The Toon loves a trend and Zaap thai street food joins the growing list of casual dining restaurants that have recently opened in the city centre. We decided to check out the latest addition to Newcastle’s dining scene, and see whether there was room for another Thai restaurant in the Toon.
Walking into Zaap you’re greeted by the mock hustle and bustle of a Bangkok food market with the obligatory tuktuk, the front of a truck and lots of neon signs adding to the vibe.
Whilst Mr Toon Lunch Club perused the menu Little Dude and I checked out the restaurant. LD made a beeline for the tuktuk and loved sitting in it and playing with the controls. The only way to drag him away from it was by distracting him with the free self service popcorn cart.
The restaurant was filling up fast which really added to the busy street feel and LD was getting plenty of attention from fellow diners as we weaved our way through the restaurant. We were brought a children’s menu and crayons, which is great if your child is not inclined to just throw the crayons on the floor like ours is!
The extensive menu had perhaps a little too much choice but we eventually settled on Gung Chup Pang Tod – Tiger prawns in crispy batter (£5.95), Gyoza – Japanese style fried dumplings with chicken and vegetable filling (£4.50) and Som Tum Pla Rah – the Queen of Thai street food, spicy papaya salad with fermented fish (£7.95) The menu warns you ‘this has a strong and distinct flavour!’ Nevertheless I was determined to give it a go as I’d heard it was the dish to try. We were told that all the food would come out together unless we would rather have starters and mains separate, which we did.
Our starters arrived very quickly and filled us with excitement and a little trepidation. Have you had the salad before? Our waitress asked.
She looked worried. “It’s very salty” she said. Feeling brave I dove straight in. Toon Lunch club ain’t scared of no salad!
Salty, fishy, sweet, spicy – this salad had it all going on. Definitely an acquired taste, especially the crab legs which our waitress told us you’re supposed to suck the juices out of. I couldn’t quite bring myself to, I was still getting over the fish sauce and spice combo. To be honest I couldn’t really taste much papaya, my Western palate was still trying to get used to the spicy fishiness. Not for the faint hearted, this one.
Our less adventurous choices of prawns and dumplings were a little more familiar and tasted great. LD managed to scoff quite a few of the prawns, which were juicy and in a light tempura batter with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. The dumplings had a good crisp coating with well flavoured chicken and veg inside. We were also brought some prawn crackers which went down a treat with the toddler amongst us.
Having finished our drinks we ordered some cocktails whilst waiting for our mains. I ordered the Siam Southside, a Thai take on Mojito with kaffir leaves (£6.95) which was very refreshing and Mr had the non alcoholic Pa Dong Dib, a mix of lychee and lemon juices with cucumber, mint and lemonade (£4.95) which was a little sweet for his liking but a good option if you’re not drinking none the less.
Our mains arrived, served by one of the several friendly waitresses we encountered on our visit. One of whom told us she was studying her PHD in education and linguistics at Newcastle University, and would return to her family in Thailand when she’d completed it.
I’d gone for Gang Panaeng – Chicken, pork or prawn in rich panaeng curry with lime leaves (£8.50) whilst the Mr had gone for Yum Ma Muang Pla Tod – Green mango salad of deep fried whole sea bass (£13.95). Both came with jasmine rice. My curry had well balanced flavours, with the lime leaves adding an unusual zing, I really enjoyed the dish. The Mr’s fish came whole and looked great with the colourful salad and rice. Although he enjoyed the flavours of the spicy mango salad he thought the fish was a bit overpowered by it.
LD had gone for a kids Pad Thai – Stir-fried rice noodle with chicken, bean sprout, vegetable and ground peanut (£4.95) which he had a few bites of, and I tasted it too – it tasted great. He was just too full to eat much of it!
For desserts we decided to go with our academic waitress’ suggestions. She highly recommended the Khow Niew Ma Muang – Ripe mango with sweetened sticky rice (£4.95), and also suggested the Chow Guay – refreshing Chinese black jelly in syrup, served with shaved ice (£2.95) as it was non dairy so the Mr could try it. As bananas (or ‘nanas’ as he calls them) are LD’s favourite we got him Glouy Chuem – Caramelised banana served with vanilla ice cream (£3.95). Again, there was a lot to choose from so there would be something to suit most tastes.
LD enjoyed his ice cream immensely, too full for banana. Always room for ice cream though!
All in all Zaap is a good place to go for a fun meal. The prices were very reasonable and food was on the whole good, and seemed authentic. There was perhaps a bit too much on the menu which puts a strain on any kitchen, as it’s difficult to cook it all well, and it makes it a little confusing for the customer too. However when we visited the place was packed with a very diverse crowd, so it is clearly pulling in the punters.
Zaap is located in The Gate, 117 Newgate St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5RZ
We were provided with a complimentary meal for the purposes of this review. However the opinions expressed in this article are honest and true to experience.