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Phetpailin Restaurant Reviewed

Ruth Allan is charmed by this humble, eccentric and clever Thai restaurant

Published on January 22nd 2012.

Phetpailin Restaurant Reviewed

THERE are a number of restaurants in Manchester that serve simple Cantonese food. I’m thinking of places like Tai Wu, Happy Seasons and Tai Pan. 

It would be great to have more canteens, like Phet, serving affordable Thai food to chilli addicts or those brought up on the heat and zest of this delicious, versatile cuisine

While they may not wow, their low (ish) cost and simple settings encourage us to eat out more often and get into the habit of enjoying it; a trend which has yet to extend to Thai food. With menus comprised of salads, curries, rice and noodles, it’s a shame that few have taken up the ‘simple Thai for a reasonable price’ challenge. Phetpailin is the only casual Thai place I know. 

Seating around 60, this bring-your-own-bottle restaurant in Chinatown is accessed via a doorway next to ‘Long Legs’ gentlemen’s bar. Tucked away on the first floor, I’ve got a favourite seat by the fake reeds on the left of the dining room, looking out towards the fairy-light door. The décor is warm and florid - imagine the lanky blue-peoples’ tree houses in Avatar, and you’re close - and the menu is laden with seared beans, carrots, garlic and fresh coriander. Flavours like lemongrass and fish sauce are roused by king prawns and white fish, and the only real ‘fat’ comes from coconut milk. 



Having spent several months in Bangkok, I find the cooking authentically rough around the edges. Thai food is about wrapping your teeth around hunks of ginger, broken lemongrass stalks and bundles of bird-eye chilli. 

It’s all the more rewarding for the effort it takes to eat. Dishes to keep winter at bay include whole steamed sea bass (Pla Neung Ma Nao) served in a fish-shaped ceramic bowl, with a verge of coriander, parsley, small, red chillis and diced celery on top, lemony stock around the side (£16). 

For those who like it hot, the salads are a draw. I fell for a dish called ‘wing bean salad’ in Thailand (made from chilli, onion and runner beans with wing type things, native to the tropics). It’s not available at Phet (I’ve yet to find a winged bean in Manchester, to be honest) but, the salads are as spicy as this south Asian standard. Customers have noted in online forums that Phet’s salads are ‘too hot’, but give them a chance: the chilli-stacking leaves you giddy with endorphins and Phet’s king prawn salad (Gung Lui Suan, £9) hit the jackpot. 


Not everything is great. The hot and sour lemongrass soup with mushrooms (Tom Yam Hed, £4.50) was more bitter miso than anything worth shelling out for, while sweet and sour ‘tamarind duck’ (£9) had the bulk but not the pazazz of Phet classics like crispy fillet of tilapia topped with chilli and garlic sauce (Pla Rad Prik, £11) or the sirloin with tamarind sauce (Weeping Tiger Steak, £11.95), a great option if you fancy something meaty. 

On the side, we had two portions of rice: one sticky and one aromatic, slow cooked in coconut milk (both £3). For the sake of adventure, we also tried Phad Kee Mao (£7.50) instead of Phad Thai. Ideal as a main or side, thin, fried noodles with garlic, chillies, lime leaves, baby aubergines, bamboo shoot and basil leaves were served with similar flair to the standard flat-noodle Phad Thai. And there was another bonus in store. As mentioned, Phet is bring-your-own and in all my visits, they’ve yet to apply a corkage fee. It’s a right bargain. 


In Manchester city centre, you can tuck into other Thai-style places at Chaophraya, Royal Orchid or Koh Samui. Mid range spots include Tampopo, Wagamama and Try Thai. 

Aside from Phet, it would be great to have more canteens serving affordable Thai food to chilli addicts or those brought up on the heat and zest of this delicious, versatile cuisine. The plastic, leafy décor and carved seating does clang a bit, but it gives Phet a sense of occasion and welcoming air. 

Like Gordo’s favourite Cantonese, Happy Seasons, which is just around the corner, Phet is a delightful place to eat and the reasonable price tag makes it almost irresistible any night of the week.

You can follow Ruth Allan on Twitter here @ruthallan

Phetpailin, 46 George Street, Chinatown, City, M1 4HF. 0871 811 4575   

Rating 14.5/20

Food: 6.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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

Martin MolyneuxJanuary 24th 2012.

Doesn't sound that affordable, with £16 mains! No different in price to Chaophraya.... hardly low(ish) costs.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
JayJanuary 24th 2012.

"mains", this is just the price for one of the main courses and that one is for a whole seabass which would cost over the £20 mark in Chaophraya

Martin MolyneuxJanuary 24th 2012.

