Restaurant Review: Chaophraya, Leeds
It’s hard not to know about Chaophraya (pronounced ‘chow prior’) if you live in Leeds. It opened up back in 2004 and was part of the Thai food revolution along with Thai Edge and Suko Thai. The owners have clearly been doing something right as they’ve grown well beyond Yorkshire since then, opening in Manchester in 2007, Sheffield in 2011 and Edinburgh & Glasgow in 2012. Not to mention some of their mini ChaoBaby restaurants at the Trafford Centre and Meadowhall. Chaophraya is named after the major river that runs through Thailand.
We went quite a bit back in the day but hadn’t visited for a while so 9 years and a refurb later (the restaurant, not me), we went out for a weeknight dinner.
The new decor is still very much with a Thai feel but there is a little extra polish and sheen than before. Similarly, the waiting staff and menus have a bit more of a polished air and before.
Which is probably why there were so many people in suits clearly on a works dinner in the busy restaurant. With a corporate do downstairs and most tables busy upstairs, this is definitely the place to go for an after-work tipple and bite to eat.
We were a bit late getting to our order as some of our party were a bit delayed but the staff were really accommodating and didn’t rush us to order when everyone was there.
And so to the menu. I’ve got to be honest, in the past I’ve had a couple of misses as well as hits here but I think that’s probably more down to my taste (pomegranate in sweet & sour chicken just isn’t my thing). And hits do include the waiters not batting an eyelid when I’ve ordered spring rolls for desert on account of the fact I have a very un-sweet tooth.
But over the years there’s one dish that I’ve found to be the favourite that I keep coming back to… the Pad Thai. Starters may come and go but the Pad Thai from Chaophraya is the constant in my visits. Interestingly it’s the same for Tom with the Thai Green Curry.
No prizes for guessing what we had for mains, then. Starters were a different kettle of fish. After much deliberation I went for the prawn, crab and chicken dumplings and Tom had fishcakes.
The dumplings looked good (cute presentation with a little pot and thai cracker) but lacked a little bit of flavour. I am reliably informed though that the fishcakes were good – zingy and limey with a good amount of coriander. And yes I did have food envy by this stage.
This all changed when the mains arrived as the Pad Thai didn’t didn’t disappoint. I love the crunchy texture of the peanuts with the soft noodles; the bite of the spring onions with the crunch of the beansprouts and the bittersweet tang of the tamarind sauce with the whole thing. Result.
Tom’s curry was equally successful. The sticky rice was cooked to perfection and fragrant coconut balanced out well by the green chillies. Service throughout the night was friendly and we had an enjoyable evening. Then again, at around £8 a starter and £15 a main course (including rice), it should be!
As I left I couldn’t help wondering which I preferred – the Chaophraya of old where things were a bit more rough and ready or the polished, gleaming experience I had that night. But then I realised that throughout all 9 years, when decor and people had changed, the real constant was the food. And with such a rapid expansion that’s no mean feat. I’m not sure if I’m looking into the past with rose-tinted glasses but I’m sure the prices used to be quite a bit lower. Then again, we’re talked a decade ago so what did I expect?
So if you’re looking for somewhere to go on a work night out or for a friend’s birthday when you want to pay for consistenty, then you could do much worse in Leeds than Chaophraya.
And let’s face it, any restaurant that lets me order a starter for pudding is always going to be OK in my book.