[Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester] Chaobaby

OK, this might have been the first meal out of the year but it’s hardly an auspicious start to 2019 – although all expectations were met and, in fact, surpassed. Yes, this was dinner at the mall. There’s a dozen or so restaurants on the first floor of the mall (there’s conventional food court offerings on the ground floor).

Chaobaby is part of the Chaophyra group, the well respected Thai mini-chain with branches in several UK cities. That’s “well respected” by me, at least. Unlike the restaurants, this outlet is a buffet. Priced at £14.95, there has to be an expectation of better quality than the very manky Chinese buffets in Manchester’s Chinatown. And better quality there was.

It’s good to see an open kitchen with chefs constantly topping up the fairly small number of offerings which surround the kitchen area. Means things are likely to be hot, rather than just being kept warm. There are four distinct food areas – salads, soups, main courses and desserts. Salads were good, including a very decent som tum which was light, very citrussy and with one heck of chilli kick. Also there, a seafood salad – prawns, squid, vegetables. We didn’t try the soups but, in that section, there were also some crisp and very tasty vegetable samosas. They went well with a lovely peanut satay sauce. As did the chips that were in the next dish – proper chip sized chips – none of this “fat chips” nonsense. Chips and satay sauce? Took us right back to the Dutch speaking part of Belgium we visit where your cone of chips is always going to have a drizzle of mayo on it. But ask for “oorlog” (war) and you also get a line of satay sauce and a sprinkle of raw onions (and, occasionally, also a drizzle of ketchup).

For main courses, we tried a pad thai, a chicken fried rice dish (name of which I forget), a duck red curry and a sweetish pork and peppers dish (which I wasn’t that keen on). There were another four or five main courses on offer.

Only one of us wanted dessert. Yes, that’ll be me. About six choices on offer. Bananas in a caramel syrup were rich and sticky. Mini doughnuts looked the business but were actually a bit stodgy (no second helpings needed).

It’s the sort of place where it’s easy to be greedy. Very greedy. It’s a success for substance over style. I waddled away quite happy.


I’ve walked past the Glasgow Chaophraya many times but never got around to trying it. Maybe next time I’m there (though my regular February trips seem now to have ceased, for various reasons).

I know next to nothing about Thai food but have always thought the Manchester Chaophyra was pretty enjoyable. Certainly better food that the ones we have in the outer suburbs of the metro area.

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A return lunchtime visit.

Nothing has changed – not least my ability to be very, very greedy when presented with an all you can eat buffet. I always seem to regard this “all you eat” lark as a challenge, not a suggestion. And yes, I was on my own for the following.

Starters proved to be the best bet (and when I go back, I may try and restrain myself just to having starters). There were four made-up salads and bits and bobs of ingredients to make your own. Som tum was pretty much everything I want from the classic – freshness and bit of crunch from the papaya and an eye-watering zing from citrus and chill. Another salad took ingredients such as bean sprouts, red onion and so on, mixed in thin slices of tender pork and there was, again, citrus and chilli (although not as much as the som tum). I took the stand alone ingredients – lettuce, tomato, cucumber, slightly cooked cauliflower, etc – to make another plate, adding hard boiled egg and dressing it with a spicy peanut sauce – my own version of Indonesian (not Thai) gado-gado.

There were half a dozen or so main courses and even I had to exercise some restraint – so only two plates then. One, with jasmine rice and what was only described as “spicy pork stirfry”, so I’ve no idea whether there was any authenticity – but it was really nice. I came back for the “drunken noodles” and a beef and cashew nut stirfry that didn’t have heat but did have bags of coriander leaf.

Greed returned for desserts. Now, to be frank, these are all a bit “Mum’s gone to Iceland” but bananas in caramel were rich and sticky and who doesn’t like mini-doughnuts dusted in sugar. Or jelly! But I did also have some pineapple and melon to try and convince my conscience that I’m really a good lad about not over-eating.

What I like about this buffet is that they only put relatively small quantities of the dishes, so it’s not getting cold and it’s not getting messed about with too much (and they have a member of staff constantly tidying up the serving platters and so on. Good lunch – and a siesta needed when I got home.


Those starters sound amazing.

I never get my money’s worth in terms of quantity at all-you-can-eat buffets — I just can’t eat that much all at once — but I love the “choose what you like” aspect.

Sorry - great expression, but what does it mean?!


Iceland is a bottom end British food “supermarket” chain that mainly deals in frozen products. It is not regarded as a foody destination! They market themselves as a destination for financially hard pressed families and they sell lots of cheap frozen “kids food” items. Needless to say, they market the quality as being much better than it probably is. For quite a while, their marketing slogan was “Mum’s gone to Iceland”, with the implication that Mum going to Iceland was a good thing for the kids - although the youngsters were probably thinking “Not those vile chicken nuggets AGAIN!”

Thanks - love it!