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Chaophraya is a Thai restaurant that I have had the best of intentions to visit for years. And I mean years. I used to look at it every time we passed on a visit to Glasgow (and now Chaophraya Edinburgh) but never quite made it along. Then it opened here in Aberdeen and somehow, I still managed to take an age to visit but here we are, finally! A long-awaited review of our meal at Chaophraya Aberdeen.
The restaurant has a great location in the city centre, right on the corner between Union Street and Union Terrace. It was always a beautiful building and having never visited the Chaophraya chain before, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the interior. I remember when it was the Monkey House and although not somewhere I frequented often, it had those classic Victorian details and the designs on the ceilings of the building so I wasn’t sure how much of a transformation to expect from this visit.
As we stepped into the building, we were initially quite taken aback by all of the Thai inspired artwork and statues that we could see around us. More often than not, when you walk into a restaurant, it’s nice and clean and you sit at your table and it’s all about the food but with lots of religious and Buddhist references and statues, ornate wood carvings and colourful artwork on the walls, it felt like a sensory overload that we hadn’t anticipated. And that is by no means negative, it was simply unexpected.
It’s a big restaurant and we were seated at a lovely big table by the bar, where there weren’t many others around us as the majority of people seemed to be sat in the main dining area upon entry. This suited me fine, I wanted to take it all in and with that, we really did take our time to order as we were spending so much time looking at everything around us.
At the beginning of the Chaophraya Aberdeen menu (I believe there may be some variations to the menus available in different cities), there was a section explaining that the team (lucky sods!) regularly travel to Thailand for inspiration with regards to the menu and the dishes that they serve. Explaining that Thai cooking is colourful and diverse and has something for everyone.
Little details of information like this are not lost on me and it created that human connection that I could appreciate in the thought and intent behind the menu.
After much deliberation, we ordered drinks and starters. I am a starters kind of girl, I am known to order one or two with a side and make my own meal because of either the sizes suit my eating habits better, or they just sound delicious and I don’t make it past that section to the mains.
To drink, we ordered the Franklin & Sons Strawberry and Raspberry and Apple and Rhubarb drinks. The strawberry and raspberry drink comes with the addition of cracked black pepper while the apple and rhubarb comes with cinnamon, but we did not enjoy. We quite like all of these flavours individually so I don’t know if it’s the fact that they were served warm or that they too much of something but not enough of another, whatever it was, they just weren’t for us. No thank you.
Next time, we will plan our days better because I am keen to order some of the cocktails, have you seen the Pink Lemon Pie? It looks absolutely gorgeous. I wouldn’t even be able to list the amount I want to try, nor do I recommend doing it in one visit but whether you like a cocktail or a mocktail, I think this has to be one of the most impressive menus that I have seen for them.
We ordered two starters, the Chicken Spring Rolls ‘Hand-rolled crispy spring rolls filled with chicken, carrot, cabbage, Chinese mushroom and vermicelli with sweet chilli sauce.’ and the Thai Tacos ‘Red curried chicken finished with coconut milk and served over a lightly pan-seared rice flour taco.’ although we did order the vegetarian alternative to these.
Chaophraya is not the only Thai restaurant Aberdeen has to offer and if you have read our blog before then you might remember that I mentioned in our Madame Mews post that I love spring rolls so they had to be ordered, it was a no-brainer. But as much as I love spring rolls, I always order vegetarian so ordering the chicken was a new experience. I’m also not sure if I have ever had them with vermicelli so I was intrigued as to how they would hold up.
Well, they were moreish, the Chicken Spring Rolls were crispy and they held together until the last bite and the flavours were lovely and still had that wonderful crunch to them. The sweet chilli was not your thick and sticky sauce but rather more liquidy, I don’t think that the sauce was packed with that sweet chilli flavour but it did compliment and benefit the spring rolls.
Again, the Vegetarian Thai Tacos were very tasty. They were much smaller than I had anticipated, definitely a one-bite wonder, and a little messy to eat as the small rice flour tacos were slightly stuck to the plate on arrival. They had a little bit of a kick to them, but they were also very creamy in flavour. We both really enjoyed this dish, but Peter did struggle with the heat of them. I was a little surprised by that as I didn’t find them spicy, but they do show a ‘slightly spicy’ pepper next to the description on the menu so if you aren’t a fan of spice, perhaps it’s one to bear in mind.
We only (..only) ordered two starters at this visit but there were so many more that I would love to try! Particularly the Grilled Pork Skewers and the Thai Fish Cakes which sound incredible so they will definitely be on my radar for our next visit.
Bypassing the soups and the salads section of the menu we headed straight for the mains. I did have a look at the options available in passing and I have to admit that until that point, I had never considered visiting Chaophraya for lunch or as somewhere that would have had lighter options but I would definitely be keen to visit for their lunch menu.
