When it comes to choosing a restaurant for my birthday meal, I often find myself stuck for ideas. It’s not that there’s any shortage of great places to eat out in the North East, it’s more the fact that I’ve already been to most of them! This year I was in luck, a brand new Thai street food restaurant called Zaap opened just a couple of weeks before my birthday and it proved to be the perfect place to celebrate!
The Newcastle branch of Zaap is the third one to open in the UK (the other two are in Leeds in Nottingham) and it’s located on Newgate Street. This area of town is seeing a bit of a resurgence recently thanks to the redevelopment of the old Co-op building which now houses a hotel and other vibrant restaurants including Turtle Bay and Cabana.
So, what does Zaap bring to the Toon? Well, it’s honestly like a Bangkok street in the middle of Newcastle, not just a true taste of Thai street food, but a fully immersive experience that includes the same sights, smiles and sounds you’d find in the Thai capital.
We dined inside a tuk-tuk (I LOVED this!) and throughout our whole meal we kept spotting things that reminded us of our holiday in Bangkok a couple of years ago, like ‘Phuang Malai’ (floral garlands often used as offerings) and an intricate Spirit House made from Teak. A lot of thought has clearly gone in to the decor and apparently, the restaurant was even blessed by Buddhist monks at the launch!
With such a strong emphasis on the theme of the restaurant I was slightly concerned that the food might not match up. Zaap tries hard to make you feel like you’re actually in Bangkok, but the truth is in the tasting! I needn’t have worried, everything I tried at Zaap was absolutely delicious – and I tried A LOT of food!
Although in Thailand the street food stalls usually a specialise in one or two dishes, Zaap has created a restaurant menu with absolutely loads to choose from, it’s the best of both worlds!
As it was my birthday and my first ever visit (and possibly because they knew I was a blogger), the staff were kind enough to allow us to order a selection of different starters and mains as reduced size portions so that we could sample as much of the menu as our tummies would allow.
Our tasty highlights included Som Tum Thai, ‘Queen of Thai street food’, it’s a spicy papaya salad dressed with dried shrimp, peanut, raw crab and fermented fish. It’s certainly a distinctive dish but I promise it tastes nicer than it sounds!
After the salad we tried a delicious selection of appetisers including Thai fishcakes, crispy wantons, satay chicken and dim sum. Forgive me for forgetting the authentic Thai names of these snacks but I was far too busy devouring them!
I also couldn’t resist ordering one of my favourite Thai dishes, Morning Glory. At Zaap, it’s called Pad Pak Bung and is served with huge chunks of mouthwatering, crispy belly pork, I could feast on this all day.
We quenched our thirst with some brightly coloured cocktails, you can enjoy two for the price of one during ‘Zaapy Hour’ which actually lasts for seven hours, 11am – 6pm!
This is probably where the review should end but being the greedy guts that I am, I also persuaded my fella James to let me try some of his Pad Thai which he ordered with prawns (fat and juicy I am pleased to report!) and we also shared a sample sized portion of Gang Panaeng (like a green curry – very hot!!)
The word ‘wow’ was used several times between mouthfuls and I loved the fact that we could see the staff preparing the food right in front of us (just like you would with genuine street food). The chefs looked over at us several times, keen to find out if we were enjoying our food, I smiled back to reassure them and it was clear that they took great pride in seeing their hard work being enjoyed!
If all that food wasn’t enough, I was also surprised with a sweet birthday treat of sticky black rice and mango (with a candle of course) and two renditions of the Happy Birthday song, one in Thai and one in English! It was the perfect end to a wonderful evening.
A special thank you must go to Keson, our lovely waitress who took special care of us all night and helped give me a birthday to remember! I won’t be waiting till my next birthday before I make a return visit, that’s for sure!