Zaap Thai is the latest restaurant to open on Newgate Street, on the former Co-op site which has since become a hub for bars, restaurants and even a hotel. We were kindly invited by the team to try out what they had to offer. I’ve got to be honest, I tend to avoid Thai/Chinese restaurants unless they explicitly state they offer gluten free, like Nudo Noodle House and Wagamama, since this kind of food generally does not lend itself to gluten free (soy sauce in everything!). I checked Zaap’s website and there was no mention of allergen info – I do wish more restaurant chains would offer up this kind of information easily as I would be more likely to go somewhere I know can cater for me than try somewhere new that doesn’t openly state it offers gluten free.
Anyway, we went along early on a Friday evening and the place was already fairly busy. They do not take bookings, which I think is a shame, but I guess this is a reflection of the ‘street food’ vibe they are going for. One thing I would say is that this feels like a very authentic Thai experience, something that I imagine Thaikhun at the Metro Centre were also trying to achieve but didn’t do quite as well as Zaap, which has an open kitchen, exposed corrugated metal walls and graffiti all over the toilets – the washbasin is literally a chunk of rusted container.
The menu was very meat heavy, with only a few standard veggie options. However, the menu states you can change practically any meal into a veggie one. As for gluten free, the waiter pointed out what I could have on the menu, which was reassuring given my experience at Thaikhun earlier in the year. We both opted for curry, Craig chose the Massaman Curry with vegetables (£8.50) – he asked if this came with tofu and the waiter said yes. I opted for the Prawn Paneang Curry (£8.95 w/rice), which is a firm favourite for me anyway. The waiter also suggested we got a Papaya Salad (£8.95) to share (you have to ask for this without shrimp if you want veggie, but they are happy to adapt virtually any option on the menu)..
We were in a celebratory mood as it was the night before my birthday. So we both ordered cocktails (£6.95 each), I chose the Tued Tued, which was a rum and citrus mix and came presented in an adorable teapot. Craig opted for his usual mojito, this one had a passion fruit twist.
The food was fantastic but very spicy for our untrained palates. The waiter did ask if I wanted my curry standard spicy or less, I said standard but next time I’ll say less! The Papaya Salad was also littered with chunks of red chilli, so equally hot. However, since the heat was coming from fresh chillies, as opposed to peppery heat, it was manageable and didn’t spoil our meal one bit.
Craig’s only comment would be that the curry only came with two bits of tofu, not really what you’d expect given that the waiter said this was a part of the meal (and you pay the same as if you’d ordered chicken/other meat – prawns are a little more). Down the road at Nudo the portions are considerably bigger for the same price, but that’s the difference between China Town and the hustle and bustle of Newgate Street. I have no complaints about my portion, the prawns were huge and I got plenty as well as mixed veg and huge bowl of sticky rice.
We ordered a couple more cocktails (and a jug of water!) and enjoyed the surroundings before heading to the Tyneside Cinema to watch Louis Theroux’s latest doc My Scientoloy Movie. All in all a great night and, as far as gluten free thai food goes, this is the best I’ve had (and very reasonably priced). I loved it so much I’m going back this week and I will definitely be adding it to my list of places in Newcastle that cater for such an awkward couple.
Disclaimer: Zaap invited us to try their menu for free in exchange for an honest review