Leeds city centre is packed with glitzy chains and independent restaurants. For the times when you don't want to feel the pressure of dressing up and negotiating traffic, the suburbs are increasingly an equal option for memorable dining out and authentic world cuisine. Thai Sabai in Headingley is teeny-tiny even compared to nearby rivals Sukhothai and Salvo's, but what it lacks in grandeur and contemporary décor it absolutely makes up for with its homely, moreish and imaginative Thai menu. The restaurant is adored among the student and native population alike for its affordability, intimate and welcoming atmosphere and food worth not only writing home about, but also taking back in a takeaway box to savour for later.
A distinctive fuschia exterior and slightly dated, café-style interior lends a bohemian vibe that feels refreshingly simple compared to the elaborate carvings, gold paint and marble flooring of similar south-east Asian restaurants. Booking is essential at weekends, as it is not unusual to see Sabai crammed to the rafters even out of term time.
The food, oh the food: guests who have done their research will know to take advantage of the earlybird special (available Tuesday to Sunday before 7pm), which offers two courses and a drink for £10.95, representing excellent value and more than enough food for one sitting. Starters include hot and sour soup, spicy fish cakes, and deep-fried mixed vegetables, while a traditional Thai green or pad Thai – or perhaps a pla shu shee (steamed white fish) or pad prew wan (sweet and sour pork with pineapple) can be ordered for the main course.
À la carte options are far too numerous to list but include an extensive selection of meat and vegetable-based curries and stir-fries, best ordered alongside Sabai's signature coconut rice or fried noodles. The textures of the dishes leap out, with no squishiness, grease or tough meat to be found.