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Restaurant Review: Chaophraya, Glasgow

The Townhouse, Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow , G1 2LL
Cuisine: Thai
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Tess Hokin: Chaophraya’s new menu gives traditional Thai cooking a contemporary makeover to match the lavish decor of its Glasgow restaurant. They give you the good silver, but you’ll wish you had a shovel.
 
It’s a place I’ve walked by a thousand times: nestled amongst the hubbub of shoppers and office workers along Glasgow’s bustling Buchanan street, Chaophraya’s red sandstone exterior is easy to ignore. Swing open the glass doors, however, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in one of London’s swankiest hotels - it is sheer opulence. The staff swan about in shimmering gold jackets and there are statement chandeliers hanging from every corner of its three storeys.
 
This is not what usually comes to mind when I think of Thai food.
 
Flavour? Absolutely. Fragrance? In spades, but not mahogany bar tops and three page cocktail lists. I’m skeptical at first; I like my massaman streetside, slopped over rice with a cold Singha.
 
Could this be style over substance?
 
We quickly order cocktails at the bar to quell our doubts (though I do spot Singha and other Thai beers on the menu). The Songkran- basically a Thai inspired long island ice tea, topped with half a passion fruit for that 5 a day feeling- and the Skibbereen- a zesty little grapefruit number with a booze soaked maraschino at the bottom. So far so tasty.
 
Next we’re led up the enormous staircase to the somehow even glitzier restaurant where Aaron, our waiter, hands us what look like a bit like paddles but are actually accordion-esque menus. “It just. keeps. going.” my chef pal and dinner date for the night, Iona, says with a nervous laugh. We are both notoriously bad at decision making and food envy plagues us at every meal.
 
Luckily Aaron is a beacon of patience and good humour as we uhm and ah over the seemingly endless choices. “Not to worry ladies, they call us ‘waiters’ for a reason!”, he chuckles. We like him.
 
Eventually we settle on his recommendations- the chicken ‘tacos’, little blini sized bites of coconut red curry heaven, and a whole tempura crab to start. Both are highly photogenic- the crab is served in a seashell filled with rock salt. Weird, but pretty. This might not be traditional Thai, but we are too busy inhaling the delicious pockets of crispy crab meat to care. It’s damn tasty and we want more.
 
On to mains- out comes a perfectly cooked fillet steak with panang sauce and we fight over the teeny tiny quails egg that tops it, then mop up the rest of the sweet, rich curry sauce with sticky coconut rice.
 
Our need for heat is satisfied in an explosive papaya salad which cleanses our palettes just right before we dive into our next dish: the steamed seabass. Flaky fish, zingy green curry sauce- our plates are clean within minutes.
 
Aaron tries to ply us with more cocktails (did I mention we like him?) and brings out dessert menus, but we are feeling perfectly satisfied and decide, for once, not to stuff ourselves right up to the gills. Instead we glide back down onto Buchanan Street, where a busker is playing smooth jazz sax under some fairy lights. It’s an absurdly fitting ending to a rather glamorous meal, and with thoughts of food trucks left far behind, I think I could get used to this kind of Thai dining.
 
Tess Hokin dined as guest of Chaoparaya
The Townhouse,
Nelson Mandela Place,
Glasgow G1 2LL
0141 332 0041
 
 
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23 September 2016
By: Tess Hokin
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