Sensationally reinvented with an edgy twist, The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar offers one-of-a kind culinary experience in Chiang Mai.
by Percy Roxas.
Standing proudly in the manicured grounds of Anantara Resort & Spa Chiang Mai beside the Mae Ping River is a colonial house built in 1915 on land owned by the British government. Opened in 1921 as a British Consulate, it was designed for a tropical climate with spacious verandas to catch the river breeze. The former home of the consul’s family–it also houses a courtroom, offices, servants’ quarters, and stables for elephants –has an unusual 22-yard footprint, which is the exact length of a cricket pitch, just one of the living testimonies of its proud colonial heritage.
Today, this house is known as The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar (Tel: 053 253 333 // email: firstname.lastname@example.org), the signature restaurant of Anantara Chiang Mai.
When one visits the restaurant today, one can still imagine the constant stream of visiting British citizens in Chiang Mai who came to pay respects, register their presence, or seek help and advice. There are still relics in the house that recalls drinks and meals being served in the consulate’s dining room, games of croquet played on the lawn, or parties held for the British king or queen’s birthdays. But a contemporary spirit has been added to The Service 1921 since its charming re-invention.
Re-imagining the colonial era helps make The Service 1921 a surreal, exciting experience, with all those artful diversity and drama that were formerly at work here but also in the edgy modern twist that the atmospheric restaurant now embodies. It’s where history and modernity meet; it’s where fantasy and reality combine – all enhancing the joys one gets from the well-planned and well-executed culinary offerings.
There is a distinctive menu of contemporary Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese dishes, created by a team of expert chefs from each cuisine. Appetizers tantalize the palate with highlights such as locally raised duck breast salad with ginger, mint, chili lime dressing, and gourmet enhancements of green apple and goat cheese; a Vietnamese grilled eggplant and snow crab meat salad with sweet and sour dressing; and a Chinese Cheng Du DanDan noodle specialty of minced pork, Sichuan chili oil and the chef’s special sauce.
Aromatic soups, curries, and hot pots include a northern Thai-style braised pork sparerib with young jackfruit. Wok, noodle, and rice dishes feature gourmet ingredients in rich Asian sauces; while steamed, char-grilled and roasted meats, and seafood are laced in exotic marinades.
Creative attention to dining details add to the experience: placemats mimicking an envelope used to send classified documents by MI6 in the 1920s, coasters in the form of vintage Thai postcards, and the like. Unique Asian dishes are presented on ceramic plates, wooden slabs and black slates, alongside skewers on black grills; dim sum in traditional baskets; amuse bouche on noodle spoons; rice and noodle dishes in woks; and rich curries in ceramic pots.
One can enjoy his or her time on the lower level, where plush lounge areas surround a central bar with high stools and doors opening onto wrap around veranda seating. Or enjoy a private whisky tasting in the upstairs restaurant, if not in either of the two connecting communal dining rooms that lead through to a library wall featuring a secret bookshelf door. Oh, the wine cellar is stocked with an impressive selection of New and Old World wines, and is an exclusive connoisseur haven for wine tasting journeys and private dinner parties.
And one can enjoy specialist Asian twist cocktails, fine wines, and champagnes are presented by the resident mixologist and wine guru, accompanied by a fine whisky selection and Cuban cigars presented by the cigar aficionado. To add to the upbeat mood, contemporary soundtracks are played in the background, while enjoying Anantara’s personalized brand of hospitality.
The Service 1921 — it’s an invitation to savor the good life with historic fantasy; it’s a bellwether to Chiang Mai’s new 5-star dining-out reality.