Kate Ryrie chews the fat over Thai street food at its best
EVERY now and then you discover something that makes you seriously question why no one has thought of it before. Thai tapas – speciality of York Place’s new establishment Phranakhon – is one of those things.
With the restaurant’s first opening in York going down an absolute storm, this September saw the same enticing menu of flavoursome small dishes break onto the Leeds scene – and so far, it’s failed to disappoint.
A satisfyingly meaty texture and a punch of flavour to match
We head to Phranakhon on a damp Saturday evening. Summer has resigned for the year, and despite our efforts to deny it, the chill of autumn is most definitely in the air. Fortunately, descending to the basement of 11 York Place is like stepping into a home from home. It’s cosy yet chic – exposed brick, trails of ivy, low lighting and eclectic décor, with a happy rumble of diners already beginning to tuck in.
The menu is divided into six sections – pork, street food, curry, vegetables and ‘delights’. With upwards of 10 dishes in each one, choosing your weapons takes some serious studying. They recommend two to three dishes per person – go for three unless you have the appetite of a child, and a side of rice is not a bad shout even then.
The wine list is decent, with a good range of white, red and pink served by the glass – and more by the bottle. We order a glass of French Sauvignon and a Chang lager to keep it authentic, before making the night’s toughest decision: what to order.
First, we pick Phranakhon Legendary (£6.95) – or crispy pork belly with chilli and oyster sauce to you and me. It’s an immediate highlight, with a perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness, and pork that’s not too chewy or too fatty – just right.
Alongside it arrives Yam Tua (£6.95), a warm green bean salad with minced pork and shrimp, which ups the heat of the meal with a powerful kick of chilli. It works on its own, but goes well with a few spoons of steamed rice (£2.50), which you can order plain or with garlic and ginger.
We take a recommendation from the menu’s highlighted boxes and opt for Khao Niaw Gai Yang (£6.50) – grilled chicken thighs on sticky rice with tamarind sauce – and don’t regret it. That signature Thai sweetness works like a dream, with the chicken offering a satisfyingly meaty texture and a punch of flavour to match.
Nuea Sen (£6.95) – a dish of crispy shredded beef served with chilli and basil – presents us with a bowl of firm beef sticks soaked in a hot, syrupy sauce. It’s definitely a grower – not what I was expecting, and more like an adventurous bar snack than an iteration of steak, but by the end of the meal, I’m sold.
Our final two dishes are Kung Yai Gratiem (£6.95) – a beast of a jumbo king prawn that requires both hands and a strong bit of wrist action to dissect (totally worth it, it’s delicious), and Phranakhon Chilli Squid (£5.95), which does exactly what it says on the tin, with a moreish saltiness to complement that distinctive calamari experience.
Our selection is quite fish and meat-focused, and while the menu is fairly light on the veggie and vegan options, there are a few goodies to choose from. Makuea Rad Prik (£5.95), a dish of battered aubergine and courgette, looks particularly good, but given such an extensive menu, it would be nice to see a bit more choice for non-meat-eaters.
We find room for dessert – agreeing that we could have used another dish or two for full satisfaction from the main – and order Roti Tord (£5.50), a roti stuffed with banana, strawberry and condensed milk. It takes about half an hour to appear, and when it does, the banana is AWOL. The staff knock the price off the bill, but having had to chase where two of our tapas dishes had got to, and not receiving the rice until we’d pretty much finished it all, it’s an ending unbefitting to the evening’s incredible food.
Despite minor hiccups on the service front, Phranakhon does itself proud with quality of food, fantastic ambience, and a dining concept that shouldn’t be innovative, but somehow seems ground-breaking. It’s got the sizzle, the sweetness and the spice, and it feels like Thai street food at its best.
, 11 York Place, Leeds, LS1 2DS
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Crispy belly pork 8, green bean salad 7, chicken thighs 8, shredded beef 7, jumbo king prawn 8, chilli squid 7, roti tord 6
Friendly and warm but a little inattentive at times
Full of loveliness and light. A little on the warm side