L’Elephant is a gourmet bistro located in a quiet street just off the upmarket neighbourhood of Nimmanhaemin in Chiang Mai. This charming restaurant is located in what was once a furniture showroom, and the spaces within still carry the creative spirit of this building’s previous proprietors. Even from the street it is apparent that this quirky space was created by artistic talents – its entrance, framed by a whimsical onion-domed trellis, sets the scene for an original dining experience.

Each beautifully-appointed room in this restaurant is unique, from the grey-walled entranceway with its mirrored glass side-tables and objets d’art to the main dining room with its deep blue walls, period furniture and artists’ prints. Its intimate atmosphere evokes an impression of being in a friend’s country house somewhere in the south of France – there are lovely things to look at everywhere. Despite the ornately beautiful rooms, a sense of light playfulness permeates the spaces, and the friendly, welcoming staff of L’Elephant exude an easy informality.

Chef-proprietor Pathapee ‘Oan’ Moonkonkaew is a Cordon Bleu Culinary School Bangkok-trained chef who brings his own touch to French cuisine, and makes it casual, accessible and affordable in his restaurant. Chicken liver pâté, freshly made in-house, is provided with crusty fresh-baked bread at every table.

The menu features standards such as the signature French onion soup au gratin, served in the classic manner in a little ceramic tureen, the cheese melted over a crusty baguette in a rich, full-bodied onion consommé. The tasty red endive and apple salad with its warm Gorgonzola dressing is a crisp and colorful way to start your meal. For something more substantial, try the generous slices of smoked duck breast salad with walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.

It is always a surprise to find good seafood in this city in the heart of the mountains of northern Thailand, so the excellent moules marinières, made with the sweetest freshest black mussels, were a marvelous treat indeed.

The main courses on the menu include classic French culinary staples such as beef Bourguignon, as well as a roasted garlic and basil-crusted rack of lamb, perfectly cooked with a delicate pink blush in the middle. There are also spicy barbecued pork ribs, served with a cone of crispy, thick-cut fries. Chef Oan smokes the ribs in-house with Applewood and rosemary, and the results are juicy, fragrant and flavorful. A side dish of garlicky brown mushrooms is the perfect accompaniment to this substantial dish.

To end the meal, the ‘Three Amigos’ solves the eternal problem of which dessert to choose from – this is a trio of classic crème brulée, honey panna cotta and dark chocolate mousse. This inspired dessert seems to epitomize the care and attention that goes into every detail at L’Elephant, and it makes this pretty bistro a very special place indeed.

E-Table In Chiang Mai