Newcastle’s pretty much an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining out.
Its restaurants dish up fare inspired by all manner of far-flung corners of the globe. Now there’s even more choice for hungry Toon-goers with the opening of Grey’s Quarter, a dining area of 20 new restaurants created in a once tired corner of Eldon Square.
It’s a swanky-looking dining quarter, (it wants to be after a £25million investment) with food for all ages, from family-friendly chains like Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, through to more ‘hipster’ hangouts like Giraffe and George’s Great British Kitchen.
Occupying the prime rooftop corner site is Thai eatery Chaophraya (don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
It certainly looks the part, as you’d expect from a restaurant that’s bagged the top spot overlooking Grey’s Monument and the grand Georgian facades of Grey Street. If you’re one of those who likes Instagramming your drinks in The Botanist, which has a similar view, you’ll like this.
Not everyone gets a window view, of course, and we were seated in the garden area. Though it’s outside you don’t need to worry about shivering over your sticky rice: heavy duty heaters keep it toasty with a removable roof which can be wound back in summer.
The restaurant comes from the same stable as Thaikhun in the Metro Centre, but while that focuses on the buzz of Bangkok’s streets, this more high-end chain, there are eight across the country, is inspired by the fancier side of the Far East. It’s all very opulent with gilded-effect Buddhas, hues of rich burnt orange mixed with trendy murals and intricate Thai fretwork. This is fine dining Far East-style, great if you’re looking for somewhere a bit special for date night.
The serving staff all look the part too in traditional gold dress. Though service comes with a smile, our experience was very slow.
Granted, the restaurant was exceptionally busy, but it took more than 25 minutes, after a prompt, to get our first round of drinks and even longer for food. It gave us longer to peruse the menu I suppose.
There’s plenty of choice on there, with all the usual Thai suspects, like Thai green chicken curry (£12.50), massaman lamb curry (£14) and what surely must be the national dish of Thailand, Pad Thai, which comes in at £10.50 for a chicken option or £9 for a veggie version. Not unreasonable prices for a restaurant which looks as swanky as this one.
To start we chose to share a maeklong platter, priced £9.50 per person.
It offers you a pick and mix of their most-popular morsels to tuck into: chicken satay, prawn and pork dumplings, chicken spring rolls and sweetcorn cakes.
The dumplings were plump with flavour, the melt in your mouth kind, and came nicely presented in a swirl of cucumber, while the chicken satay came with satisfying pots of sauce for dunking, but the sweetcorn cakes were a little overly-greasy and were left languishing at the side of our plate.
For mains, I chose the crispy duck salad. It was a good-sized portion, served with green vegetables and pomegranate with a zing of chilli and lime dressing, but the duck could have done with being a little crisper, like its name.
Have I had better Thai food? Yes. But never in somewhere as chic as Chaophraya.