There isn't a single main over £20 at Chaophraya. And you can get a 'whole' pan fried seabass for £15.50!! Prices are very similar, so the review is wrong to focus on it being more affordable, when it isn't really any different.

paulJanuary 24th 2012.

I have always thought that labeling the photos would be a step in the right direction you used to do it...so whats in the bowl ?

Mark BoardmanJanuary 24th 2012.

£16 quid main?? £9 salad?? reasonable price??I'll be at this and that mate.

ashimotoJanuary 24th 2012.

if you want a canteen serving inexpensive quality oriental food then try Vnam on Oldham Road

Yen WolstencroftJanuary 24th 2012.

As a Chinese person, I've eaten in some rough places and street markets. I've been to Phet a couple of times and, although certainly authentically rough around the edges in a greasy-spoon kind of way, the price is certainly not low. For a few quid more the quality is higher at other Thai eateries in comparison and less disappointing. Worth a visit but not worth the value.

Small point: Wagamama isn't Thai – it's Japanese inspired, teppan fried noodles for e.g. Close, but we don't all look the same...? ;-)

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ruth AllanJanuary 24th 2012.

Yen, you are correct about Wagamama not offering any Thai food. Tampopo, however, does serve several Thai-inspired dishes. www.tampopo.co.uk/…/ASSPTRCCOR-Menu-11-2011.pdf…

AnonymousJanuary 24th 2012.

Myself and all my friends love this restaurant...the food is excellent and the price is fantastic...mainly due to BYO. Excellent friendly staff add to a a relaxed vibe. haven't had a bad experience in there yet.

RachelJanuary 25th 2012.

It is the portion sizes here that make it better value for money than the likes of Chaophraya. The food is delicious and the service friendly and welcoming (unlike Chaophraya, where they can't seem to wait to get rid of you)

Nicki CooperJanuary 25th 2012.

you cant beat the dalat in northenden for price and delicious food.....

Lisa SpeakmanJanuary 27th 2012.

BYO here is brilliant, great for a pre-night out feast! But one thing to note: take your own mixers and they'll charge you a FIVER corkage!! Settle for the coke/lemo/tonic they sell inside. Other than that, great restaurant with lovely staff and tasty authentic food without losing your hearing every 10 minutes with a raucous Thai rendition of Happy Birthday complete with giant gong and cymballs a la Chaophraya!

KnowitallJanuary 30th 2012.

this place is certainly rough round the edges, and the seabass is NOT relatively cheap, yet it is tasty! You can get a delightful steamed seabass at try thai round the corner from here for 4quid less! booyaa!
It all depends on choice and your taste in a restaurant, because i don't mind the greasy places like happy season because there food is fast and delicious! But places like Chaophraya I cannot stand with the rudeness and the expensive bad tasting Thai food albeit a great decor and nice food presentation.

M-Dog ManchesterFebruary 7th 2012.

Phetpailin is what it is, grrrreat food served well by lovely people. Pricey? It may be more expensive than you would think (Chaopraya goers!) but it's BYOB people so the savings to the customer are made right there. If they were licensed they would make more money surely, I'm happy with paying a couple of extra quid for top scran and taking my own special vino! This place is top for parties, and it's no nonsense, no deals, no this, no that. I love a good deal but I also love it no nonsense. I wish Phetpailin was bigger and had a little quirky website, but then again, who needs the nonsense!? Grrrrrr.

Emma ToppleFebruary 17th 2012.

Some (important) missing info here - a lot of the mains are actually around the £7.50/£8 mark...with just a few at the higher price described. Lovely, unpretentious place...good food and always pleasant service. Highly recommended!

AnonymousMarch 30th 2012.

Yes it's a top place for parties (above) but sadly not for couples or small groups wanting a quiet, pleasant evening, at least at weekends. Our meal was totally ruined by a large increasingly drunken group who ended up sat round our table, shouting and swearing, staff ended up avoiding us as they couldn't actually reach our table - literally - dirty plates in front of us for half an hour until we ended up waving our arms around to get their attention. I did something I've never done before and complained to the manager - totally disinterested, no apology, no discount in recognition of our ruined meal (I can't even remember what we had but it certainly wasn't that cheap). Simply a casual 'it's always like this at weekends'. Take heed BYO comes with its downside when staff are unwilling to control large drunken groups. We won't be returning.

Liz DunstoneApril 12th 2012.

I LOVE this place - The prices are, I believe, very fair, the food extremely tasty, the staff, ever so friendly, and the fact that i can take my own bottle of wine, rather than paying £20 for some plop that therestaurant decides I want, makes it my NUMBER ONE restaurant. My friends and I have been coming since it opened, and have never had a bad experience or a bad meal.

AeronAugust 31st 2013.

Never had a bad experience in this restaurant and am going there tomorrow. Food and service is excellent. Highly recommended.

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