Out with the old and in with the new. It seems that casual dining is still hot on the lips of every Melbourner and fine dining is out – at least for now. The street food trend, which created a storm in London, continues to hit Australia at full force. Diners are looking for good authentic food in a casual atmosphere, without the fine dining price tag.
BangPop, a Thai street food inspired restaurant in South Wharf, has quickly cottoned on to this trend by offering customers a casual communal dining experience. Head chef, Kam McManamey (ex Dandelion Elwood), brings a sense of refinement to typical street food offerings. Hawker stand staples like grilled pork neck and chicken spare ribs take centre stage on the menu as do larger plates and salads designed for sharing.
There’s no questioning the authenticity of the street food offering at BangPop. These guys have done their research – even bringing in the experience and expertise of Yaigum, a long term Thai street food stall-holder, to consult on the menu.
Why the name? In Thai, the word ‘bang’ means a village situated on a stream, while the ‘pop’ element encapsulates the bold flavours, vibrant colours and larger-than-life personality of this Yarra-side restaurant.
It’s a super sleek fit out. Gaze above to the high ceilings and you will find a tangled mess of wires and dangling industrial filament globes. The mood is fun and creative, with splashes of colours surprising customers in every corner, from the bicycles on the terrace to the lego studded bar which has survived since the Sharing House. The long communal tables are perfect for neighbourly gossip and sharing. BangPop has managed to recreate the energy and excitement of Bangkok’s hawker stands to a tee.
The service is friendly with no pretension. If you have trouble deciphering the menu, just ask them for their recommendations – they are more than happy to help.
The Gaeng Daeng Phed (Red Duck Curry) ($28.90) is slow cooked to perfection, eagerly falling apart from the bone after the tiniest of nudges. An infusion of coconut milk, red curry paste, Thai basil and fresh chilli bathes the duck superbly. In fact the sauce was so good I could have started drinking it from a straw. The roasted coconut on top of the dish provided it with a beautiful texture and a touch of sweetness. If, like me, you don’t mind a sweeter and rich sauce, this dish is perfect.
A sizzling bowl of lanna style beef curry (Gaeng om nua-lanna) ($24.90) was equally good, full of greens like snake beans, kaffir lime, galangal and dill. A small bowl of sticky rice was perfect to mop up the succulent sauce and offset the spicy flavours a little.
The dishes were served with a selection of dipping sauces and aromatic condiments. For me the flavours were bold and well-balanced enough to need any extra kick, but this is a nice touch so patrons customise their own flavours according to their individual palates.
A tapioca and pandan pudding ($10.90) was beautifully executed, topped with a mango sorbet and lemongrass syrup for a touch of sweetness.