You will find one of Chiang Mai’s most beautiful restaurants near the heart of the old city, tucked away in a corner where busy Loi Kroh road meets the Iron Bridge. A covered wooden walkway, bordered by greenery and hung with festive Thai banners in deep saffron, dusty pink and bright emerald, draws you away from the bustle of the city into this lovely oasis of a restaurant. The River Market sits on the banks of the Mae Ping river, and its wide river frontage, soaring wood-beamed ceilings and breezy verandahs give the restaurant a relaxed ambience, with a great view of the river and the quirky old-not-old Iron Bridge from almost every table.

Tasteful attention to detail is evident everywhere, from the pretty crimson bamboo chairs to the friendly attentiveness of the staff to the obvious pride and care that goes into the food served here. The River Market menu showcases classic Thai cuisine and seafood, and it certainly has something for everyone. For those new to Thai cuisine and the Thai style of dining, the menu provides a helpful introduction: dishes are often ordered to be shared by everyone at the table.

A selection of dishes is ordered for the table, with steamed white rice or fried rice providing a welcome counterpoint to often-spicy creations. The menu beautifully highlights food designed for sharing: plump, juicy stir-fried prawns, presented on white ceramic with colourful greens, chopped herbs and drizzled with their own pan juices, are a true visual delight – it would be a shame not to share this tasty work of art with others at your table!

The tender and succulent sliced pork belly is another must-try, as is another menu favorite – the salmon red curry hor mok, served in a whole fresh coconut is a clever reinterpretation of the traditional Thai dish. Amidst the inspired amalgamations of old and new with east and west at the River Market, we also find classic favorites such as pineapple fried rice – mildly curried rice with chicken, raisins and cashew nuts, pad thai noodles as well as the Northern street-food staple, khao soi (an aromatic curry broth with chicken, crispy noodles and condiments).

The menu has a nice sense of balance between classic and modern takes on traditional Thai dishes, but if the complex spiciness of Thai food just isn’t for you, here’s great news: The River Market restaurant is owned by the same people behind Duke’s, famous in Chiang Mai for their outstanding steaks, pizzas and burgers. So the menu also includes western food favorites such as grilled beef striploin steaks, meat-sauce spaghetti and fish and chips.

Yes, the menu is a bewildering kaleidoscope of choices, each item seemingly more tempting than the next – but don’t worry, pick a cocktail from the menu – the deliciously refreshing Ginger Coller is recommended (vodka, coconut rum, Thai herb and ginger ale) — sip it thoughtfully while you decide what to dine on, and contemplate the timeless flow of the Mae Ping from the lovely verandah of the enchanting River Market.

E-Table Chiang Mai