For me, January is about catching up with friends after the festive season and somehow it always involves food. Since I’m trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, I’m making a more conscious effort to choose lighter options when dining out. Even though I see eating out as a treat (meaning I always go for the naughty option) I’m trying my best to be good, which is what I did on my recent outing to Chaophraya, in Eldon Square, Newcastle.
After taking the lift to the third floor, we were greeted by the grandest of entrances. Mini elephants, burning lanterns and a flurry of greenery, it definitely set the scene. The decor inside boasts rich, glossy wooden furniture with luxe touches of gold, and finished with buddhas and other glittering ornaments. Although it’s a restaurant, to me, there’s a spa-like aura about the place – it’s luxurious, but cosy.
After passing the private function room and the outdoor area, Tasha and I took our seats by the window which had the most breathtaking views of Grey Street and Monument.
Since there are two menus to choose from, a set menu and a a la carte menu, we were spoilt for choice. Our waitress, Amy, kindly recommend we start by sharing the Chaophraya platter, as it would give us a taste of a few different pieces.
With a selection of chicken satay, Thai fish cakes, chicken spring rolls, squid and wing bean tempura, Tasha and I decided to go with that. For mains I went for the duck taramind with sticky rice and Tasha chose the lamb curry with coconut rice. For drinks I ordered a mocktail and Tasha ordered Chaophraya’s version of a pornstar martini, as well as getting a jug of water for the table.
When reading the menu you’ll notice some dishes are surrounded with gold boxes, these are recommendation dishes. So, if you’re really stuck on what to choose, help is at hand.
While we were waiting for our starters to arrive we were treated to complimentary prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce. I love getting something small like this to tide me over until my starter arrives – it’s such a nice touch.
Since I was trying to be good I did make a conscious effort not to gobble them all (plus I’d managed to spill sweet chilli all down myself – honestly you can’t take me anywhere). So, instead I helped myself to a couple inbetween sips of my mocktail, which was incredibly refreshing.
Soon our starter had arrived and I couldn’t believe how beautifully presented it was – definitely Insta-worthy. After being told what was what we dived straight it. The chicken was so tender it instantly fell off the stick as soon as I took a bite. There was a spice to it, but it wasn’t overly powerful, it was just right.
The Thai fishcakes crumbled instantly, again there was a zingy spice to them that tantalised my tastebuds leaving me wanting more. The chicken spring rolls were filled with a gooey mixture inside a crunchy coating, and the sushi-looking bite-sized pieces were delicious. I especially loved the sauce on top.
We also got a helping of crispy prawns, which was a bonus. Once I bit into the lightly coated batter that revealed the size of the prawn I was so impressed – it was bloody huge! I’m glad we went for the sharing platter, as it allowed us to sample a variety of things without filling us up too much.
It wasn’t long before our mains arrived, and oh boy, they were some sized mains. My thick strips of duck lay on a bed of grilled carrots and broccoli and topped with fried shallots, dried chilli, a sprinkling of cashew nuts and complemented with a bowl of sticky rice.
The duck was soft and tender in the middle and the skin lined around the edges was slightly crisp giving the dish a variety of textures. Normally I like a lot of sauce, but that’s where the fats and calories lie, so I’m very pleased it didn’t come smothered in any. Plus, the duck was so full of flavour it didn’t need a dressing.
The vegetables were grilled to perfection – soft on the outside with a crunch in the middle. The sticky rice was just that – soft, fluffy and incredibly sticky. It was the ideal side, however, if you’re looking to try something different the coconut rice looked just as good. Plus, it came wrapped inside a bamboo leaf and was sprinkled with seeds.
Half way through and I was struggling to eat anymore. Normally I would continue to eat and just overindulge, but I decided to stop while I was feeling content and got the rest boxed up to take home.
Once my plate has been taken away I usually wait 10 minutes and decide I have room for dessert. I never actually have room, but the menu always sounds too good to resist. But since I’m trying my best to be good, I kindly declined and left with my doggy bag in tow.
Although the restaurant was packed the service never faltered and we didn’t wait long inbetween courses. I also found the staff to be incredibly helpful when asking about dishes on the menu. With gorgeous decor and a huge variety of dishes, you betcha I’m going back to try more of the menu. Ps. my doggy bag tasted just as good the second time round!
Have you been to Chaophraya before? Do you struggle to choose healthier options when you’re dining out?
Sarah Jayne x
(I received a complimentary meal in exchange for a review. My review is completely honest and all words and opinions are my own)