This weekend, I decided to try Chaophraya, which is arguably the most popular Thai fine dining restaurant in the city. It’s one of those restaurants I have heard so much about but never got around to trying myself. I thought it was high time I changed that, so I called up in well in advance and booked a table for lunch on Saturday afternoon. The website claims that Chaophraya is ‘a truly special place to dine’ where ‘guests can get a true taste of Thailand complete with first class service and a bustling atmosphere’ – something I was keen to put to the test.
Situated in a nineteenth century building on Chapel Walks above Sam’s Chop House bang in the centre of Manchester’s upmarket shopping scene, this place definitely looks the part. It’s got an elegant front complete with big windows that give you a glimpse of the oriental interiors and grand brass lanterns hanging outside the entrance – it’s all very inviting.
This grand oriental theme continues inside with giant Buddha statues at the entrance and beautiful oriental inspired pieces spread around the space.
The hostess greeted us at the entrance and showed us to our seats, which keeping with the Thai theme were elegant sunken dining tables – Chaophraya definitely gets top marks for playing up the Thai experience. The menus are quite cool too, they open up like an oriental fan. They are however, slightly difficult to use – design over functionality definitely!
They also have a special lunch menu with two courses for £13.95 – I was definitely not going to say no to that considering a main from the a la carte menu costs about £12 on average. You know I love a good deal!
I ordered a Chaophraya Fruit Punch while I waited for my food to arrive. It was pretty good actually – definitely what I needed.
Seb and I were happy at this point and we were really looking forward to our starters. So far so good.
This is where things started going wrong.
Our waiter came over 20 minutes later and served us our mains instead of our starters. He literally ‘threw’ them on our table – the confusion on my face did nothing to perturb him either. Luckily another waiter noticed that we were served our mains before our starters and came over and took our mains away. Again nothing said, she just came over and walked away with our plates and asked the waiter to serve us our starters first. They finally got it right! Again nothing said, no apologies or even an explanation. At least I had food in front of me so I was going to dig in. It was so bizarre!
I ordered the Moo Dad Deaw which is deep fried marinated pork with honey and Thai herbs served with a tangy chilli sauce. The pork was really dry and the tangy chilli sauce was a little too watery for my liking – it didn’t do much to enhance the pork either.
Seb ordered the classic Satay Gai which are Thai style marinated chicken on bamboo skewers served with a peanut sauce. This was a completely different story – the chicken was moist and the peanut sauce was absolutely brilliant. I don’t think the vegetable relish added to the dish but it wasn’t too bad. Overall, we were quite pleased with the Satay Gai.
Remember when I said the waiter served us our mains before we even got our starters? Well we were served the same mains again, they were cold and slightly dry. I would have thought that a mistake like that would mean they would serve us fresh mains, but obviously not at Chaophraya!
I ordered the Pad Graprao Moo Grob which is crispy pork belly with Thai basil served with a side of jasmine rice. It was beautifully presented but it was cold and I would have loved a little bit more of the gravy. I also found the pork slightly dry. Disappointment on a plate unfortunately.
Seb ordered the Chicken Pad Thai Gai which is stir fried rice noodles in tamarind sauce with chicken, spring onions, carrots, egg, sweet turnip and bean sprouts served with ground peanuts and fresh mango. This dish was spot on for me. I absolutely loved the ground peanuts and fresh mango in the Pad Thai Gai, it really brings this dish together. Unfortunately it was served cold. Such a shame because I was really enjoying the delicate flavours in this dish.
We finished our mains and decided to call it quits. I cleared the bill which came to about £30 for two which wasn’t too bad for two courses and a drink each.
I was expecting big things from Chaophraya, unfortunately it didn’t deliver on any of my expectations. The service was bearable bar the starter confusion and the food was mediocre at best. The settings are grand and does remind you of Thailand but the food and the service didn’t carry the experience through. If you fancy some Thai food, I would recommend Try Thai in China town instead. Yes, its not as grand but the food is good and it’s not too heavy on the pocket either.