There’s several Indian restaurants in Whitstable but only one Thai, the Shangri-La, its inconspicuous jade facade facing out onto Oxford Street. It’s easy to miss, lost amongst the tight businesses that squeeze together.
But like most venues in Whitstable it stretches back, and there’s an outside courtyard. An oasis of calm with its hanging lanterns, smiling Buddahs, and water features. Sitting outside is always a plus for me, as long as it’s not raining.
The tables are laid with linen covers and tea lights. Service is polite, respectful - the waitresses bow with their hands in a prayer position to greet customers and to say goodbye.
Thai food is aromatic, and known for its blend of three to four taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. I find it fresh, exotic, colourful and light. There’s a beautiful blend of chilli, coconut, coriander, mangoes, basil, anise and lime served with tender fishes and meat.
The Shangri-La serves simple starters, of tiger prawns and spring rolls with a sweet chilli sauce, chicken saytay and prawn in blanket. The main courses include lamb mango, roast duck curry and curried seafood. There are stir fries, Thai salads, Thai soups. I go for the lamb mango every single time because I love the combination of mango, squash, coconut and lamb which dissolves when you put it in your mouth.
I’ve been to the Shangri La a few times in the last couple of years. I had no idea how good it was and then someone fortunately recommended it as one of their favorite restaurants in Whitstable. I’ve never taken anyone there who has left disappointed.
My last time there, a Friday evening in late August, the air was just turning and I could tell that we would not be able to sit outside much longer. Next to me where a couple who were quizzing each other in the way you do when you’ve been sent on a blind date. I am guessing it must have been because they left before the starters arrived. Another couple moved inside as the sun went down, so my friend and I had the courtyard to ourselves, with nothing other than the Buddha and his ever watchful, benign gaze.