Chaophraya seems to have been around forever, and was certainly part of the Manchester dining scene long before the Northern Quarter got its facelift, and Spinningfields was even a glint in Tim Bacon's eye. I think it got a little lost in the 'foodie' (hate that word) explosion that happened after around 2011, when names like Solita and Southern Eleven started to dominate Manchester dining, everyone wanted either burgers or pulled pork, and a tribe of bloggers began to emerge from their back bedrooms (guilty). Fine dining was dying off in favour of 'down with the kids' pop ups, no booking policies, and restaurant Twitter banter. There they stayed, quietly waiting, dormant.
I'm only a recent convert to Thai food, but I'm now fully embracing it. I think my first experience was some dodgy gaff in Bolton where the staff were rude, and the other diners were ruder still. That ended badly. Chaophraya's a world away from that terrible night. We were greeted like friends when we arrived, despite never having set foot in the place before. It certainly has a wow factor, the large doors concealing a beautiful reception area which is not visible from the street.
Our welcome included introductions to the front of house team, Thai crackers with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, and some beautiful cocktails.
Temple of Dawn - smoked, Whitley Neil gin, cherry marnier, almond, maraschino, lemon (bottom)
Rubies and Diamonds - Pama pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice, Pinot Grigio (top)
Mushroom tom-kha soup (Tom-kha het) - An aromatic Thai soup with enoki and shimeji mushrooms with galangal, lemongrass, chilli and kafir lime leaves: One of the stand out dishes of the evening for both of us. If you're not a mushroom fan, worry not, as this is very delicate, and tastes nothing like your standard fungus.
Steamed dumplings (Ka Nom Jeeb) - Assorted prawn and pork dumplings steamed and topped with fried garlic and a sweet soy sauce: I love dumplings. Despite the fact I used to hate prawns with a passion, these have become one of my favourite Thai dishes. They add a delicate sweetness which works fanatically with the salty soy sauce.
Thai chicken tacos (Taco Gai) - Red curried chicken finished off with coconut milk and served over lightly pan-seared rice flour tacos: Yes, they're very pretty, but they also taste remarkable. They are just like the Mexican kind, only with the signature Thai flavours you would expect. Loved these.
Massaman lamb curry (Massaman Gaeh) - Pieces of tender lamb stewed with massaman curry, coconut milk, carrots, potatoes and baby onions, topped with cashew nuts: Massaman curries are one of my new favourites because of the sweet cashews. This was a lovely, fragrant curry, but it was a little overshadowed by the other main we ordered.
Chamber aged sirloin steak (Nua Sirloin Yang) - 8oz sirloin steak cooked at your table on a Himalayan rock salt block. Served with a tangy chilli dip alongside stir-fried shimeji mushrooms, onions and Bok choy: Seared on the outside before it's brought to the table, the steak is then finished off Raclette style on a hot block of pink Himalayan salt. I like my steak really rare, so this did not take long at all! I like a bit of theatre with my food.
Sides - sugar snap pas, mushrooms and tenderstem broccoli and sticky rice: I adore the crunchy vegetables served with Thai food, and the fact they aways add red chilli, which is either sweet or will blow your head off; you never quite know which one you'll get! Sticky rice is the only type I ever order because I love it so much. This was slightly overdone and was a little hard in places, but they were forgiven, because strangely, I quite liked it.
Mango meringue roll - A light Alphonso mango and passion fruit meringue roll served with Thai Mango and roasted almonds and lightly caramelised strawberries: So delicate, every flavour and texture were considered, and presentation was just perfect. The tang in that mango with the sweet meringue was heaven. I just need a Viennetta sized portion.
White chocolate box - White chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis on butter shortbread served with a mini macaron and passion fruit syrup: I love white chocolate, some say a little too much. So many elements, which were just perfection. A chewy macaron, that shortbread concealed beneath that moulded chocolate, and the tiny leaves placed 'just so'. Who knew?
Disclaimer: I was invited to Chaophraya to sample their new menu. I was not asked to rave about their roulade, or indeed get so excited when my food came served with flowers. Excitement - blogger's own.