The largest Thai restaurant in Europe has just opened up...and it's Glasgow! Based in the listed Townhouse building on the corner of Buchanan Street (Palm Sugar bar entrance) and Nelson Mandela Place (main entrance) an impressive setting greats you, rows of golden statues, incense burning, 2 bars on ground level, a restaurant upstairs and private dining and whisky bar above. Money has definitely been spent here!
The staff were very friendly and polite, we were led upstairs, given our menus and asked if we had any questions about the dishes. The restaurant was very bright, busy and loud, there was music playing but you couldn't really hear it as the high ceiling seemed to amplify the voices of people talking - think The Counting House for a comparison.
I ordered a Yom lager (£3.95) as I'd never seen this before and there was a delay in it arriving but it was a nice, refreshing light lager. Our starters arrived.
We opted for Thai fish cakes (£7.55) which arrived on a ridiculously over-sized leaf-shaped plate. The fish cakes were a mixture of cod and coley with green beans, lime leaves and red curry paste and were described on the menu as being spicy but really they weren't though the chilli dip had a good kick. They were a bit too spongey and omlettely so could've done with being firmer. More coriander/lemongrass would've been appreciated.
The Golden baskets (£7.55) were again a mixture of cod and coley flavoured with
lemongrass, lime leaf and honey, with the intention that you scoop the mixture into the six baskets or mini-tartlets. I'd had similar dishes before but I'd never had to construct the baskets myself so the colour and texture were a little unusual considering it was supposed to be the exact same fish that was in the fishcakes! Think along the lines of a savoury golden baklava with pomegranate seeds for a contrasting tart sweetness. I couldn't really fault the taste but the dish was lukewarm. The cutlery provided for both starters was a fork and spoon with no knife which again was a little unusual.
For our mains I ordered the fisherman's soup (£10.95), "As a main???" asked the waitress. Uh-oh, at £11 I'd assumed it would've been main course size but I'd already made my mind up so went with it, it was after all listed as one of the chef's signature dishes. The bowl was small but the ingredients were huge, 2 large scallops, 2 large prawns, 2 huge mussels in their shells and 3 massive pieces of squid, normally I'd be happy but this is a bowl of soup and again both courses came with only a spoon and fork so without wishing to sound too much like my dad this was prime choking material! And I was in mood to be a Heimlich Maneuver guinea-pig! The menu description this time was spot-on, it was a clear hot and sour soup which also came with enoki mushrooms and button mushroooms (though the menu neglected to mention the button mushrooms).
We don't normally order salads, but a Papaya salad (£7.95) sounded quite interesting so we went with this but it was bland and tasteless and sadly the rice was gloopy and the dressing overpowering.
The lights dimmed at 8. So onto dessert...
We had deep fried coconut and chocolate ice-cream (£5.75), one ball of each, we'd had deep fried ice-cream only once before at a Thai restaurant in Richmond and we both loved it. On this occasion it was just ok. I'm not quite sure what was wrong with it, but it just didn't want to make my tastebuds dance.
We also went for "poached pears" (£5.75) however it was just a single pear with ice-cream, a mixed fruit sauce and meringue, laid out in different compartments as if to be self-assembled (again!). The ice-cream was lovely but sadly the pear was hard. When the waitress came over she said she'd noticed that we were struggling to cut the pear (and there was no knife again!)
Before heading to the bar I went upstairs to the toilets, which looked clean and tidy...
...but whoever had been in the cubicle before me had made a bit of a mess! I know Chaophraya can't control their guests' toilet behaviour...but perhaps they could check the toilets a bit more often! I also failed to notice that the black sink was soaking wet and in leaning over to wash my hands managed to drench the bottom of my top. Again, perhaps they need to pay more attention to the toilets.
The best bit of the night for us with the Palm Sugar bar on ground level.
Stylish but quiet, the only other people here were waiting to be seated. Surprisingly they have an excellent whisky selection, including whiskies from Japan, Sweden, India and Thailand - Mekong, which I tried and have to say it was pretty good, a bit rougher than a typical 12 year old Scottish malt but not bad at all. The whiskies are split into 4 different styles - "fragrant & floral", "fruity and spicy", "rich & round" and "smoky & peaty" to help you choose, which is good, and there are a number of limited editions and 25 year olds and at least one from a now-defunct distillery (Port Ellen). If you have money to burn you could do worse than work your way through the whisky selection! They also have a good selection of spirits and liquers, oh, and cocktails! A member of bar staff told us that you won't find their Thai cocktails (all priced at £7.50) anywhere else. We opted for the Siam Smile (absolut vanilla vodka, passionfruit & pineapple juice topped with champagne) and a Yok Lor (muddled blackberries, raspberries & strawberries shaken with absolut raspberry vodka, chambord & cranberry juice) you could taste the booze and both were yummy.
Overall, I love Thai food and while Chaophraya certainly looks the part, all our courses were disappointing and we had a much more enjoyable meal in the more humble and cheaper Bluerapa in Edinburgh a few weeks earlier. Drinks-wise the bar is well stocked with an eclectic mix of booze, especially in terms of whisky and unusual cocktails. Chaophraya also has restaurants in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester so they must be doing something right, perhaps it's just too early for the Glasgow venue and we should check back again in a few month's time...
Thanks to DADA events for the review opportunity.