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Andrew Shanahan talks to the Food and Drink Festival Newcomer of the Year, Chaophraya

Published on October 29th 2007.


Unless you’re a time-served customer who’s been going back to the same restaurant for years on end then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever even know who the owner of any given restaurant is, let alone meet them. That seems to be all the more true for places in the city centre, where many restaurants are owned by faceless corporations, who aren’t exactly going to chat with customers over their starters. Of course there are exceptions, chef-proprietor gaffs where the owner is part of the fabric of the restaurant, but on the whole we never get to meet the restaurateurs.

The impressively monikered Atcharaporn Kaewkraikhot, is one such chef-proprietor. She is owner of Chaophraya (it’s pronounced Chow – pie – a in case you were wondering), the mighty Thai restaurant that looms above and next door to Sam’s Chop House and winner of this year’s Manchester Food and Drink Festival Newcomer of the Year Award. After a couple of months bedding in the restaurant is now one of the favourites for Manchester Confidential readers.

When we opened in Manchester it was initially slower than Leeds but now it’s a lot better.

Fortunately for the hard of spelling Ms Kaewkraikhot also answers to the name Kim. Kim is 39 and hails originally from Thailand where she owned several restaurants which, ominously, she says she can’t spell, so it seems that hard-to-spell restaurants are something of a stock-in-trade.

Given her history it was always likely that she was going to open a restaurant in the UK but she said that the market was well positioned on her arrival. “When I first came to the UK ten years ago it was clear that people really liked Chinese food and the Chinese restaurants were all doing well. It seemed that the few people you spoke to who had tried it liked Thai food but there weren’t many places to eat it, so there was always going to be an increase in Thai restaurants. Of course, nowadays you find Thai restaurants everywhere but I think the popularity is going to keep on growing.”

Kim eventually chose Leeds as the venue for the first Chaophraya, which gained rave reviews. After the initial success she decided that it was worth expanding the concept into another restaurant. “Initially when I decided to open in Manchester I came down and stayed in Manchester for a couple of weeks. I went to all of the restaurants and the Thai places and I saw that they were really busy and I thought that it would be a good city to open up. When we opened in Manchester it was initially slower than Leeds but now it’s a lot better. I think that having the bar is a really good thing and helps bring people in.”

Kim remains diplomatic when asked how she thinks Chaophraya compares to the rest of the Manchester restaurant scene and declares herself a fan of several Mancunian restaurants. “I like Sam’s Chop House and some of the Chinese and Japanese restaurants very much. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to eat in Manchester all that often as I come over from Leeds when I’m at the restaurant and I usually have to go straight back again.” In fact, the only thing she’d change about Manchester’s food scene is more celebrations. “There should be more festivals which celebrate different things, so if they could have one that looked at international food and maybe one tied to football perhaps, so there’s lots of different things for the restaurants to celebrate and focus on.” Good job she won the Newcomer of the Year Award then.

Although Kim dismisses the idea of further expansion in Manchester (“it’s already huge!”) she says we shouldn’t rule out seeing other branches of Chaophraya appearing around the country. “I’ve been down to London to see what the Thai restaurants are like down there and they’re very good, the quality is high and there is lots of competition. I think that one day we will take Chaophraya to London but first we will introduce it elsewhere in the North like Liverpool or maybe Newcastle first and see what happens there.”

Kim’s has now handed over responsibility for cooking at Manchester Chaophraya to a team of chefs she brought over from Thailand. It is to them and the waiting staff that she attributes Chaophraya’s early success. “They’re all very good and they are very well trained so they know what it is that they’re supposed to be doing. For the future I think we just have to focus on the quality of food that we’re serving and keep developing the menu. We’ll keep aiming to keep the quality high and make sure that each customer is happy with their food. It’s a case of so far, so good…”

Chapel Walks
M2 1HN
0161 8328342

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Leah MackayOctober 29th 2007.

Totally agree with all the above comments. By far the best Thai Resaurant in Manchester and probably the best Thai I've had in the UK. Service, Quality of food and value for money all outstanding. Congratulations and thanks to Kim for bringing such a fabulous restaurant to Manchester - can't wait to see more around the country.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

I used to be a Koh Samui faithful, but with recent hygiene issues there, I now can't wait to try Chaophraya. I'll neverr go to Koh Samui again!

JimOctober 29th 2007.

Oh come on. Disability rights fine, but not this type of coercion. Are you going to take the campaign militant, start direct action...this is what it sounds like? Dear MDPAG face it there will be some buildings in which you can't gain access, for historic reasons or other. You have a disability, which creates a set of circumstances with will de-bar you from various places. Thank the Lord instead that you live in the West where we try our best to give everyone an equal footing.

EllieOctober 29th 2007.

I second Jason's comments. The service is lovely, the food incredible; we've searched for years for a restaurant to equal the food we ate in Thailand and finally found it at Chaophraya. I miss the steamed fish curry being on the menu though - it was on at Leeds.

natterzOctober 29th 2007.

Absolutely stunning food!fab service- can not wait to go back!

