We were on our way to the Night Safari and Nicole mentioned she heard about this place called Nics Restaurant & Playground which was just around the corner from the Night Safari, so we thought we’d check it out for dinner before we went. Supposedly it was family friendly and had a little playgroud for kids.
I hadn’t read any reviews or heard about it other than Nicole mentioning it, but subconciously melded together an expectation base on various life experiences to this point:
- Back home there is a place called Crumsby’s Cafe which is all the rage with Moms because it has a little play area for kids. The “play area” is really not much more than a few buckets of old toys in the corner of the cafe, but it’s about the best you can get for a dining experience with some kind of child distraction factor in Victoria.
- In San Diago we visited Chucky Cheese and I’ll never forget that image of Chucky coming out in his beat up old mouse suit and doing the most lackluster dance for the children I’ve ever seen in both real life or any epsisode of the Simpsons.
- The typical playground in Thailand is a few rusty and sqeeky peices of metal tubing welded into the shape of a train that stands on only 3 legs at a time as you heave it back and forth praying that your kid will find it as boring as you do before your arms fall off.
Don’t get me wrong, I was enthusiastic about a dinner at any family friendly place, but my frame of reference when it comes to dining with children and playgrounds in Thailand didn’t prepare me at all for what we were about to experience.
So with all that build up, obviously I have some great things to say about Nics. It’s an amazing combination of relaxed adult dining and child wonderland. I will say that our camera died the moment we got there, and our pictures from the backup camera don’t do this place justice so I’d recommend checking out their website for some better pictures.
The Friendly Backyard Setting
It’s built in this beautiful backyard garden setting. By the time the staff have walked you to your table, you feel like you’re at a friend’s house and the waitress is just one of the people at the dinner party. The owners are a German / Chinese couple who have been here for 3 years and were also super friendly. They stopped by the table to get to know us and to tell us about their Halloween party, which I’m sad we wont be here for because it sounds like so much fun. They seemed a bit suprised that we weren’t here long term since travellers don’t usually find them, which I find interesting since it’s so close to the Night Safari and really should be one of the “must do’s” for any family passing through Chaing Mai.
The Bamboo Climbing Wonderland for Kids
When I glanced at the menu and saw all the rice bowl dishes done up with cute animal faces, I turned to Rae expecting to see her face lighting up with excitement. But by the time I looked up she was already making a beeline to the playground. The main feature of the playground is this amazing bamboo boat climbing structure. She was in heaven. Rae is very shy and normally takes a few hours to warm up to people she hasn’t met, but here she was instantly immersed (if fact leading) “mermaid” imagination games with the other kids who were climbing and swinging in the bamboo.
The Dream Menu for Grown Ups
With little hope of wrangling Rae back to the table, I started looking at the menu myself. There was so much to choose from and I wanted everything! We got an appetizer platter for the table, and I ended up going with the 3 cheese pasta and Nicole got the mushroom pizza. I’m no food critic, but I will say that I was in food heaven with every bite. I’d say the only meal that rivals any of the dishes we ordered was the green curry that Nicole made at her cooking class.
The Perfect Balance of Kid and Grown Up Atomosphere
As the sun set, the sky turned orange, and the restarurant lights started to glow, I will say that my only regret is that we didn’t arrive a bit earlier. The Night Safari was also mind blowing so I’m glad we didn’t skip that, but I could have spent another hour or two there just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the atomosphere while Rae played mermaid games with her new friends.
The Price: STILL Less Than Home
At about 1400thb including tip, this was the most expensive meal we’ve had in Thailand, but it’s shocking to crunch the numbers and figure out that the total bill (about $50) is far less than the typical meal out back home. We tried to imagine what a meal like this would cost back home, but immediately came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t compare it. With all the stupid regulations you get in western countries, I don’t think it would be even possible to create such a place in Canada.
I’d say this was my favorite experience in Chiang Mai, except that we’ve had so many great moments this week that I can only say that eating here has fit perfectly into our overall blissful life out here in Chiang Mai. I can’t beleive it’s almost over, and already planning on how we might make it back here as soon as possible!