue Elephant, but as I’ve never been, I’ve never seen the rumour confirmed. Well, I was chuffed to bits. So chuffed, in fact, that when we left for Hanoi the following day, the orchid went with me. It survived nearly all of our travels in Vietnam, providing us with some sense of continuity and homeliness each time we changed centre. Only in Ho Chi Minh City did it start to wither. So thank you, Blue Elephant, not just for the wonderful food, but for the travelling orchid that helped me feel at home wherever we went. Highly recommended for the orchid factor and food, but if you don’t feel like rubbing shoulders with Bob and Gladys from room 565 then the Blue Elephant is not for you.
Now back in London, I’ve been asked to a friend’s pre-wedding dinner at the end of November and it will be at none other than the London Blue Elephant. I can’t wait. The conversation in the office went a bit like this:
“How about the Blue Elephant?”
“Yeah, great. I’ve never been…”
“You WHAT? You’ve been to the Blue Elephant in Thailand but you haven’t been to the one in your own back yard?”
“You’re going to love it. The staff are amazing; they make you feel like royalty.”
I’m now counting the days.
I’m looking forward to the food, the wine, the attentive but not overbearing service and the orchid (naturellement), but I’m also looking forward to eating at a Blue Elephant where I won’t be a tourist! And once this date is achieved, it might just be time to visit the one in Brussels.