As I mentioned in a previous post, Stringer really likes Thai food.
So it took a serious case of the flu for him to cancel on me the day we were supposed to be reviewing Glasgow’s most luxurious Thai restaurant, Chaophraya – which also happened to be the day that Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died after 70 years on the throne, although the two weren’t connected.
(At least, I assume it was the flu. I mean, we live together. He’d still be stuck with my company after dinner, after all. And after that. I believe one of us has to die in order for us to get out of it.)
So big thanks to the Bezzer for stepping in at the last minute in order to suffer through a three-course dinner, cocktails and my company.
Although nominally a chain, with seven restaurants throughout the UK, Chaophraya’s USP is “contemporary Thai dining in inspirational surroundings” – with a particular focus on statement buildings and opulent design. In Glasgow, that’s half of the Old Athenaeum at the top of Buchanan Street. The owners have lovingly restored the interior, but have also added hundreds of statues of the Buddha in all shapes and sizes which we were told had actually been imported from Thailand. The result is a bit Victoriana-meets-Siam, but works surprisingly well.
The restaurant is split over four floors, and entry to the main dining area is by way of a grand, carpeted staircase. It’s a bit of a contrast to the ultraviolet industrial look of Hard Rock Cafe next door, which occupies the other half of the building, anyway. It felt a little like going for dinner on a cruise ship, and I felt way more underdressed than I expected to for a post-work Thursday evening in Glasgow.
Our waiter, Tahir (to whom I promised a shout-out on the blog) had an excellent smile, and one of those cheeky senses of humour which somehow becomes even more charming when English isn’t the first language. He brought us a basket of spicy Thai prawn crackers while we tried to narrow down our choice from the extensive drinks menu. This is a place that promises “the perfect Hendricks serve” (cucumber and watermelon tonic, G&T POPCORN…) – and yet, the long cocktails were calling. For me, a Chit Lom: Goslings Black Seal Rum, Crème de Mure, apple, blueberry and lime. For her, a Rubies & Diamonds: pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and Pinot Grigio.
When the drinks arrived, we joked that each looked like something that the other one would order – perhaps less so, now I realise the Bezzer had wine in hers. The Rubies & Diamonds was served with fresh pomegranate and looked objectively more attractive than my thick, cloudy rum-based cocktail – but it was rich, heady and delicious.
As I read over the starters, struggling to choose between pork spare ribs and chicken spring rolls – or maybe dumplings? – the Bezzer pointed out the various platters on offer at the top of the menu. Priced per person, the Maeklong Platter sounded pretty Lis-appropriate in its selections (chicken satay, prawn and pork dumplings, sweetcorn cakes and those chicken spring rolls) and meant that we had the opportunity to try a few different things. As Bezzer ideas go, it was up there with the time she walked into her first Family Law lecture 17 years ago and decided to sit next to the least threatening looking person in the room.
Presentation-wise, the dish was impeccable: a gorgeous display of banana leaves, edible flowers and tiny ramekins of sauce that only your oldest and bestest friend knows to quickly and without fuss move from your line of sight. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dumplings, which were a little soggy for my fussy tastes, and I couldn’t get my head around the concept of a sweetcorn cake well enough to actually eat one – but those spring rolls? The. Bomb.
Lola had told me that she would spend ages looking through the menu before ordering a massaman curry – which, bless her, was exactly what she did – while I opted for the crispy pork belly.
One thing that does annoy me about Thai restaurants (in my vast experience, having been to two) is the fact that you need to order your side of rice or noodles separately. To me, “side” implies something that isn’t an essential component of your meal – and that’s simply not the case if what you’ve ordered is a curry. The mains are already pretty pricy at Chaophraya, then you’re looking at another £3-4 for your rice. I do a version of this rant every time I’m in a burger restaurant that insists on making me pay extra for chips, but I feel that it holds even more true here.
Gripes aside – which, given our meal was comped for review purposes, aren’t really gripes – the food was of a different class and one that justified a slightly higher price bracket. Again, the dishes arrived beautifully presented, packed with fresh ingredients and (in my case) tasty sugar snap peas, peppers and onion – while Lola proclaimed her massaman the best she had had since her last visit to this amazing wee Thai place in London which is down some side street, and only able to be found if you’re with Jo from the theatre.
We certainly couldn’t complain about our portion sizes: we were both absolutely stuffed by the time we got to dessert, but forced ourselves to go the extra mile for the purposes of bringing you guys a full and frank review. You’re welcome.
The white chocolate box (white chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis on butter shortbread) caught both of our eyes, so my noble bezzer ordered it so I could take a photograph. A “Kinder surprise” of a thing, served with meringue and a mini macaron, this was really three desserts in one – so it was no wonder that she struggled to finish it.
I opted for ice cream in the end which, not to be outdone, arrived in the coolest-looking sideways-opening bowl – not the most practical of serving dishes, but it looked fantastic. Chaophraya’s ice creams are made for them specially, which might be why there’s a Thai whiskey variety on the menu; but I played it safe with the salted caramel and toasted coconut flavours.
Again, though, I feel as if the price needs mentioning: the desserts are £7.75 apiece, while two scoops of ice cream will set you back £5.95. That’s nearly six quid! Again, I’m sure the pricing is fair and reflects the quality of the food – but it’s another reminder that Chaophraya is the sort of place you come for a treat, not a two-weeks-past-payday catchup with your bestie.
Gorgeous food, great service and really beautiful, well-thought out surroundings make this a really special place though – add it to your Glasgow foodie bucket list.
We received a complimentary meal for review purposes, but all views are my own and unbiased.