A catch up with my favourite lady, Loulou, was LONG overdue so when some training for work was put in my diary in her neck of the woods I said "hey lady, let's go and eat food!". The Giggling Squid in Berkhamsted seemed like a good option as neither of us had visited yet, they had vegan-friendly options (Loulou) and Crohn's friendly options (me)...
Berkhamsted is such an old town and there are some real gems of buildings that are hundreds of years old. I guess with 20 branches of the Giggling Squid dotted around the country it would be considered a "chain" but when I entered the restaurant I was so pleased to see that they had managed to keep so many of the old features (exposed beams, low ceilings) but also created an airy and modern atmosphere.
I'd already studied the menu in great detail - I'm one of those people that takes forever to decide what I want so to spare my dining companions the painful wait while I make up my mind I tend to have a good read of what's available before I arrive. Their menu is one of the most fun menus I've read as most dishes have an anecdote which sets the scene for the meal or a cheeky little comment:
"DIY BUNDLES My husband hates DIY because he’s useless at it. But he does love DIY food. These bundles are fun to create and you can make them just how you like. You’ll be served with chopped tiger prawns, shallot, lime with skin on, peanut, lemongrass, chilli, salad leaves, mint and a hot and sour chilli, garlic dressing. Now enjoy bundling it all up in lovely wraps!"
First up - starters! There weren't many vegan-friendly appetisers to choose from. Loulou went for the vegetable tempura which was a fairly substantial pile for a starter. The peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and beans were snuggled in a crisp tempura batter and served with a sweet chilli sauce.
I naturally chose the pork dumplings because, well, dumplings! The pastry was the perfect thickness and I really liked how the pork inside was so smooth plus look at how cute they are sitting in their own little spoons!
With the appetisers so tasty, we had high hopes for our main courses especially as other dishes were being delivered to the tables around us and they all looked and smelled delicious!
There were a fair few vegan options for main courses, Loulou picked the beautifully named Glorious Morning - leafy greens (ong choi), red chilli, garlic and oyster sauce (she did check that there would be no fishy sauce going in there). She also asked for tofu to be added which was £1 extra. The sauce was very flavourful but we both felt it was a little too salty.
I've been keeping most veg out of my diet due to fibre, skins, seeds, etc. not agreeing too much with my Crohn's disease so wanted something that wouldn't have too many, if any at all veg, but a tasty sauce. I picked the Pad Khing which had a mild sauce with ginger, spring onion and black mushrooms. Normally you would pick from having it served with chicken, prawns or vegetables but I asked if I could have it with tofu. The waiter asked if I wanted it with vegetables and I said no, thinking of the chicken/prawn/veggie options on the menu, I just wanted it with the tofu. I think there were some crossed wires about the veggies as when the dish came out it had nothing but tofu and ginger. Never mind! It was still delicious with the sauce gently flavoured with ginger but as with my friend's sauce, this was also a little too salty.
So the main dishes weren't the best I've ever had in a Thai restaurant but I judging by the other dishes that were whizzing around to other tables, it was probably down to what we chose. The appetisers were spot on and so wouldn't say no to another visit, especially when I'm ready to add a few more veggies into my diet! They also managed to give us the wrong bill which was almost double what ours was...apparently they swapped table numbers at some point through our meal?!
There are branches of Giggling Squid dotted around the country so there's probably a branch near you - if you've been to one, I'd love to hear what you had and what you thought (and prove to me that they are indeed as good as their menu promises!)
296-298 High Street,
01442 866 087
Vegetable tempura - £5.50
Pork dumplings - £6.65
Glorious Morning - £7.95
Pad Khing - from £8.50
*we paid for our meal in full, ourselves and were not asked to review Giggling Squid but my opinions of the place are all mine and entirely entirely true!