Review: Jinos Thai Cafe, Headingley, Leeds

PIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
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There are several possible reasons why Jinos was packed on an unpleasantly cold evening in January.

Not least among them, perhaps, is the fact that you can take your own booze.

In this student-heavy suburb, such an incentive (with the added bonus that you don’t pay corkage) is always going to have significant appeal.

But to suggest that this is the primary factor behind Jinos’ continued success is to do a disservice to a place that - nearly 12 years after it opened - is still going strong.

Jinos is a lesson in the art of doing simple, affordable food well. There are no frills about the interior design - tables and chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in the homes of its 
regular student customers, laminate floors, wood-panelled walls that could do with updating, lighting that’s a little too stark. The informal atmosphere of the place makes it easy to be lulled into the sense that booking a table is an unnecessary.

I’m glad that we did, however. Armed with our £5 bottle of plonk, when we walked in there only seemed to be one spot available, right next to the door. Thankfully we were led through the old partition wall to a more cosy space away from the frequent drafts of the virtually permanently open door.

The menu is extensive and packed with the dishes that have made Thai restaurants a mainstay of British high streets in the last 20 years.

We had the mixed starter to kick things off. The assortment of deep fried vegetables and the spring rolls were no-nonsense but pleasant. In such unspectacular company the very good satay chicken skewers, drizzled with coconut cream, stood out.

From the mains my dining partner chose the chicken pad si-euw.

Ribbon-like rice noodles stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, broccoli and bean sprouts and cooked with egg, it had a hint of sweetness underlying the salty richness of a dark soy sauce.

‘I could eat that again,’ she purred having cleaned the plate.

I’d have easily demolished two portions of my chicken matsaman (more commonly massaman) curry as well. A relatively mild, but wonderfully aromatic, creamy bowlful of food, the textures ranged from crunchy onion, peppers and peanuts to soft, ridged potatoes and succulent chicken. Uncomplicated, undeniably excellent.

Our bill was a modest £24.

Jinos’ website promises the food and atmosphere of Bangkok, but apologises for being unable to replicate the Thai climate. It was certainly far from tropical on this occasion, but when the experience is this good you soon forget about the cold.

Rating: 5/5