35 South Wharf Promenade
South Wharf VIC 3006
+61 3 9245 9800
It’s pissing down rain and there seems to be a blackout in my area as we speak – but thank goodness for wireless internet and laptops, hey?
It was also raining when Amy, Sophie and I met up for dinner just over a month ago. We decided to finally check out the new Thai street food restaurant that opened up in South Wharf earlier this year, BangPop (yep, that’s the place with all the bikes out the front).
If you think this bar looks familiar, you’re probably not wrong. Yes, BangPop sits on the former site of Sharing House restaurant. I was shocked to hear that Sharing House exited Melbourne’s tough dining scene without so much as a farewell tour a la John Farnham. However, such a dignified exit was probably for the best as the BangPop circus steamrolled into town prompted by a flurry of activity on Twitter.
Both Sharing House and BangPop are part of super-restaurateur Paul Mathis’ portfolio. Just like his former project Sharing House, BangPop is all about sharing fun and dynamic dishes at reasonable prices (that is, reasonable for South Wharf) with friends. In this case, Paul Mathis has brought together head chef Kam McManamey and Thai stallholder Yaigum to come up with an explosive menu that celebrates all things north-eastern Thai, or Isan.
And what’s with the name? ‘Bang’ essentially means ‘village by the stream’ in Thai, while ‘pop’ refers to the vibrant colours and flavours that pretty much sums up what the restaurant is all about (it is possibly also a nod to the Lego bar, too).
The cocktails here are normally $15, which is cheap enough as it is, but if you happen to rock up between 5-7pm, they’re a paltry $12. Score. My fiery Smoked Margarita, which made my taste buds tingle in a good way, was just an example of things to come…
There were tubs of condiments on each table and I was actually impressed that they had a comprehensive selection.
We started off with some marinated chicken spare ribs, as recommended by Daisy. They were beautifully tender and full of flavour, with a slight hint of spice.
We then enjoyed the pork neck salad, which came with a generous handful of herbs.
For some reason, I was expecting the tender bits of pork to be sweeter – like Chinese sausage – so I was surprised to find them tangy and slightly salty thanks to all the fish sauce. I decided that I liked them though.
The duck leg red curry wasn’t bad, though I did find it a bit sweet. I also thought that it could have done with a bit more chilli in it – thank goodness for the condiments, eh? Those points aside, the duck was buttery soft and the dish, once I dressed it up with more fish sauce and chilli, was the perfect one to enjoy with some rice on such a cold evening.
Call me a gweilo, but I wasn’t going to leave without ordering a serving of pad thai. I love that stuff, okay?
For some reason, BangPop’s version is vegetarian. While I would have loved to see some chicken or prawn mixed in with the noodles, I thought it was a pretty good pad thai. Okay, so I did have to add a bit of sugar in it because it was almost not sweet enough (what the?!) but everything else was great. I loved the chewy texture of the noodles and more importantly, the generous portion.
Unfortunately, Sophie had to go at this point so she wasn’t able to enjoy dessert with us. That was fine – more dessert for us! We shared a dessert that was pretty damn impressive. My favourite bit was the flavoursome mango sorbet topped with roasted coconut, though we both also though the chewy tapioca balls and smooth pandan pudding provided a fun textural contrast.
Despite the fact that I had to adjust each of the mains using the condiments provided (a good thing or a bad thing? you decide), I thought our dinner was successful overall. There are hardly any good Thai restaurants in or around the CBD so I was pleasantly surprised to find that BangPop proved to be a decent option. Of course, it’s still slightly out of the way for most and of course, it’s much easier to have Thai at your local suburban restaurant at similar prices. But if you happen to be wandering around the Crown Casino/South Wharf area, then BangPop would do the trick.