RaceOctober 29th 2007.

We had a birthday there for 13 people and spent just shy of 1k with a healthy tip to boot but the service was disgusting from start to finish. Manners cost nothing but count for a lot. They should take some hints from Vermillion.

RennyroostaOctober 29th 2007.

Great food, beautiful restaurant and excellent happy hour on a Wednesday. Have raved about it to all my friends. Not my favourite Thai restaurant in Manchester but a close second.

ElaineOctober 29th 2007.

Wonderful ambiance, excellent food, lovely staff, great atmosphere.....go often.

Martin CoyneOctober 29th 2007.

This is without doubt Manchesters finest Thai restaurant both in terms of food, decor and location. I wish Kim even more success.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

i love it! i love it! and i cant wait for lunchtime to have an excuse to go back after reading this!

ktfairyOctober 29th 2007.

I took my boyfriend here for his birthday back in March and we had a great time. I am allergic to fish, but they accomodated this well - not an easy task with Thai food! Dispite the lack of fish the food still tasted fanatastic and the service was some of the best in Manchester. Shame that a month earlier my boyfriend hadn't heard of this place and instead took me for my birthday to Simply Heathcotes - where we had rubbish service and were served raw chicken!

Barry DonnellyOctober 29th 2007.

It's a fantastic restaurant with authentic Thai food! The staff are excellent, second to none and they cannot do enough for customers. If you're celebrating a birthday make sure you let them know - pots and pans and wooden spoons are all brought together for an amazing rendition of HAPPY BIRTHDAY! It's a MUST!

John WilsonOctober 29th 2007.

This is the best Thai restaurant i have eaten at outside of Thailand. The quality of the food is excellent and the service is at the standard you would expect from a Thai restaraunt. You get exceelent value for your money. It is nice to have a least one decent restaurant left in the city.

Food LoverOctober 29th 2007.

I loved Chaopraya and regularly went for a Friday lunch or such. It was fantastic value for a quick and delicious eat in the bar but sadly the price has gone up and is now priced more like wagamama or tampopo for a quick noodle fix - but the breadth of the lunchtime menu doesn't compare to either.I did see it as a great daytime venue and being a lover of thai food I have to hand on heart say Ikan is the best in the city for the real Thai dining experience - Chaopraya is a distant third after Pacific.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

Reasonable food, but terrible service. I took some friends last night, and it was embarrassing to have to deal with such rude, surly, slow and sloppy service. The only consolation was a bit of camaraderie with other tables as we all had a laugh together about how awful the service was!

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

I went for a meal just after it opened and was sorry to say I was disappointed. It was not that the food tasted bad it was the fact my main course arrived on my table within 3 minutes of oderering, this is something I really do not like. The food was alright but nothing spectacular, Koh Samui is much better

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

By far the best Thai food in Manchester, could not fault it!

GarryBOctober 29th 2007.

Koh Samui is the closest to Thai taste for us also. Chao was good and the venue is absolutely lovely, cannot fault the service & ambience but the food although good was not as great as we thought it would be which was a real shame.

OwainOctober 29th 2007.

I would be surprised to see a single negative remark regarding this superb restaurant. To echo the previous posts the food is excellent, the staff are friendly and professional and the prices are great. It is already a firm favourite..... By the way, go on your birthday (or take someone on theirs) and let the staff know in advance, you're in for a real treat!

MDPAGOctober 29th 2007.

This restaurant is not accessible to disabled people and should never have won an award. They have many steps, have refused to put in a lift and are probably in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. If it excluded other members of community groups, there would be an outcry and it means that disabled people can't eat there with their friends and family. The restaurant is not interested in making any adaptations and it is not safe for staff or disabled people to be lifted up stairs and impossible if someone uses a heavy power chair. In an emergency they would not get out. I hope that anyone who realises this will refuse to eat there and make a complaint until the restaurant installs an appropriate lift and accessible facilities inside.

steveOctober 29th 2007.

I love this place, I eat there regularly as the food is great and the service is too, they understand the lunchtime service and the food is on your plate super quick which is ideal when you've only got an hour!! I went to Lime the other day for lunch and as we only had an hour we booked the table and ordered the food before we went and it still took over half an hour for our food to arrive, they should go to Chao to get some tips on good and fast service

BettieOctober 29th 2007.

I love this place; I've only been for lunches but the dim sum platters are amazing, and amazing value as well! Service is always friendly but it's the quality of food against the price that makes it a real winner for me

RegularOctober 29th 2007.

This is the place I go for a guaranteed good feed and they got my vote for newcomer of the year. However, I did go a couple of weeks ago and with a packed restaurant the food and service wasn't as I'd remembered. I do hope they can cope with the success.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2007.

Koh Samui is the best Thai... for me.

PeterOctober 29th 2007.

Ate here on Sunday night (25th May 2008). Great bar, superb food, average service, awful toilets (both loos blocked in the gents). I know it's 'only' the bogs, but why have such a high end finish in the restaurant and bar and then leave the toilets cheap and nasty (and even then there's no excuse for leaving them unitdy and blocked!).

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