Bite the bullet and travel the extra mile for a genuine Thai experience in cosy surroundings with some of the best food you’ll have had for a while.
To the city slickers of central Leeds the prospect of travelling south east into Northern suburbia may not hold an awful lot of appeal. However, the short journey out of the city is well worth it for a truly authentic Thai experience.
Baan Thai Restaurant in Morley is known to most, but only because of the numerous roundabouts smothered in flowers which are sponsored by the restaurant.
The exterior may suggest you've come to the wrong place. The heavy dark wooden panelling lends itself more to a village hall or Swiss sauna than an upmarket eatery. But step into the large reception area and you're in no doubt about the fact you're in a Thai restaurant.
It has kitsch but enchanting decor with bamboo blinds and wild flowers at each table and this helps create an intimate atmosphere. This is complemented further by soft Thai music in the background.
There is ample car parking to the rear of the restaurant, and a covered smoking area by the main entrance. Don’t get confused by the one-way system – a slight detour is required to access the road where the restaurant is located.
While most customers choose to eat in, the restaurant does offer a takeaway service, although they don't deliver. As the staff speak English as a second language, ordering over the phone can be a little confusing and if you're not in a hurry it may be better to order in person and people-watch in reception while waiting.
Its distance from the student haunts of Leeds means that the restaurant isn't filled with drunken clientele engrossed in a competition centred around who can eat the hottest curry.
It's popular with couples and small groups of friends and although the atmosphere is reserved there is a pleasant buzz about the place. Booking a table is recommended, particularly at weekends when it tends to get full.
Baan Thai Restaurant is run solely by Thai staff, all dressed in traditional costume which adds to the authenticity of the experience. They are quietly efficient, helpful, and polite while maintaining a discreet distance to allow you to enjoy your meal in peace without having to mumble comments about your dinner to a bemused waitress through a mouthful of satay sauce.
For anyone tempted to skip the starters, a word of warning – you'll be missing out. The chicken satay is excellent. It's perfectly presented, the sauce is delicately spiced, and there are delicious chunks of peanut to complement the moist bite-sized pieces of chicken. The hot and spicy soup is a fiery broth with large juicy prawns, and it's the perfect appetiser for the next course.
Mains are centred around a meat or veg, either in a stir fry or a curry, and accompanied by rice. One portion of rice is enough to serve two people. The more adventurous may choose chicken and coffee fried rice, but the garlic and ginger rice is lightly flavoured and doesn’t overpower the other dishes.
There's a separate section for veggie diners, with one of the best vegetarian ranges around. For the meat eaters, the curries are rated according to their spiciness but for those with a more delicate palate a stir fry may be a better option.
The amount of fresh vegetables in each dish in the form of peppers, spring onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and so on, also means the food is healthier than your average restaurant, although you won’t need an excuse to clear your plate.
Prices for a main meat dish are around £8, and a meal for two with wine comes in at about £35. They do run a special offer though, where on weekdays between 6pm and 7pm a starter, main, rice and coffee comes in at £12 a head.
Baan Thai Restaurant is fully licensed and serves a good range of imported Thai beers and wines as well as more conventional British and continental options. A bottle of Chang beer or house wine sits nicely with the food, and prices are reasonable. Soft drinks and fruit juice are also served as an option for the non drinkers.
The Last Word
Baan Thai could be Morley’s best kept secret. For a reasonably priced delicious Thai meal in delightful surroundings it's worth making the trip. The satay alone means this is one place that'll stay on your top five favourite eateries long after your first visit.