Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Chaophraya Leeds Cocktail Menu Launch

Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines, and the thought of trying some cocktails which take their inspiration from such a culture, especially from the beautiful Chaophraya restaurant in Leeds City Centre was too good an offer to miss. I was invited by the lovely Lynsey to attend their launch of their new cocktail menu in their Palm Sugar Bar along with other bloggers and veterans of the restaurant to an evening filled with beautiful surroundings, amazing live music, scrumptious food and even more delicious cocktails.


Chaophraya is a beautiful restaurant with a really authentic Thai atmosphere similar to the extravagantly decorated restaurants I visited in Bangkok a number of years ago, with stunning elephant statues and art works with a modern, sleek look. We were ushered to the top floor of the restaurant, and greeted by lovely staff there, who welcomed us in the traditional Thai way - 'Sawadee Kha' and 'Sawadee Krap'. We were given two vouchers (as well as a further '2 for £10' voucher), each for free cocktails from a unique cocktail menu, split into four sections, named after places in Thailand, each establishing an interesting blend of flavours surrounding one key idea; Bangkok (featuring smoked cocktails), Chiang Mai (featuring blends of old and new), Koh Samui (featuring Palm Sugar 'party' themed cocktails) and Chaophraya (featuring some of Palm Sugar's best loved classics). 

We were greeted with shot glass sized testers of four of their featured cocktails to try, as well as being given information on the unique flavour twists on each of the cocktails (from left to right: The Palm Sugar Daqurry , Lychee Gin-Garita, Laotang & Cracking Pear of Figs). The first cocktail I tried was The Palm Sugar Daqurry, which was really lovely, but definitely for those who like quite dry cocktails, whilst Pete tried the Laotang, a very peaty and dry cocktail, which had a really unique taste of honey.

We started by delving in to the delicious looking food they had prepared for the event, being offered first a selection of nibbles, including vegetable spring rolls, giant prawn tempura and satay chicken skewers. The display of the food was the first thing that caught my eye, with each being displayed with giant vegetable sculptures of flowers which were stunningly crafted, as well as the satay chicken being displayed with its skewers being stuck in a pineapple (above) which was definitely a first. Each of these items was delicious in it's own way, with crispy batter on the tempura, flaky pastry on the spring rolls and juicy chicken on the satay skewers! The sweet chilli sauces and satay sauce that was available along side these dishes was also incredibly tasty. We also tried some of the tofu pad thai noodles available with spring onions and carrots, with a chilli flake and peanut topping which was absolutely delicious - I could have eaten a whole wok full! I will definitely be going back before I move to Cheltenham for a meal full of the tempura and pad thai noodles - they were so packed with flavour.

We also had, along side the event some fantastic live music, performed by Brett Jackson and Andrew Lingard from 24-Live, who were equally lovely guys as they were great musicians with Andrew's haunting voice complimenting Brett's skilled guitar playing brilliantly. I have always been a massive fan of live acoustic performances, and their relaxed tone really complimented the evening. I was also pleasantly surprised at the variety of song choices, performing everything from modern songs to new twists on my childhood favourites such as 'The Jungle Book'. They also performed old classics - Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' being one of my favourites that they did, with Andrew's amazing voice being perfect for the song! I know who I'm booking for my wedding in the distant future!

But...on to the cocktails! - the main event. I always find it amazing when new flavour combinations can be created in cocktails, because there is so many flavours out there! The new menu at Chaophraya has managed to find not only some interesting flavour combinations, incorporating classic Thai flavours, but also has some unique ways of serving them in beautiful ways! Between us, we ended up testing seven cocktails all together (including the welcome shot sized testers which you can find descriptions of above), all unique and delicious in their own way - providing something for all kinds of alcohol preferences. So, here are some descriptions (straight from the menu) and my impressions of each of the main feature cocktails we tried...

Lychee Gin-Garita
"Oriental spiced Opihr Gin, Lychee liqueur Kwai Fei are shaken with lime and sugar to give our unusual twist on a margarita"
I really liked the lychee cocktail, and it was probably one of my favourites of the evening, with a slightly dry taste from the lime, but with an incredibly sweet aftertaste. Lychee is a lovely taste that I've not had in a cocktail before, but it goes really well.

Old Man Buddah
"Abeulo 7yr Rum, Triple Sec, star anise, honey and cranberry juice all create a perfect combination for this well balanced and smooth cocktail"
I wasn't sure I would like a cocktail with such a strong flavour as star anise in, but this was really yummy, and the star anise flavour just at the right subtlety. It was very sweet for a Rum cocktail, but gave you that lovely warm feeling after you drank it.

Smoked Buffalo Bourbon
"Buffalo Trace Bourbon is sweetened with Licor 43, vanilla and finished with a smoked ginger foam"
Now, I'm not a major fan of Bourbon, but after tasting what amazing flavour Licor 43 can bring to a cocktail at the Manchester Escalator event run by The Press Tent (find my blog about it here) I couldn't resist. And, I wasn't disappointed. The Buffalo Trace Bourbon have a warm, subtle taste to the cocktail, making in very smooth with a slight sweet taste - it almost reminded me of a slight taste of chocolate!

Jamaretto Jerry
"Palm Sugars original cocktail designed to complement the flavours found in our signature dishes. Sailor Jerry, Grand Marrier and Amaretto shaken with grapefruit juice and rosemary, then sweetened with apricot jam and finished with Ginger Ale"
This cocktail definitely sounded like one of the more intriguing flavour combination cocktails on the menu, especially with ingredients such as rosemary and apricot jam - but the taste is amazing. It has a really fresh taste to it, which definitely complimented the chilli spiced Thai cuisine. It has quite a strong sour grapefruit taste, but the jam compliments it in the perfect way to make it really easy to drink at the same time with a sweet twist in the aftertaste.

Cold Smoked Pigeon
"The smoking of this cocktail balances out the sweet mix of Pink Pigeon Spiced Rum, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Cassis and ginger. Served short with a classic orange twist"
I think this (pictured below) was by far the show stopper of the evening, and I definitely noticed after a number of people had sampled the cocktails on offer, a lot of these were being ordered. Presentation played a massive roll in this type of cocktail, with the cocktail being poured into a miniature decanter and smoked using an interesting contraption that smelled like incense. We were then given a tumbler with an orange twist and the largest ball of ice I have ever seen in my life! The whole decanter was sealed to keep the smoke in and was incredibly fun to pour into the tumbler. The taste didn't disappoint either, with a beautiful flavour combination that was incredibly fruity and easy to drink with a subtle smoked aftertaste that was very weird but welcomed. I would definitely recommend trying this whenever you are in Leeds!

I had an incredibly evening at Chaophraya restuarant - it's such a beautiful place and has stunning food and equally delicious cocktails - it's definitely worth a try if you are ever in the Leeds area for a fantastic authentic Thai atmosphere and cuisine.


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