Despite Birmingham’s thriving restaurant scene, Thai food seems particularly under-represented.
In fact I’ve probably enjoyed three Thai meals in the city in the eight years since decamping from the capital. Cue an overdue trip to Chaophraya to get our fix. Co-owned by Kim Kaewkraikhot who ran a successful restaurant in Bangkok before bringing her Thai flavours to the UK, Choaphraya is based on the principle of Ow Jai Sai which means from the heart. From the heart or not, even before we’d taken a seat the irresistible smells wafting from the kitchen had us. We wanted to eat our way through the whole menu immediately, but held back. At £11.95 for two courses, the lunch menu is reasonable and do-able for a weekday break from the office – provided it’s speedy enough.
Unintentionally, we both chose starters that had been deep fried, but they were far from heavy. The Khanam Pung Na Gung was like a sooped-up version of prawn toast with minced chicken and prawns, coriander and pepper served with a sweet chilli sauce. It was a very large starter, but we happily devoured it. We also ordered the Moo Dad Deow – deep fried marinated pork with honey and Thai herbs with a tangy chilli sauce. It was super and so rich that the texture was almost like liver but in a good way. Everything looked pretty as a picture including the waiting staff that floated around decked out in gold as they elegantly delivered gorgeous-looking plates of food. My main, Pad Graproa Moo Grob, was street-style stir-fried crispy pork belly with chilli, garlic, fine beans, sweet basil and jasmine rice. It was absolutely delicious. The pork was tender with a nice crunch from the crispy fat and the sauce was moreish with a good hit of chilli. The Massaman Gae – strips of lamb slowly cooked in coconut milk with potatoes and onions was excellent too. I’d only ever tried massaman with beef, but the lamb really worked. We didn’t partake in any booze, but the cocktails looked fantastic as did the wine list. We were in and out in 45 minutes comfortably, so it made an excellent, fragrant change to the usual lunchtime fodder and we were back at our desks within the hour. The Christmas menu looked brilliant too and we’ve placed a subtle copy in the boss’s in-tray. If you’re reading this big man – and why wouldn’t you be? – book it!