Hi guys! I hope you’re well. Last week, Leeds’ Chaophraya transformed its dining experience, and I was lucky enough to go along and try it out! I was very kindly given this meal free of charge, for review purposes. As always, all views and honest and my own. If you live in Leeds, you’ve no doubt heard of or already been to Chaophraya. As the first of many Chaophraya restaurants to open, it has been around since 2004.
Confession: I’ve lived in Leeds all my life. I’ve been to this restaurant at least 4-5 times. But! I’ve never had a clue how to pronounce it! It seems that I’m not alone, as they have now adapted their logo to include the correct pronunciation: Chow-pry-a. Hooray – I can now say it without getting it completely wrong! Chaophraya apparently takes its name from the main waterway in Thailand, which was seen to breathe life into the families who lived along its banks.
Chaophraya’s New Menu
As part of their transformation, Chaophraya have introduced a revolutionary new menu, heightened service levels and introduced a few tasty new cocktails to top it all off. They intend to deliver a sophistocated edge to Thai dining, by offering a mix of eclectic and contemporary new dishes which are inspired by tastes from across all the Thai regions. They encourage eating ‘family style’ (a bit like tapas, i.e ordering a bunch of dishes and sharing them around the table). Unfortunately we couldn’t really do that, as I’m vegetarian and my husband is definitely not!
One thing they now mention on the menu is that they are trying to challenge the misconception that all Thai food is eaten with chopsticks. Apparently in most cases, only noodle dishes are eaten this way. They will now be providing all diners with cutlery! Probably good news for someone as clumsy as me…
The New Cocktails
We started off by trying the two new cocktails on the menu. Rubies and Diamonds was a gorgeous blend of pomegranate liquor, cranberry juice and Pinot Grigio wine, finished off with lots of pomegranate seeds. I absolutely loved this one! Flower Market combined Aperol, gin, elderflower, lemon and vanilla. This one was nice, but a little too strong for me (very alcoholic tasting!) My husband enjoyed it though, and it did look very pretty.
Our starters arrived, and we quickly polished them off! I had the vegetable tempura, which included asparagus, onion and courgettes in a light, crispy batter with a lovely spiced avocado dip. It was lovely, and not at all greasy, as some tempura can be. My husband had the soft-shell crab and squid tempura, which he said was amazing! It came with the same chilli & lime avocado dip mine did.
Then for the mains, which were very nicely presented and even a little theatrical! I chose the tofu pad thai and it was ridiculously delicious! I’ve been dreaming of it ever since. The tamarind sauce was gorgeous – rich but not too much and just the nicest flavour. The tofu was well cooked and not at all soggy. The vegetables all tasted really fresh and the noodles were great. Best pad thai I’ve ever had, hands down! I didn’t manage to finish it all, as I was quite full at that point.
My husband ordered the chamber aged sirloin steak, which is where the theatrical element came in! They bring over a Himalayan rock salt block, which is slightly pink and very pretty looking. It is really hot, and you take your little slices of steak and cook them on the block! The steak is already a little cooked on the outside, but the inside comes very pink. Probably a really good idea, as it allows people to cook the steak to their exact preference. The steak came with mushrooms and bok choi, and a chilli dip.
It was suggested that you order a side dish with it, so he went for the steamed noodles. This was a really substantial dish of rice noodles with bean sprouts, served with fried garlic and soy sauce. This dish was vegetarian, so I had a bit of it too and it was lovely – really tasty flavour.
With our mains, we each ordered a glass of wine from the substantial wine menu. They had some great wines on there, definitely something for everyone! I ordered a glass of Merlot, as I fancied something easy-drinking. My husband chose the white Thai wine, as we’ve never tried wine from Thailand before! It was the Monsoon Valley Chenin Blanc, and he absolutely loved it! He actually said it was his favourite wine he’d ever tried. It was very full bodied, with a nice citrusy tang, but a lot of body (a bit like a Chardonnay).
We were very full by this point, but we couldn’t leave without trying something from the lovely dessert menu! It was a fairly small dessert menu, but covered all the bases, from light sorbets, to rich chocolate and comforting sticky toffee pudding! As I was quite full, I opted for the sorbet/ice cream. You could choose two scoops, so I chose the peach prosecco sorbet and the salted caramel ice cream. I know it’s a strange combo, but I couldn’t choose between the flavours! The salted caramel was rich and creamy. The peach prosecco was…. not peach prosecco haha! They must have got mixed up, so it was actually the lime and lemongrass sorbet. It was so fruity and refreshing, I really enjoyed it!
My husband ordered the chocolate bombe you can see below. If you’ve ever seen First Dates, it was like the dessert on there! They bring along a hot chocolate sauce, pour it on the bombe and it slowly melts to reveal the chocolate, popcorn and whisky ice cream centre! It was gorgeous.
My husband also ordered a post-dinner drink, which was a Manhattan. I hate whisky so didn’t try it, but he said it was lovely. One thing that stood out was how much the staff cared about our dining experience. We chatted to the barman a couple of times – he was so knowledgeable, and obviously really cares about what he does. He told us a lot about the different wines, and let me try a beautiful New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, when he found out that’s my favourite.
The manager also came round for a chat and was really keen on us giving our honest feedback. She told us a bit about the restaurant’s history, and other branches. Again, it was clear she was really passionate. One thing I found really cute was that all of the staff’s uniforms bear the words ‘Ow Jai Sai’ on their collars. This translates from Thai into ‘we care about everything’ – the company’s core value.
Overall, we had an amazing experience at Chaophraya Leeds. Our food was excellent – amazing quality, super tasty and well presented. The service was good, as were the various drinks. We’ve been before in the past, but we will definitely be going back in the future… probably quite a few times!
Chaophraya’s new menu will be served at lunch and dinner from 3rd October 2016. Individual dishes will be priced from £6.50 for starters, £10.50 for mains and £7.50 for desserts.
Have you been to Chaophraya Leeds, or any of their other restaurants? What did you think of it? Let me know.
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