There was dismay among lovers of Thai food in Leeds last Spring when Thai Aroy Dee, a popular and authentic restaurant on Vicar Lane, closed unexpectedly.
Just over a year later it’s back, a few doors down on the same street, but now with flashy, big-spending competition in the form of Zaap Thai, bankrolled by the Sukhothai empire, just across the road.
Seemingly well-frequented in its previous incarnation, it seemed only fair to give Thai Aroy Dee a try. Despite only having been open a few weeks, when we arrive early on a Sunday afternoon the restaurant is largely full with a mixed clientelle.
Compared to the gaudy Bangkok-style decor and tuk-tuks of Zaap Thai, Thai Aroy Dee is somewhat basic in appearance. There are a handful of paintings on the largely plain walls and extractor fans protrude from the ceiling at one end of the dining room like periscopes, but little else to draw the eye.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing when the food is up to scratch, and in this respect it delivers to a high standard.
The happy hour menu between midday and 5pm offers two dishes for £6.95, more than enough food for the money and with plenty of choice. Outside these times, starters are between £3.95 and £4.50 and mains from £6.50 to £7.95, with specials costing a bit more. No alcohol is served but you can bring your own.
Sticking to the happy hour menu to stay within the confines of a ‘cheap eats’ review, I opt to wash my food down with a Thai iced coffee, served with syrup and roasted tamarind seeds.
Both my food choices are Thai restaurant classics but still hit the spot. The spicy pork spare ribs are deep-fried and almost indecently crispy with plenty of flesh to gnaw on. The gang matsaman, a creamy and slightly spicy curry cooked with peanuts, coconut milk and potatoes, is excellent and doesn’t stint on the quantity of sauce or chicken.
My partner’s chicken satay skewers, both moist and flavoursome, come with a pleasingly chunky peanut dip. Starter and main course comes together on the same plate, in-keeping with the general no-frills ambience.
Service-wise, the staff coped well with a largely full restaurant but seemed to forget about us for about 15 minutes when things got quieter later in the afternoon and didn’t offer a dessert.
This slight let-down aside, Thai Aroy Dee has a lot to recommend it. And with our total bill coming in at under £18 for two people, anyone free during the afternoon at the northern end of the city centre can be sure of a good, authentic Thai feed without having to empty their wallet.