One restaurant that seems to be causing a stir among Tyneside’s diners of late is the new Thai eatery, Chaophraya (pronounced chow-pry-ä), and so I was looking forward to trying it for myself one lunchtime last month.
Entering the restaurant on the first floor of Eldon Square’s foodie Grey’s Quarter, I was expecting a mix of vibrant colour and bold textures but Chaophraya’s décor is remarkably muted – with a lot of beige.
There are a few quirky touches, like an indoor terrace area with a fake turf floor and an elegant private dining room – but it’s the people-watching opportunities overlooking Grey’s Monument that provide the best visual treat.
My colleagues and I were greeted by warm and friendly staff who showed us to our table and made sure we had everything we needed throughout our visit.
At lunchtime, there is a choice of starters, mains, express curries, desserts and sides, with selected items priced two courses for £13.50 or three courses for £18.50.
To start, my colleagues and I enjoyed the Chaophraya platter, which featured the usual Oriental appetisers – Thai fish cakes, spring rolls and prawn tempura – as well as some delicate papaya salad rolls.
For our mains, one colleague picked the Weeping Tiger sirloin steak – good quality meat but a little overcooked – while the other opted for the fragrant – if a little thin – Thai green curry with chicken.
It was my salmon salad that provided the highlight of the meal and offered a good balance of flavours with just the right amount of heat.
We chose to finish our meals with dessert, opting for the chocolate bombe, coconut panna cotta and lime and lemongrass sorbet – none of which really lived up to their billings. The sorbet was sour and the chocolate used to create the bombe didn’t feel luxurious enough. Perhaps another Thai-inspired cocktail each would have been a better option.
As I was leaving, I noticed a sign that read: ‘drink, dine and escape’. Yes, Chaophraya will give you all the traditional Eastern flavours you’d expect and there’s a healthy list of tempting cocktails to sample with your meal. But I don’t think a visit to Newcastle’s newest Thai restaurant will succeed in transporting you away from Eldon Square to the shores of Phuket.
Still, there’s always the people watching to enjoy.
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Chicken satay, Thai fish cakes, chicken spring rolls, prawn tempura and papaya salad rolls
Weeping Tiger sirloin steak
Grilled aged sirloin, served on a sizzling plate, with a trio of Thai sauces
Pan-fried salmon tossed with chilli, lemongrass, red onion and kaffir lime leaves
Thai green curry, with chicken
Coconut milk with Thai aubergine and courgette garnished with sweet basil and chillies, served with jasmine rice
Melting chocolate bombe with Thai whiskey ice cream and honey and toasted sesame popcorn centre and hot caramel sauce
Coconut panna cotta
Set cream served with lime and lemongrass sorbet and a light berry compote
Lime and lemongrass sorbet
£6 (lunchtime special deal)