The last time I was in the grand Townhouse building on Buchanan Street, it was an interiors store, all soft furnishings and fluffy cushions.
Okay, so we’re going back a bit — but it’s worth noting, it always seemed a waste of such a decadent building, from the grand fireplace at the entrance to sweeping staircases and high, ornate ceilings.
Of course, many of you will know it as Chaophraya, the powerhouse of a restaurant dominating multiple floors — one of a few across the UK, although it’s doubtful the other branches are as impressive to look at.
It was, however, my first visit (where have I been?) — and it was off to a good start, as the other half and I escaped the cold into a warm welcome at the door and a smiling escort to guide us upstairs to a grand dining room.
You have to wonder if Chaophraya took some tips from the building’s previous inhabitants; dark wood, enormous thick drapes over the windows and a glittering central platform to provide cosiness in what could be a cavernous, echoing room. It’s the kind of place that kills the small talk — you’re just too busy having a nosey around.
The menu is vast, taking in salads, curries, grilled meats, rice and noodles — prepare for a bit of a read before you make your mind up.
The other half settled on see krong moo; pork ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, served with grilled pineapple — and what a plateful it was! There’s bang for your buck here, even at £7.95, with enough spare ribs to satisfy both of us, each deliciously sticky and tender.
My prawn satay was almost as generous; plump king prawns marinated in lemongrass, turmeric and coconut, charcoal-grilled and smothered in spicy-sweet peanut sauce. A side of pickled vegetables, diced into tiny bites and perfectly sharp against the creamy sauce, was perfect.
The OH and I have been known to compete over who orders best — when it came to the mains, he won, hands down.
His lamb shank in yellow curry, served still-bubbling in a tagine, blew us both away. The meat — of which there was plenty — was falling off the bone, gravy-like turmeric curry giving it, and a slice of butter-soft grilled pumpkin, extra tang.
My spicy fried rice with beef and basil — apparently a staff favourite — fell short in comparison. The menu promised street-style rice with beef, fresh chilli and garlic and a fried egg to top — an enticing, stuff-your-face combination crying out to be eaten. And the flavours were mostly there; the beef was tender, the rice tasty and the egg runny, although it could have done with more of a kick.
But a mound of rice with a side of salad just looked a little too safe and refined for my liking — less street food, more try-hard, especially when competing with the aromatic casserole across the table.
Would I go back to Chaophraya? In a heartbeat — and, having seen first-hand the welcome a birthday diner gets, I’m considering embarrassing many a family member or friend in the future.
A meal like this beats a cushion sale any day — and this upmarket Thai eatery makes wonderful use of a Glasgow landmark which deserves to be seen.
Nelson Mandela Place
0141 332 0041