For main, I ordered the Royal Sous Vide Lamb Massaman Curry ‘Caramelised slow-cooked lamb, with home-style massaman curry, coconut milk, carrots and potatoes topped with crispy shallots and cashew nuts. A traditional recipe made for and served to the Thai royal family.’.
If you aren’t sure what sous vide is, it’s the way the meat is cooked, usually in a vacuum-sealed bag and then cooking in temperature-controlled water and I think it’s mainly done this way to serve the same quality and standard, every time.
I thought that the curry was delicious. Hearty and filling. The lamb was so tender it fell apart at the touch, and the potatoes were soft but weren’t overcooked so still held their shape and their own flavour while the cashews added a little bit of texture and a nice aesthetic design element to the dish. I was really happy with my choice, although I did find it quite heavy going towards the end, especially after a starter and I just couldn’t finish it.
We shared a side of noodles and a side of rice with our mains. This wasn’t made clear to us from the description on the menu or from the server at the time of ordering, as we had presumed, obviously, wrongly, that rice or noodles were part of your main (as the cost per main was £13-15) and would come as such but they are ordered as individual sides. I’m still not entirely sure that this is correct but I believe they were around £4 extra each.
There is a Noodle and Rice section on the menu for your Pad Thai dishes and whatnot which is made of majority noodles but I think it’s something to mention in case you were under the same impression as us while looking at the menu.
I think I can say that we both really enjoyed the rice and one portion was enough for both of our meals. Usually, I am all about noodles but they didn’t seem to compliment either dish as nicely as the rice. Both sides were on the stickier end and I just didn’t feel that the noodles added anything to the dish while the rice perhaps soaked up some of the sauce and incorporated the flavour into it.
Peter chose to order the Chicken Red Curry ‘Our classic red curry made from dried red chillies blended with coconut milk, bamboo shoots and basil.’, he loves a red curry and I suspect is looking for that perfect one, forever chasing a high that will likely never come as they are all so different!
Anyway, I imagine it’s a very popular choice of dish for what people would assume is a very mild and creamy curry as that is what we tend to have served when ordered but he did think that it had quite the kick. Definitely not unbearable but it was certainly hotter than he had imagined it would be. As usual, he finished his meal and he didn’t have any complaints overall except that it wasn’t anything outstanding but he did also state that he found it quite heavy going after the starters and that is definitely not something that I am used to hearing from him! He also made comment about how he thought my dish was nicer, which surprised me.
Neither of us had eaten anything within the hours before our meal but I do find that creamier dishes are quite filling and heavier in general so be aware of this and bear it in mind before you order because I would hate for you to not get the full enjoyment of a meal out.
Ok, so this is where we differ. I really enjoyed my experience at Aberdeens Chaophraya restaurant, I thought it was nice, with a relaxing and calming atmosphere. Too many people didn’t surround us; it wasn’t noisy, and it was pleasant all around. The Chaophraya menu was varied (including vegan and gluten-free options) and I enjoyed the food that I received and for the most part, Peter would agree with that, only, he expected more. He thought from the branding to the descriptions, that it had all the flair and he was expecting great things but he was just satisfied. His own expectations of greatness and experiencing something really special left him underwhelmed.
I would love to return to try some of those starters I mentioned but I think I would like to try it for a lunch for one of the soups but there are plenty more mains that are appealing to me also. What I need is a taster menu, like an afternoon tea size portion of starters and mains. I would consider this one of the nicest Thai restaurants in Aberdeen that I have visited and if you are looking for some great cocktails, somewhere for a lovely yet relaxed night out or places to eat in Aberdeen’s city centre, I would not hesitate to recommend visiting, but only if you have an appetite!
There are some special features about Chaophraya that I didn’t know about until I came to write this post and I think they are things that would be really popular so I want to shout a little about it now! I think that these could be better advertised but perhaps if you are in the know… I could just be very behind!
- They have full recipes available on the website for free which feature the ingredients, quantities and methods used. So why not try making some of your favourites at home?
- They have Chaophraya Aberdeen private dining areas in the restaurants for those looking to book in larger groups, whether that’s corporate or private parties.
- Chaophraya is available for delivery and collection on Deliveroo! Eat from the comfort of your own home!
- You can purchase gift cards for friends and family which start at just £20 and is a great idea as the cost could easily rack up.
- Personally, the best thing that the restaurant offers that I didn’t know about but I think would be a fantastic opportunity for friends or maybe an Aberdeen Hen Do idea is the Chaophraya Aberdeen cooking class which is called the Masterclass where you can take a cooking or cocktail making class with a group of your friends!
1 Union Terrace,
Aberdeen AB10 1NJ