Jul 25 2012 By Joe McGuire
Chaophraya Thai restaurant Image 2
Address: The Townhouse, Nelson Mandela Place, Telephone: 332 0041, Web: www.chaophraya.co.uk
THOUGH I like to think of myself as a bit of a globetrotter when it comes to world cuisine I have to admit Thai cooking was hitherto a blindspot on my culinary travels.
So with this month seeing the opening of Europe’s largest Thai restaurant, Chaophraya I thought I’d fix this deplorable state of affairs.
Walking through the doors of the 100 year old building I was greeted with some suitably old-school manners, a bowing hostess who greets you with a traditional Thai courtesy.
She led my dinner companion and I past the bustling Palm Sugar lounge and upstairs to the restaurant, giving us a chance to admire the opulent decor the A-listed building now enjoys after it’s extensive refit.
Perusing the menu we decided to address my lack of knowledge of Thai cuisine by going for the Chaophraya set menu (£40.50 per person), which was bursting with exotic options.
The menu expounded that variety is the spice of life and with the arrival of our mixed starters I could see they aimed to make life as seasoned as possible.
Our plate was flowing over, with bangkok pork skewers marinated with honey and coriander root, chicken satay with homemade peanut sauce, gigantic tempura prawns with sesame seeds and sweet chilli sauce, delightful mini tartlets stuffed with a steamed blend of cod and coley and finally hand-rolled chicken spring rolls.
Though everything was mouth-watering, my personal favourite were the little golden tartlets, the fish flakes perfectly flavoured with lemongrass, lime leaf and honey making a veritable taste explosion.
When our waitress, a delightful young lady called Sureyya, presented us with our mains I thought that surely there’d been some mix-up, that we’d been given the dishes for a larger table.
But it was no mistake, and the four deliciously fragrant dishes in front of us were indeed all for my companion and I.
On the table were tumeric king prawns-stir fried prawns served with celery, onions, peppers, spring onions finished off with egg and drizzled with chilli oil, massaman lamb curry-lamb stewed with massaman paste, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, chickpeas and cashew nuts, fried sea bass fillet-lightly floured and fried sea bass fillet served with chill sauce, and weeping tiger-grilled sliced sirloin steak served on a sizzling hot plate with a tangy chilli dip and drizzled with a black pepper sauce.
At the risk of gushing I cannot tell you how delectable absolutely everything was.
It was clear only top-notch ingredients were being used, and the blends of herbs and spices being employed were like nothing else I’d experienced.
Sureyya explained to us the restaurant operated on the Thai philosophy of ow jai sai, which roughly translated means put your heart in it.
Everything in the restaurant, from the world-class food to tastefully restored decor, to the fact that the owner of Chaophraya, Kim Atcharaporn Kaewkraikhot, a woman who owns eight successful establishments across the UK, was in the kitchen herself, reflected this.
We finished things off with a trio of equally delicious desserts, a chilli chocolate brownie, coconut ice-cream and mango rice, and my companion had the spectacularly decorative flowering tea-a subtle brew with a flower that, as you might guess, blooms in front of you.
My first foray into Thai cuisine was an unqualified triumph and I know for a fact my second will be too, as it’ll also be at Chaophraya, and very soon at that.