In the third of our series focusing on places to eat before the theatre, Rich Jevons goes to Leeds and visits three venues in walking distance of the Grand Theatre & Opera House: Chaophraya, Veritas, and Roots and Fruits.
Sipping jasmine tea waiting for my companion at Chaophraya in a nicely separated bar area, I’m already salivating over the sweet smells of the food drifting from the other side of the screen.
When we take our table – really more of a nook – we opt for the à la carte menu which is mind-blowing in its variety and quality. As we order there is a lovely Thai rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for a lucky celebrant. For starters we choose golden baskets, crispy pork belly with Thai basil, spicy seafood udon noodles and egg fried rice which are simply divine.
For the main, we opt for the Asian Platter which consists of prawns, chicken satay, chicken spring rolls, marinated pork with honey and Thai herbs and crispy duck salad. This is Thai food at its most genuinely authentic, beautifully presented and gorgeously flavoursome.
Still room for desserts though and the ice cream is more like a fondue with its rich fruits, while the pancakes, recommended by our host, are sublime. As there is no rush to dash off, we retire to the bar area again for coffee and a chinwag and are granted an affectionate and traditional Thai send-off.
If you like Thai food this is top of the range; if you are a newcomer, dip your feet in the water, you won’t be disappointed.
As a teetotaller I was a tad wary of Veritas given its reputation as a gastro-pub. But you only have to ask and there is a separate dining area suitable for those not interested in a tipple. If you fancy a quaff of something pleasant, there is an extensive drinks menu and my companion finds the house red cheerful enough.
The starters – a prawn and a pâté dish – are exquisite both in taste and presentation. My dining partner’s main is a real winter warmer – sausage on a bed of mashed potato – while I, sticking to a fish theme with the cod with pasta, enjoyed a gorgeous meal. The service is notable for the way in which the hostess takes ownership of the menu (my cod, my sausages) and she is extremely knowledgeable about all the food choices.
The desserts are a delightful way to conclude the meal. My friend plumped for a rather grand chocolate brownie replete with lemon zest and fresh strawberry. As for me, I’m still on with my sticky toffee pudding quest and this was up there with the best.
You could easily walk past this place without a second glance but I promise you that, once inside, you will find all you wish for. This is in contention for one of Leeds’ best-kept secrets (although judging by the rammed Friday evening a fair few have cottoned on).
Roots and Fruits is an outstanding veggie café in the Grand Arcade, just two minutes from an evening out at the Grand Theatre & Opera House. Our host Kay kindly takes us through the menu which has surprising variety. It’s always good to share so we start with a plate of nachos which have a lovely garnish before our main dishes of tortillas and lasagne – a Mexican theme developing here. We are both very aware that the food here is healthy and lean compared to some carnivorous concoctions.
I should also mention that the busy café had to cope without its usual serving hatch during our visit – hats off to the chefs who brought the food down themselves. Thankfully, we still had room for dessert. The crumble was to die for and, sorry if you’re tiring of my sticky toffee pudding chat, but this one was a veritable treat. Highly recommended.
By Rich Jevons
Food images by Holly Spanner
Main image: Chaophraya
For suggestions of pre-theatre menus in other Northern cities, please contact Northern Soul’s Assistant Editor Stephanie Alderson at firstname.lastname@example.org