Restaurant Review: Thai Edge, Calverley Street, Leeds

Thai Edge is a well-established Leeds restaurant, a handsome place set among other handsome buildings in the city's civic quarter

It is neighbours with Millennium Square, Leeds General Infirmary and the Town Hall, and it suits that kind of grand scale.

Because this isn't a restaurant of the homely kind or the traditional oriental kind, just the opposite. It is large with shiny, bright surfaces and contemporary clean lines.

There are a lot of tables, and a slick operation to cope with all the diners who walk through the doors to eat there.

But do not get the wrong impression here, Thai Edge is a welcoming restaurant and the staff are friendly and attentive – but at the same time the atmosphere is businesslike and a little bit corporate.

Let me give you an example: on the tables were laminated cards telling us the price and delicious qualities of the restaurant's jasmine tea, complete with picture. It's an efficient way to promote something on the menu, but it takes away a little of the restaurant magic at the same time. And there is music, of the sort that some people describe as "muzak" playing away in the background.

We arrived at Thai Edge early one Saturday night, in fact five minutes before official opening time. All was quiet inside, save for a table of staff taking the opportunity to eat their own meal, but we were given a quietly friendly welcome, led to a table and presented instantly with a basket of crackers plus tangy dip, and a drinks menu – the flavours of the crackers and dip were not explained.

No-one offered to take our coats either, so we rolled them up and placed them on the bench seat beside us.

We chose Singha Thai beer to drink – glasses of tap water were also requested and promptly brought to the table with ice and lemon – and we sipped and munched while studying the menu, which is extensive with 145 dishes in total.

At the front of the menu was an explanation of Thai food in general, and of the different types of food produced in different regions of the country. This explanation did not extend to giving the regional origins of specific dishes on the menu though, other than to mark hot recipes with a grading system of one to three chillies.

Around us, waitresses in purple and gold traditional dress were quietly distributing baskets of crackers on the other tables, which were filling up quickly with other early diners.

Some were couples, others were bigger groups which included all age ranges, proving that Thai Edge is a restaurant that attracts a wide range of customer.

Our order was taken by a waiter who ignored our attempts at Thai pronunciation and instantly identified the dishes we had requested by their number.

For a starter I went for a variation of the classic Thai fishcake and chose prawn fishcake, or tord mon goong, with plum sauce.

My dining partner went for chicken satai (satai gai), another established Thai dish.

Both arrived as generous portions on white platters surrounded by salad leaves and were served with some ceremony in the centre of the table so that we could share – a basic principle of Thai food.

The fishcakes were small discs with the slightly solid, rubbery texture of prawn and the plum sauce was a clear, sweet syrup.

Chicken satai was chunks of chicken on skewers with a dish of peanut sauce to accompany them.

For the main course I ordered a hearty Thai dish of noodles, called pad thai goon. The noodles – the thick type not the super fine – were mixed with various stir-fried ingredients, including tofu, beansprouts and prawns. This is the sort of food that might once have been consumed by workers who had built up an appetite toiling in the fields, and is probably the Thai equivalent of an English stew and dumplings, and it was a generous portion which I was happy to share.

It was placed on a hotplate in the middle of the table along with the the other main choice of mussaman nuae. This was a lighter beef dish with a sauce fragrant with lemongrass and coconut milk. It came with a dish of plain rice, which was all the accompaniment needed for a meal so full of flavour.

Thai food is one of those cuisines that is all about the rich depth of its savoury flavour combinations, and not so much about puddings.

But all the same we decided to test the dessert menu, which was presented to us most charmingly by a waitress who, at the same time, completely ignored the bits of spilled noodle and general detritus of our main courses spread over the tablecloth, leaving them sitting there for the rest of our meal.

Given the choice, I would have preferred a little less charm and a little more clearing up – even messy eaters deserve a clean table on which to enjoy a sweet course.

The klauy buad chee came in a little tureen and was a chopped banana in coconut milk, with a side serving of vanilla icecream. It was okay but clearly a sweet dish prepared by a restaurant that is not really at home with puddings but trying valiantly to satisfy the British sweet tooth.

My dining partner simply chose ice cream, a safer option, if lacking any element of surprise.

With a pot of the aforementioned jasmine tea -– it seemed a shame not to try it – the bill, including a 10 per cent service charge, came to just short of 62.


Thai Edge Restaurant, New Portland Street, 7 Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 3DY

Telephone: 0113 243 6333



FOOD................................ ***

VALUE.............................. ***

ATMOSPHERE................ ***

SERVICE ......................... ***



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