Chaophraya, intu Eldon Square

Last week we were kindly invited to try out Newcastle’s newest thai restaurant, and the jewel in the crown of the new intu Eldon Square food hall. We had actually already been to Chaophraya before this date, but I thought it might be of interest if I write a post covering both visits and comparing the service/food from our anonymous visit to our ‘VIP’ launch night visit – the results we’re quite as you would expect.

We first visited between Christmas and New Year, not long after Chaophraya had first opened its doors. We were greeted at the entrance lobby and asked if our friends had arrived yet, the hostess said no and sent us to the bar (didn’t take our coats). We were sitting at the bar trying to work out whether we were meant to go up to order or if someone would come to us when Craig spotted our friends already sitting waiting for us in the restaurant area – bit annoying!

Anyway, we sat down and I asked for a gluten free menu. The waitress said it was listed on the official menu but it definitely wasn’t so I asked again and received a print out allergen list. It would be great if they could jazz this menu up as bit as a few crumpled pieces of paper don’t really live up to the fancy interior Chaophraya has to offer.

We didn’t order starters, heading straight in for the Tofu Pad Thai, which at £9 was by far one of the cheapest main courses. Don’t get me wrong, Chaophraya is clearly a high-end establishment, but the prices certainly reflect that with cocktails ranging from £8-11 and main starters generally around the £8-9 mark, it’s not cheap.

The main courses were great, I have to say, this was a good tofu pad thai – bit stingy on the tofu but that is often the case. I never really understand why since tofu is so much cheaper than meat! All in all, the evening was underwhelming, as we waiting 45 min from our plates being cleared to finally getting the bill. It’s clear that Chaophraya was suffering from teething problems, which is why we decided to give it another shot at the VIP Launch event in January.

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We arrived at the launch event at 6.45, our invite said 6.30 for welcome drinks and 7pm for food. Our coats were taken, which was a good start, and then we were taken to a table on the covered terraced area, which I must say is absolutely spectacular.

Gender-specific cocktails
Gender-specific cocktails

The hostess left us a bit confused, as we were expecting welcome drinks but were instead sat and given menus as a standard night. We showed the waitress the invite and she said we could have anything, which confused us again so eventually we managed to speak to a lovely lady who must have been the manager. She explained that we were allowed a drink, starter, main and dessert and she’d bring over some of the ‘welcome’ cocktails for us shortly. A minor gripe re welcome cocktails was that there were two on offer: a pear margarita and a rum-based one, served to women and men respectively. This seemed like a bit of an outdated concept for 2017 but I guess gender is a different issue altogether in Thai culture.

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The manager also brought me a set gluten free menu, which was much better than the allergen list and clearly showed what I could have off the menu. I went for the Papaya Salad to start and Tofu Pad Thai again for main course as I really enjoyed it last time. Craig opted for Mushroom Tom Kha soup followed by Red Vegetable Curry and Sticky Rice.

papaya salad
Papaya Salad – hotter than the sun

Unfortunately, after one bite of my Papaya Salad the rest of the meal was virtually ruined. I don’t see myself as being particularly bad with spicy food, but this was by far the hottest dish I have ever been served – my mouth was burnt! I resorted to chewed the crushed ice from my mango and passionfruit mocktail (which was £5 on the menu by the way – crackers!). Anyway, that was a disaster and after watching Craig chomp his way through a whole bowl of prawn crackers, which were also not gluten free, I was absolutely starving!

Mushroom Tom Kha Soup
Mushroom Tom Kha Soup

Craig’s mushroom soup packed a punch too but he absolutely loved it – it was chock full of different types of mushrooms and all in all probably one of the biggest successes of the meal

The main courses arrived not long after the starters (which we waited quite some for in the first place). My Tofu Pad Thai was just as tasty as last time but suffered with a severe lack of tofu – I counted five cubes of tofu, each smaller than a five pence piece. Pretty disappointing considering how much you get at Nudo Noodle House for a fraction of the price, or even at Zaap Thai down the road where the tofu roams free and plentiful. The flavours of the Pad Thai were delicious and it would have been a perfect meal had it come with a little more protein!

red vegetable curry
Red Vegetable Curry

Craig loved his Red Vegetable Curry, which was full of unusual but tasty vegetables. The portion sizes were all pretty good, but you’d hope so given the price list! Our plates were cleared and we expected to be brought the dessert menu, as we had been guaranteed as choice of dessert to cap off the evening. After 20 minutes we decided to ask for the bill and leave as we really weren’t that bothered, and neither were the staff so it seemed.

tofu pad thai
Tofu Pad Thai (spot the tofu)

A recap, on both visits the food was great (I blame myself for ordering the Papaya Salad, as it was hot at Zaap too!) But the service was seriously lacking. There were several occasions when other people’s drinks were brought to our table and the waitresses seemed to struggle to take orders, looks like the teething problems have continued from our first visit. Given Newcastle’s increasingly competitive Thai marketplace, I would recommend saving a few pennies and heading to Zaap over Chaophraya, particularly if you are vegetarian or gluten free as the menu is much more extensive and the staff are nothing but attentive when it comes to ensuring you enjoy your visit.

I’m interested to hear what meat-eaters thought of the VIP Launch Night at Chaophraya – comment below if you’ve been already and how you found it!

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