Another lunchtime and another Thai hoves into view, this time the rather under the radar Praya Thai. At the time of my visit no one I know had heard of it, let alone been to it so it was rather on a wing and a pray that a mate and I trapsed down the stairs into its basement setting.
It certainly isn’t the prettiest of settings, with Churchill Way really rather shabby these days (hopefully soon to change with the Canal Quarter development).
Inside and outside it could probably do with a lick of paint, but who cares if the food is decent.
I would much rather have tasty food served on a paper plate than tasteless rubbish on a gold plate under a diamond chandelier.
At Rosa’s Thai I bemoaned the lack of a cheaper lunch menu option (on top of a paupacy of punchy flavours), but at Praya Thai I had the choice of an al a carte, a set lunch menu
and an express lunch menu
Both the set lunch and express lunch menu looked very good value for money (the al a carte less so) and the miser in me naturally gravitated to the cheaper £7.95 express menu. Always up for a cheap lunch meal deal me or as Mrs. SF would say “Always a cheapskate, you”.
Number of interesting options on the decent sized express menu and I toyed with the beef guay deeow nua tun (noodle stew) before settling on the Thai green curry. Many may regard this as a bit of a pedestrian choice, but to me that is only the case if it is pub chain Thai green curry (see under definition of bland in the dictionary).
What arrived certainly looked and smelt promising,
being a very good portion size for the money.
A good chicken to veggie ratio (would have liked to have seen some pea aubergines rather that the preponderance of bamboo shoots in the mix) and a decent amount of heat to it, with pleasant spicing. Classic Thai combo of heat (chillies) sweet (palm sugar and coconut milk) sour citrus (lime juice and kaffir lime) and salty (fish sauce) flavours coming through nicely. Touch on the sweet side, perhaps, if I was being picky.
The accompanying steamed rice was a very generous potion size and cooked nicely. A decent green curry combo this
My dining companion’s (Kronos from the other week) red curry equally got the thumbs up both in terms of quantity and flavour.
Bit more heat to this one than the green curry, but that didn’t operate to mask the underlying decent flavours.
For the £7.95 price tag both were pretty good and with such a bargain basement (aptly in a basement) price we decided to avail ourselves of a couple of the sides for good measure. Again all looked very good value, with nothing more that £3.25 and £2.50 the mean on the express lunch menu.
The peek gai (hot wings – £2.50) were absolutely cracking.
The really crispy, light, grease free, well spiced coating resulted in a very satifying crunch as I bit into the first wing, with plenty of tender meat on the bone. A sriracha sauce on tbe side ramped up the heat and flavour nicely and made these very moreish.
Surprisingly good, I reckon these wings give Chick ‘n’ Sours a run for their money. My only wish would have been for there to have been more of them, but 3 for £2.50 is an absolute steal (as is 6 for a fiver).
The satay gai (£3.25), whilst not quite achieving the heights of the wings, were also pretty good.
Tender, juicy, well spiced chicken (that had clearly been steeped for some time in a decent marinade) was accompained by a slightly underpowered dipping and satay sauces. Touch more chilli heat in both the satay sauce and the dipping one would have been welcome, but all in all these were not bad at all and again very nicely priced.
The wine list is short and lacks wines I would pair with Thai food (which would be riesling, riesling, maybe riesling and, of course, sherry – give me any food and I will give you a sherry that goes with it), but has at least one interesting oddity on it in the form of a Spanish airen, sauv blanc blend. Prices aren’t hideous, with the Chilean Sauv. Blanc on the list at £18.95 (retails at about £8.50) and the Chilean cab. sauv. also £19.95 (£9 retail), but as there is not much of real interest I would probably stick to the beers if on the booze here.
As it was a school day, we defaulted to the soft drinks
and both decided to give the mocktails a go.
I went for the Praya Refresher and Kronos the Totally Tropical.
Both perfectly nice and not unreasonably priced at £4.75. They were a touch “bonnet du douche, Rodney” Del Boy in appearance though and the orange slices had certainly seen better days.
Overall it all made for a rather enjoyable lunch, with good portion sizes, nice flavours and a very pleasing price.
Service was very good and deserving of a decent tip (nice to see no automatically added service charge on the bill).
Would I go back? Yes. It might not be the most salubrious of setting, but the price of the express menu and flavours from the food we had off it made for a pretty satisfying lunch.
Comparing this to Rosa’s Thai and I had a better meal for significantly less money here. I would choose this place over Rosa’s and Busaba any day for lunch, with it up there with the lunch at Malai in terms of value for money (think Malai still bests it on the flavour front and is just a bit cheaper). The sides (particularly the wings) alone make for a compellng argument to visit this place of a lunchtime.
I have heard reports from a reliable source (Gourmet Gorro – on his insta feed) that suggest issues with some dishes off the al a carte menu (which, in contrast to the lunch offering, looks a tad pricey), with an overly sweet lamb shank massaman and a seemingly rather uninspiring pad Thai, but my meal was perfectly fine especially when you factor the price into the equation.
Seems I choose well in terms of both the dishes ordered and opting for the express lunch menu.
Interestingly and rather pleasingly the lunch menu (like Malai) is available on the weekends.
Address: 22 – 24 Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2DY.