Chaophraya is one of my classic Leeds restaurants, perhaps because I’ve been coming here for yonks. I know the dishes I like and I *always* get them. However it does tend to mean Chaophraya gets overlooked when I’m thinking about somewhere exciting to eat. It’s more my old school pal than my exciting new friend, as much love but…different. It’s a good old pal to have though; the food never disappoints, the staff are attentive and the atmosphere feels a bit special. So you can imagine I was a bit dubious when they contacted me to see if I fancied trying they’re newly vamped up menu (for the first time in 3 years I should add). Would they still retain the old Chaophraya that I know and love?
When I walked in on a Thursday evening it still had that occasion-y atmosphere, I felt distinctly under dressed in my jumper & boots (Light Night uniform) and the staff were just as friendly & helpful…so far so good. And what of the the food & drinks…?
Whilst we were looking over the new menu we ordered a few cocktails; a non-alcoholic (gasp) Mai Mao (£5) for me and a Flower Market (£9) for him. The Mai Mao was a really refreshing mixture of mango & lychee juice mixed with berries, I *almost* didn’t miss the alcohol. P’s boozy cocktail was gin, elderflower liqueur then topped up with Aperol – totally the one I would have ordered if I’d been drinking that evening. Served very sweetly with an orange slice (mini) pegged to the side of the glass. He wasn’t that keen on it though and thought there were a lot more other interesting cocktails on the menu.
Chaophraya have a really nice bar area (called Palm Sugar Lounge) which is well worth popping into as I can confirm lots of the other cocktails are fantastic from previous experience, they also do cheap glasses of fizz on a Friday – what’s not to love?
And food? To start with we ordered the Chicken Satay (£9) and the Soft Shell Crab & Squid Tempura (£12.50), (I’ll admit I got a bit excited and forgot to get any pics of the Chicken Satay but I’m sure you can imagine it). The chicken skewers tasted like the meat had been marinated in coconut milk and were so, so tender. Really impressive cooking as the size of them meant just a touch too long and they’d be tyres – happy to report this was definitely not the case. The subtley spiced satay was served on the side however we would have benefited from twice the sauce serving, delicious but not enough of it.
The tempura is new on the menu and when it arrived I was surprised at the size – that’s a big old portion! A mixture of the soft shell crab, squid and some veg was all very tasty and well cooked (especially the squid which wasn’t chewy at all) but I only managed a few pieces as I found it too heavy as a starter for me. I’d definitely recommend sharing this one. The chilli & lime avocado dip was a nice compliment, cutting through the richness but like the satay – we wanted more!
For mains again we went for another dish we knew & loved, the Lamb Massaman Curry (£14) and a new dish, the Chilli & Palm Sugar Spatchcock Chicken (£16). The massaman is incredible at Chaophraya, in fact it’s one of their signature dishes. The lamb was so tender it was falling apart and the sauce was really rich; heavy with the taste of star anise, cinnamon & cardamon.
The chicken arrived at the table already quartered (handy) and was served alongside a salad. The chicken legs were still really juicy and tender however the breast was a tad dry. To be fair though I always find breast too dry, it’s not normally my cut of choice. The salad was a real winner; fresh with a nicely balanced sweet and salty dressing. A good dish to order alongside the massaman as the freshness balances out the rich curry sauce. It’s perfect if you’re looking to order a healthier option or are just in the mood for something lighter.
We also had a side of Coconut Rice (£4.50) which arrived at the table wrapped in a leaf – coconut rice is a must for me when I go for Thai food and Chaophraya’s was not a disappointment. Not at all cloying like it often can be and not too rich so wasn’t overload with the curry.
Then finally onto pudding; we did nearly decline as we were really full however were told that they weren’t too be missed. I had the Chocolate Bombe (£7.50) and P went for the Mango Meringue Roll (£7.50). If you want some table theater than you must order the bombe. The staff pour a pan of molten caramel sauce over the hollow chocolate sphere so it melts before you. The sphere is filled with Thai whiskey & honey flavoured ice and served alongside a meringue. The meringue was technically very good but felt a bit disconnected from the dish, perhaps it would be better to have the sphere sat on top of it. The ice cream was delicious but definitely one for the whiskey fans – strong enough to knock your socks off!
The meringue roll was a nice surprise, not usually the type of dessert I like (I’m all about that chocolate) but the combination of the mango & passion fruit puree with the soft, light meringue worked well. P reckoned it could have been a bit more mango-y but I had no problem with the balance.
So has Chaophraya managed to lose the label of old school pal? I think so, there’s still some favourites on the menu so evangelical Chaophraya fans needn’t worry but there definitely feels like there’s more of a contemporary twist now – some new dishes to explore & get excited about. Not all of them were a perfect fit for me, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it? Figuring out what’s your new favourite.
The meal was complimentary however views are my own.