FROM the brightly-coloured silk lanterns overhead to the pink neon sign proclaiming ‘Paradise this way…’, Panang brings more than a taste of Thailand to Glasgow city centre.
The latest concept from Hunky Dory Dining – the group established by Paul Sloan and Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group owners Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta a decade ago with the launch of Mexican restaurant brand Pinto – Panang opened in the group’s former Greek eatery, Mezzidakia, last month offering a small plates menu of Thai cuisine.
And the unit, which sits on St Vincent Street alongside fellow Hunky Dory Dining brands Topolabamba and Chakoo, has been given a whole new identity after the operators decided it was time for a change.
“You’ve got to keep adapting,” Paul told SLTN.
“What does the market need? How can we do it?
“You couldn’t go to a Thai restaurant in Glasgow and get small plates. I like to do things no one else is doing. But you open what you think is unique and then face a wave of competition. We went through this ten years ago; now it looks like there’s a new wave of chains coming to Glasgow.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to be the best. It’s all about taking the customer on a journey from when they walk in until they leave.”
At Panang, that customer journey certainly does begin at the door, with the pink neon signage and vibrant silk lanterns – not to mention the mural of Bangkok street food chef Jay Fai – transporting diners to Thailand.
Paul’s vision was brought to life by Dominic Paul of design firm IBDP, who has designed numerous outlets for Paul over the years, including Panang’s predecessor Mezzidakia.
Dominic said the brief was to create an interior with “a real street food vibe/home-cooked feel – something different, eye-catching”.
“Paul and I have worked on a number of projects over the past seven years or so – he’s a great client with great vision,” said Dominic.
“We briefed the graphic designer Ewan Leckie and mural artists Frank and Mandy at Artisanworks. We’ve worked with these talented guys a number of times and they always hit the mark. Paul mentioned the street food queen of Bangkok, Jay Fai; the result is a stunning mural.
“We sourced the silk lanterns from Vietnam and bead curtains from South Africa. We used the skills of Willowrose Joinery for bespoke items, Grahams Upholstery for fixed seating, Yes 24 for the lighting, and Centurian Signs for the various internal and external signage and feature walls.
“The operators gave us a very brief, brief: give us something that the guests have selfie opportunities. I think we certainly hit the mark with that one in any case.”
And the vibrant interior marries perfectly with the menu of equally vibrant Thai small plates.
Food is a passion of Paul’s and he spent a huge amount of time developing the menu with his team and Panang chef, Pin.
Featuring dishes from regions across Thailand, the menu is split into different sections, including Curries of Thailand, which features Panang’s signature curry, Lamb Panang; Street Grilled Skewers; Noodles & Rice; and Poh Pia Tod (crispy fried Thai spring rolls), with each section featuring a range of dishes. There’s also a Small Plates Thai section, with dishes ranging from Tom Yum Chicken Soup to Pin Pin King Prawn.
Panang’s drinks also have an exotic flavour – ranging from Thai beers; to cocktails, including the Mai Tai, Mojito and Pina Colada – all of which feature Matusalem rum, and the Espresso Martini (Koskenkorva vodka, Kahlua and freshly ground espresso).
And the whole Panang offer is one that’s been going down well since the venue, which can accommodate 120 covers but has been trading with a capacity of 90 due to social distancing measures, launched in early July.
“It’s doing really well, it’s been really busy,” said Paul.
“I think it looks great. Dominic has an incredible ability to interpret a vision and also to make sure no place looks like anything he’s done before.
“I spent hundreds of hours researching and developing the menu and ingredients. Food is a real passion of mine.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to keep changing and adapting; you’ve got to stay current. My father always said ‘don’t rest on your laurels until the day you hang up your hat’.”