With tickets booked to visit the Leeds Carriageworks Theatre for a 7.30pm show a couple of weeks ago, we decided to make a complete night of it and dine out at a restaurant beforehand.
But where to go? The Leeds dining scene has exploded in recent months with new restaurants appearing it seems almost weekly and some of the long-standing ones undergoing a re-branding or a change of management. In particular, a clutch of ‘street food’ restaurants serving all manner of Indian and far eastern food have really given some of the more established restaurants a run for their money.
We fancied something relatively light – it’s no fun sitting for a couple of hours in a packed theatre after a hearty meal when all you want to do is go home and to sleep.
And it made sense to stick as close to Millennium Square as we could to minimise travelling time and to look for a restaurant that offered a pre-theatre menu to speed up the service.
Thai Edge on the corner of Calverley Street and New Portland Street ticked all the boxes, so an online booking was made and acknowledged almost immediately.
We rolled up at 6pm to find a scattering of other diners enjoying a similar early-bird dining slot – the restaurant opens at 5.30pm after the afternoon shutdown so it was just gearing up for the evening session and we had our pick of the seats.
It’s in the perfect spot, overlooking Millennium Square and just across the road from The Carriageworks; it is housed on the ground floor of a modern block of flats and has massive windows that allow light to flood in and diners to partake of a spot of people-watching while they’re eating.
The decor at Thai Edge is light and bright with lots of open spaces, light-coloured bamboo, Buddhas and water features.
Although covering a large floor space, the restaurant is broken up into smaller, more intimate sections with floor-to-ceiling bamboo partitions that do not detract from the overall spaciousness.
The waiters, dressed in beautiful Thai costumes, are lovely and smiley and greet diners at the door with a ‘wai’ – the traditional Thai greeting of a slight bow with the palms of the hands pressed together as though in prayer – we reciprocated, albeit not quite as gracefully.
Tables are well spaced out and clothed in brilliant white tablecloths – napkins are linen too and we watched fascinated as a young waiter deftly twisted them into shape at the table he’d just cleared.
Chairs are comfortable and upholstered in plush materials. In fact the whole decor is smart and sophisticated without being overly formal and ostentatious.
I’m usually driving and so don’t normally drink alcohol but we’d decided to let the ‘train take the strain’ that evening and so were able to enjoy a glass of Thai Singha lager (£3.50) which was icy cold and went down extremely well, setting us up nicely for what was to come.
The early bird menu at £12.95 for two courses is remarkably good value for money and offers plenty of choice with a dozen starters and 19 mains; it is available Monday to Saturday from 5.30-7pm. The full menu offers something like 150 different dishes so this is but a small selection.
Conscious of our tight timetable we didn’t spend too long ordering our meals and dived straight in. To start I had deep fried-marinated chicken in pandanus leaf parcels served with sweet chilli sauce.
They came beautifully presented on dazzling white china with the sauce in a little wooden bowl, the dish decorated with a side salad and edible flowers. The chicken – once I’d extracted it from the parcels – was tender and just mildly spiced and the sauce piquant and tasty and complemented the chicken beautifully.
My companion, a vegetarian, opted for tord man, deep fried corn cakes served with sweet chilli and cucumber salad sauce. The three cakes were substantial and very filling and she proclaimed them to be quite delicious.
For the mains I had sweet and sour beef which came heaped in a bowl with thickly sliced pineapple, cucumber, tomato, onion, pepper and spring onions in a lovely sweet and sour sauce that was sweet but not sickly and balanced out the flavours nicely.
The vegetable Thai green curry of aubergine, green pea, bean, courgettes and lime and decorated with a large sprig of basil was delicately flavoured.
Both main meals were accompanied by bowls of steamed Thai jasmine rice to soak up the sauce.
Desserts taken from the homemade Thai selection on the menu were a plate of deep fried bananas in desiccated coconut and sesame seed batter with sweet honey and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (£4.95) for my companion and ice cream Todd for me (£4.95) – fried vanilla ice cream with a crunchy cornflake batter which was served with fresh strawberry and honey topping – both were exquisite though unashamedly calorific.
To cleanse out palates after the onslaught of sugar we’d jut taken in we ordered a pot of Jasmine tea – it was a wise decision and finished off the meal nicely.
The final bill – including drinks – came to a modest £54.23 and the service was so efficient (though never hurried) that we easily made curtain-up at 7.30pm and arrived feeling pleasantly sated but not over full.
The show was equally as good as the meal, so a good night was had by all.
Address: New Portland St, 7 Calverley St, Leeds LS1 3DA
Tel: 0113 243 6333
Opening times: Lunch: noon to 2.30pm (3pm Sunday); dinner 5.30pm- 11.30pm (Fri & Sat midnight, Sunday 9.30pm