You think you know Thai food, right? Well, one Manchester institution is reinventing it once again.
Manchester isn’t exactly struggling for Thai restaurants, but Chaophraya sets itself apart with a quiet dedication to quality ingredients, inventive creations and classic restaurant service.
It’s got something to suit all tastes – including many choices for vegetarians, and many options for those who aren’t fans of spicy food.
The new menu has just been launched, taking inspiration from the best parts of their old menu to create something completely new.
My companion ordered Silent Pool gin with kaffir lime leaves, pomegranate seeds, complemented with pomegranate and basil gin. Both (each £12.50) made great refreshing accompaniments to our meals.
Thai food is based around five flavours – sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter – and the drinks worked well to cut through each of these and not be overpowered. I’m looking forward to trying some of their interesting house cocktail selection next time I visit.
Our starters were the dumpling platter (£8.95) of pork, prawn and beef – understated and subtle yet each of them delicious – and classic Thai fishcakes (£7.95), served on skewers – fragrant, powerful, and an explosion of flavour with every bite. Both were perfectly prepared and cooked and a real delight.
From the special section of the menu we felt we had to choose three. The first, Tom Yum roast duck wings (£5.95), were simple, succulent and crispy. The next, ceviche scallop chilli – its inspiration taken from the Peruvian preparation of raw fish in citrus but with added Thai infusions of chilli and ginger, wrapped in a nasturtium leaf – had a novel blend of flavours that played off one another wonderfully.
For the third choice, we were treated to something completely new – Miang Kham with nasturtium (£2.95), a parcel of palm sugar, fresh red chilli, galangal, and more punchy flavours. Bursting with flavours, this one bite special brings together palm sugar and coconut inside a nutritious and peppery tasting nasturtium leaf.
A Massaman curry (£14.95) for the main course, with lamb cooked sous vide and very slowly, was rich and smooth. The unusual cooking method for the lamb made the curry even more silky and unctuous, and lamb’s identifiable flavour perfectly matches the fragrant and earthy sauce.
My companion’s grilled sea bass (£17.45) – wrapped neatly in a banana leaf and served alongside cabbage leaves, mint, vermicelli noodles and a homemade peanut & chilli sauce – was fresh, tender and lightly spiced to perfection. We were instructed to wrap the fish and its accompaniments in the cabbage, turning it into a hands-on street food experience.
If you think you’ve tried everything Thai cuisine has to offer, be prepared for something new at Chaophraya.
At Chaophraya, fine dining is the order of the day, but without pretension. You won’t find fast street food but slow food inspired by it and taken to a new level.
19 Chapel Walks, Manchester M2 1HN.