This building, down a passage at the left-hand side of No. 130 High Street, is the original Kemp Hall.
Today it is numbered 130A, but in the past the building has variously been numbered 129 or 129A. It is a beautiful Grade II listed building (ref. 1485/343).
Alderman William Boswell, who lived at130 High Street, built the present Kemp Hall in his back garden in 1637, and this date remains over the doorway of the building.
According to Anthony Wood (English antiquarian), "Kemp Hall" was an early university hall named after John Kemp, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 1870 Honour & Castle altered Kemp Hall for use as a police station. When the New Town Hall
complex was finished in 1897 the police moved to purpose-built premises in Blue Boar Street, but the alleyway leading to Kemp Hall was still known as Blue Lamp Alley in 1937, forty years after the police had left. Now it’s called Kemp hall passage.
From 1906 to 1925 the Kemp Hall Press occupied the building, and it was not until 1928 that it became a place to eat. Mrs Daisy Hoare opened tearooms here that year, but by 1930 she and her business had gone up in the world: she was Mrs D. Hoare MBE, and the tearooms were now the Kemp Hall Restaurant. By 1947 there was a new proprietor, S. R. Crawley, and the cuisine was "Anglo-Chinese".
By 1962 the restaurant had become an Indian one, and was called The Moti Mahal. But its most famous period began in 1966, when André Chavignon opened La Sorbonne here: his chef in the early days was none other than Raymond Blanc, now the owner of the famous Manoir au Quat’saisons! La Sorbonne closed in the early 1990s, and a restaurant that has in its time been Chinese, Indian, and French is now Thai.
Chiang Mai Kitchen was set up in 1993, taking its name from northern city of Thailand, with the aim of providing delicious, authentic, cooked to order Thai food in a beautiful and unique historic setting.
Much of the original oak panelling still remains along with a beautiful carved oak staircase.
The restaurant is divided into 3 separate rooms catering for either a romantic evening out or a party for up to 33 people.
Margaret, our lovely manager and her fantastic team take pride in Chiang Mai's unique heritage and ensure each dining experience, no matter how large or small the party, is of a caliber befitting one of Oxford's most distinct restaurants.