It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, Zaap is one of those restaurants in Leeds that is guaranteed to be bustling whenever you call in.
They certainly seem to have hit on a winning formula since taking over a unit on the corner of the Grand Arcade in 2015 and turning it into a little piece of Bangkok, crowded with graffiti art, posters, lights and bunting that complements the lively atmosphere.
There are now sister restaurants in Nottingham and Newcastle, each offering up a vast menu of more than 80 Thai street food dishes.
Having never visited Thailand, it’s hard to comment on the authenticity of the various dishes but my other half has made several trips to the country and had no faults to pick with Zaap in that regard.
Our recent visit to the Leeds venue on New Year’s Eve was not the first and I’m certain it won’t be the last as we both came away from the meal remarking on just how good the food had been.
It’s worth noting that, in the spirit of street food, they don’t accept any bookings and have instead developed the juggling of tables and the constant flow of diners into a fine art so this might not suit the control freaks among you.
Calling in at around 6pm en route to a comedy night, we found the restaurant typically busy but we were still seated within a few minutes by one of the friendly and efficient ‘Zaapsters’.
The serving staff all wear matching polos and some sport baseballs caps, giving it the air of a fast food place and if there’s any small criticism it would be that it can feel a bit rushed.
Our drinks – a Singha beer (£3.50) and a Thaistar Martini (£7.50) – took a little while to arrive, but it gave us chance to take a proper look through the sizeable food menu.
There’s snacks and nibbles such as Thai fishcakes and spring rolls, dim sum and soups to get things started, as well as platters for those who find it hard to choose just one item.
We shared genuinely steaming dumplings stuffed with pork and prawns (six pieces for £4.75), complete with a rich dipping sauce.
Then it was on to the classic Pad Thai (£8.95), a generous helping of stir fried rice noodles, egg and prawns garnished with peanuts.
We shared this between us along with the delicious Pad Gra Tium Prik Thai (£8.50), a dish of marinated chicken, stir fried with garlic and pepper and served with jasmine rice.
The meal was rounded off with Glouy Tod (£3.50), a deep fried sliced banana in crispy batter with caramel sauce that satisfied my sweet tooth.
If you’re looking for somewhere fun to eat in the city centre, with great food at good value prices then Zaap really is a tough act to beat.
Rating: 5 stars