6:50 AM 30th October 2021
Weekend Dining: Welcome To Thailand - Chaophraya Leeds
An epicurean temple devoted to colour, food, and spices, nestles just after the Dark Arches in Leeds and anyone that comes across it is bound to return to this haven as it offers a range of authentic culinary Thai delights.
Chaophraya (pronounced chow-pry-ä) is situated just a 5 minute walk from train station in the business district, where Sovereign Street meets Swinegate. It does not need to worry about being hidden from the shopping quarter such is its popularity. A Thai restaurant with a loyal fan base is testament to the quality and sophistication of its food.
On entering you are immediately transported to a land known for its smiles, warmth of welcome and Asian cooking.
Having been through a refurb in 2012 and the pandemic, this stylish restaurant has come out of lockdown back up to full force with a flourish, launching its new menu, which is presented on swish fanlike boards and immediately there is plenty that will enthuse and delight.
But, where does one begin? We cogitated, ruminated, decided, and changed our minds, and in desperation, decided to abandon our quest and ask the knowledgeable waiter for a recommendation.
He hinted we would not be disappointed if we opted for the classic Chaophraya Sharing Platter (priced at £10.50 pp, minimum two people) which offers a gastronomic feast: Thai chicken tacos, chicken satay, chicken spring rolls tempura prawns (+onion ring) and a spicy duck salad. Plus, as our friendly waiter informed us everything is edible including the flower petals.
A mini banquet if ever there was, and one that can be enjoyed either on its own for a quick lunch with one or more colleagues or, if out for the evening, enjoyed whilst chatting with partners or friends. It’s a starter that assaults the senses: it looks terrific, smells great, feels wonderful the moment it hits the mouth and tastes divine.
The challenge was wondering where to begin tasting this Thai sensation. We opted for the chicken tacos, warm and flavoursome. The batter on the prawns was light to touch and the sweet chilli sauce that accompanied them and the spring rolls was delicious. The piquancy of the spicy duck salad helped clear the palette with avocado and other Thai flavourings. The chicken satay sat on a bed of carrots, onions and peppers. Don’t be fooled though, despite the alluring look the food does have an unexpected kick to it. Not too spicy but just enough to make it enjoyable. The spices effused an essence of Thailand that swirled around the mouth and as for colour it added an attractive and visually appetising feature.
Our waiter also intimated that we would not be disappointed with two mains: the seasonal special - See Krong Nua Panang, a slow cooked beef rib in a creamy Panang sauce with lime leaves and chilli (£22), served with a jasmine rice, although a selection of vegetables would have been a better accompaniment.
The Pad Prew Waan Gai - sweet & sour crispy chicken with Dragon Fruit served with pomegranate, peppers pineapple, tomato and onion (£14) was accompanied by a light and rather nice looking egg fried rice. Again, the plates were a sensory and pictorial demonstration of Thai cuisine: fragrant cooking that epitomises the delights of Thailand with its colourful reds, greens, and pinks; some of the components sitting in the scooped out Dragon Fruit, which would certainly be Cruella De Ville’s choice as the five balls reminded me of Dalmatians, reminiscent of the taste from kiwi fruits.
Pad Prew Waan Gai See Krong Nua Panang
The Seasonal beef was tender to touch and succulent although two large ribs after such a fulsome starter was a little excessive; again, the sauce was deceptive it complemented the beef perfectly with a hidden kick a pleasant surprise.
One of the noticeable elements of the excellent service was focus on the customer experience; we could choose when to have our main course and desert served, there was no rush something that the table in front of us commented on over their lunch. “Nice not to be rushed and to savour the food.” That said, if you were on a lunch break you could have starters and a main with enough time to get back to the office.
Feeling more than replete our persuasive waiter, not one to give up on extolling the virtues of the chefs, suggested we should find space for an authentic Thai desert. Well, who could refuse when it was described as mango rice with coconut milk and that was exactly what it was? Probably designed for the person with an overly sweet tooth, it was, as the waiter described, an authentic Thai dish although more reminiscent of a rice pudding without the milky skin on top.
Chaophraya has a casual dining area for lunchtimes and for the bustling weekend or evening, diners can enjoy the chic interior or bar area. No wonder there was a message inside the ladies restroom that said ‘my favourite place yet’. Not hard to understand.
Finally sated, it was time to leave but the magic created through Chaophyara’s presentation of Thai fare means that there is another person to add to the network of loyal foodies who enjoy a taste of Thailand on a wet autumnal afternoon.