Words and Images by Tom Sheard (@tom.sheard)
As it stands Thai restaurants in Leeds have become recently popular in the last few years and I’ve managed to try them all. One in particular always stands out for me though, not just for its food but its ability to transport you to the bustling streets of Bangkok as soon as you walk through the doors. Of course, I am talking about ZAAP Thai and in particular, their new Headingley restaurant.
Their flare for the fragrant and the colourful doesn’t just come from the food they offer, but the environment in which it’s offered. ZAAP Thai have perfectly designed their restaurants as a mirror image of what you might expect from the streets of Bangkok! Within these restaurants you’ll find buzzing neon lights, huge scenic landscapes, colourful tables, fully working traffic lights and if you’d really like to, you can even eat your meal whilst sitting within a traditional tuk-tuk.
ZAAP Thai has a huge menu of over 80 dishes and I’m always over the moon when restaurants cater to everyone. Especially when they have a separate menu for vegetarians which is also bursting with dishes. Brownie points on that one!
Now, I’ve tried out the flag-ship Leeds restaurant before and it’s obvious ZAAP Thai don’t hold back when decorating their smaller restaurants. Here in Headingley, you can find a true experience, one that makes you feel as if you really have boarded that plane and touched down in Thailand, for an hour or two anyway.
As always, the staff are immensely friendly and incredibly helpful and this time, I wanted to try something a little different, so I asked the waitress what she would recommend, (if you want to try something new this is always a good tip), and boy did she do well. To begin I had quite the little banquet starting with some freshly steamed Edamame pods with salt, a generous portion of shiitake mushroom and water chestnut steamed dumplings and then, as highly recommended from the waitress, “The queen of Thai food” a spicy papaya salad with peanuts. Let me tell you, this salad was quite frankly, out of this world, so much so we ordered another one because I couldn’t get enough of it!
Moving on to the main course and again sticking to the traditional, I was recommended the Gang Massaman Tofu which is a rich mild curry dish with a fusion of spices such as coriander, chili and cumin but is then mellowed with coconut and nutmeg. Finally, it is garnished with some roasted peanuts and fresh herbs, which I paired with sticky coconut rice. Probably some of the nicest Thai food I have ever tasted.
It’s also worth pointing out I accompanied the meal with a cold refreshing Chang beer (crisp and delicious as always), but there is something else we had to try.
ZAAP Thai offers bubble tea, something extremely popular in South East Asia and you can have it in a huge range of variations. Having never tried this before I opted for a sweet watermelon bubble tea with coconut jelly, an experience within itself and perfect alongside a good meal.
With not much room left, I only had a small dessert. A pandan custard filled pancake served with ice cream, simple but totally delicious.
It had been forever since we enjoyed a really good evening meal in a restaurant, especially one with such a buzz. ZAAP Thai is a super casual place, with a beautifully put together menu, a place full of fun and REALLY good food. We’ll be sure to return, again and again.