Monday, January 29, 2007
Asian Invasion, Part 3: Chaophraya
There's a lot of hype about this new Thai place, Chaophraya. Based on my first visit, it's entirely justified. Of the three places I reviewed for lunch, this was definitely my favourite. It could be one of the best restaurants in the city, though time will tell.
Its location makes it convenient to most of the offices in the city centre, and it seems the word has definitely gotten out. On the Friday lunchtime I was there it was very busy - I think I managed to get the last table in the bar area, most of which were either very high, or way down at floor level. They pad thai and other noodle/rice dishes for under a fiver, and have lunchtime "tapas" selections of skewers, dumplings and various deep-fried bits at £5-£8.
But I had my heart set on Som Tom (£9), a cold salad of shredded green papayas, veggies and prawns. I ate this years ago, in a town near the Cambodian border, prepared by a toothless grandma with a mortar and pestle, and it was unforgettable. God, doesn't that sound like pretentious foodie nonsense? It's true, though. I was visiting my friend China in Surin.
Anyway, I digress. The Som Tom at Chaophraya was very good - shredded veggies and peanuts slathered in just the right amount of sweet-spicy-fishy seasoning, with those little red peppers providing a potent kick. There was a generous serving of grilled tiger prawns alongside, not the little dried shrimps they use for this dish in Thailand (apparently they're very hard to get hold of here.) The service was good, though one waiter did scowl at me when he realised I'd asked for tap water, and he'd just opened a bottle for nothing.
I don't usually spend £9 on lunch, but it'd be well worth the extra dosh for the food alone, even if the atmosphere wasn't impeccably gorgeous. The place is an oasis of burbling fountains, carved statues, and muted lighting - much thought has been put into the decor and it shows. They even have posh hand lotion in the bathroom that smells like orange blossoms.
And you just never know who you'll see in these places. I spent ten minutes staring at this guy a couple tables away from me, trying to remember where I knew him from. Eventually I realised it was Dave Spikey, Chorley's Ambassador of Culture, and felt like a prat.
Chapel Walks (Above Sam's Chop House)
Off Cross Street
0161 832 8342