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.