Cafe Thai has built up a phenomenal reputation in West Vale.
What was once somewhere you simply passed through on the way from Stainland to the Calderdale Way has become something of a cosmopolitan mini metropolis with several restaurants and a cocktail bar springing up in and around the Andy Thornton mill.
You know it’s getting more urban. A Tesco Express has now appeared there too.
Cafe Thai transformed an old bank into a special restaurant where you usually need to book a table weeks in advance if you want a peak time.
It has an upstairs which sparked an idea in the owners. And that idea was to set up a separate place upstairs specialising in Thai tapas.
In short, a choice of almost 40 dishes in smaller form than downstairs so you can mix and match to you heart’s content.
The renovation has involved £280,000 funding through Nat West to provide the new 50-seat restaurant which has created a further 20 jobs. It’s sympathetic to the building’s past with quality wood effect floors, exposed stonework and lighting so retro it nods its heads towards the 1930s.
The brown leather chairs are the kind you could sit back in and flip through a paper, yet are amazingly comfortable for eating.
Yes, they’ve got the surroundings spot-on again. The ceiling is high so the sound can reverberate around and it was busy – and noisy – when we arrived last Friday night.
So on to the menu. We could have chosen every single one ... all sound so promising. There are 13 seafood dishes, 16 meat, seven vegetarian and eight classed as side dishes. So plenty to go at.
We reeled off our choices, the waitress disappeared and then, as if by magic, was back within what seemed like seconds with the first dish, jasmine rice (£2.50). Now that’s either exceedingly quick or we’d somehow travelled through some kind of time warp.
No, it as soon joined by Pad Pak Kana (£6), stir fried Chinese broccoli with chilli and garlic. Now that’s fresh vegetables, crunchier than a size 10 boot on newly fallen snow and oozing flavour from the sauce. That’s the great thing about Thai food, it’s use of vegetables.
And then a vision on a plate arrived: a dish accompanied by its own garden.
Well, I say a garden but it was a tree attached to a vibrantly coloured vegetable base.
Yes, it was the strongest dish of the night, Pla Lui Suan (£8.90), lightly flavoured fried sea bass mixed with Thai herbs and Thai style spicy dressing topped with roasted nuts. A fantastic mix of delicate fish absolutely covered in onions, nuts and a spicy dressing.
What’s this arriving on the horizon in batter? It’s none other than a Larb Hed (£5), deep fried mixed mushrooms in Thai style tempura batter topped with larb spicy sauce. The sauce was in a bowl and had a real sting in its taste which was needed for the mushrooms would have been bland without it.
For meat fans we opted for Kaprao Moo Grob (£5.90), crispy pork belly stir fried with chilli and basil. It was presented as a small ring and, yes, the pork was crispy but also came across as a tad dry.
The Pad Thai (£7.90) is chicken with stir fried rice noodles, spring onions and ground peanuts and is a classic Thai dish done to an exceptional standard.
And our final dish was Satay Gai (£5) grilled marinated chicken skewers served with peanut sauce. In short, chicken on a stick to dunk into the sweet peanut sauce. Another classic done well.
The sticky rice sure was sticky – you need your strength up to prise it apart.
Here’s a quick taster of some of the other dishes. Esarn sausages (£5), northeastern style matured sausages stuffed with pork, garlic, white pepper and rice: Chu Chi Ped (£6.50) sliced smoked duck topped with red curry sauce; Gai Tod Num Pla (£5) Thai style deep fried salted chicken wings served with Sri Racha chilli sauce and Pla Goong (£5.90) Thai style grilled prawn salad mixed with red onions, coriander and topped with thai style spicy dressing.
As for desserts, well, there aren’t any. So if you’re still peckish at the end of all that there’s a simple solution. Go back to the menu and start again.
In short, wonderful surroundings, classy and classic food with excellent service and the only slight reservations being the feeling that the portion sizes did not always match the price.
Cafe Thai Tapas
35 Stainland Road, West Vale, HX4 8AD
Phone: 01422 310804
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 5pm-11pm; Saturday 2pm-11pm; Sunday 2pm-10pm
Disabled access: Steep steps and no disabled toilet upstairs but there is a disabled toilet downstairs
The bill: £62.80
Would you go back? Yes