I visited south Liverpool's new family-run Asian restaurant and it might be my new favourite

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I headed to Garston's new Asian restaurant to see if its Pad Thai was up to scratch.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that my all-time favourite meal is Pad Thai, and I have tried my fair share of the delicious noodle dish at a number of different venues. So when I heard that a new family-run restaurant - with vegan Pad Thai on the menu - had opened in South Liverpool, of course I had to visit.

The restaurant

Located on Woolton Road in Garston, Cooking Papa opened in November 2023, promising a range of Asian dishes, with a particular focus on Thai and Hong Kong flavours. Led by fathers, the restaurant's name highlights the philosophy of bringing 'familiar and authentic' Asian flavours to the next generation.

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Originally from Hong Kong, Chef Wing and Chef Michael moved to the UK to provide a different life, with more freedom and opportunities, for their children. Both working in the food industry in Hong Kong, they decided to bring their expertise to South Liverpool.

First impressions

Upon arriving at Cooking Papa, my dining partner and I were instantly greeted with a smile from Chef Michael and quickly shown to a table and handed menus. The restaurant is quite small, but very bright and clean, with modern decor.

The menu was small, but has everything you would hope for when visiting an Asian restaurant, with popular dishes such as Pad Thai, Thai curry, Katsu curry, as well as kids' options such as chips and nuggets. Also operating as a cafe, other options include Hong Kong-style French Toast and a full English.

Chef Wing and Chef Michael at Cooking Papa.Chef Wing and Chef Michael at Cooking Papa.
Chef Wing and Chef Michael at Cooking Papa. | Chef Wing and Chef Michael at Cooking Papa.

I was impressed that the menu was incredibly clear, noting which items were suitable for vegetarians and which contained nuts. Of course, I was planning on trying the Pad Thai, but as soon as I double checked whether it was suitable for vegans, Chef Michael listed all of the vegan options - Pad Thai with tofu, Tofu Thai green curry and spring rolls - and I felt like I was in safe hands with regard to my meal being free from animal products.

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Drinks and starters

The drinks menu featured a range of soft drinks, hot drinks and bottled beers, with Chef Michael able to create beautiful coffee art.

I opted for an Orange San Pellegrino and my dining partner had a bottle of Asahi. Both came out very quickly and were perfectly chilled, served with a glass.

Drinks at Cooking Papa.Drinks at Cooking Papa.
Drinks at Cooking Papa. | Emma Dukes

To start, I chose the vegetable spring rolls and my dining partner chose the chicken gyozas. Both dishes were served promptly, and we were incredibly impressed with the large portion sizes, with six gyozas priced at £6.80 and five large spring rolls costing £6 - along with sauces.

Chicken gyoza.Chicken gyoza.
Chicken gyoza. | Emma Dukes

Now I'm quite picky with my spring rolls, but these were fantastic with plenty of filling and crispy pastry - no sogginess here. My dining partner was also pleased with his gyoza, which were up there with the best.

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Vegetable spring rolls.Vegetable spring rolls.
Vegetable spring rolls. | Emma Dukes

Main meals

Both my dining partner and I ordered Pad Thai - mine with tofu and his with chicken - as we've been trying to find somewhere in south Liverpool that does Pad Thai as well as Rosa's on the Albert Dock.

The dishes came out as we were finishing the starters and we absolutely loved that the usual Pad Thai toppings of sugar, chilli flakes, nuts and lime, were all served as portions on the side, so we could create it for our own personal tastes. I had never had it served this way before and it made the whole experience that little more exciting.

Chicken Pad Thai.Chicken Pad Thai.
Chicken Pad Thai. | Emma Dukes

Priced from £10 each, the portion sizes were huge and contained tons of chicken and tofu, with my tofu being perfectly spongey yet crispy. The noodles and vegetables were fantastic, and the meal didn't feel greasy or oily.

I would even go as far as to say I think I have found my new favourite Pad Thai, which is a pretty bold statement from me.

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Tofu Pad Thai.Tofu Pad Thai.
Tofu Pad Thai. | Emma Dukes

After we finished our meal, Chef Wing came and chatted to us to ask how the food was, and even asked for recommendations for menu items, as he hopes to expand the vegetarian and vegan options and make the menu even more inclusive.

Overall atmosphere and final thoughts

The venue ran like a well-oiled machine, with Chef Michael operating as front-of-house, waiter and popping into the kitchen to sort out takeaway orders. Despite his many roles, we felt incredibly well looked after, and he was very attentive, making sure we had everything we needed.

There was no loud music and the we both said the atmosphere was 'wholesome' with other parties chatting amongst themselves and having a nice time.

Throughout the meal, my dining partner and I both said we have finally found the perfect place to visit, or order from, whenever we fancy Pad Thai.

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It was clear that the team behind Cooking Papa are not only incredibly passionate about serving brilliant food, but also want to offer great customer service and create a venue that is at the heart of the community, and we will definitely back to try more authentic Asian dishes.

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