Restaurant reviews: BangPop, Melbourne
More than a few restaurants have come and gone at South Wharf, on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River. Basically, the entire precinct took a long while to get going but now it seems to have won a lot of fans – nights and weekends in particular, the area is buzzing. Given Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband like to take a regular stroll down the river, we’ve often passed the crowds at BangPop and, enticed by its Tuesday ‘pad Thai special’, we decided to wander in for a few snacks.
BangPop is a play on Bangkok and serves Thai ‘street food’. Greedy Girl had been warned the dishes were, in the main, quite spicy, so she was relieved to see a little guide to the levels of heat in the various offerings (pictured above left). It’s a pleasant space. A lot of the interior decor (including the dark timber floors, a fake grass feature wall and the Lego brick-studded bar has remained from the restaurant’s previous incarnation, the Sharing House.
What’s new is the use of bicycles that mark the boundaries of the al fresco dining area and also used inside in the void above the kitchen. Whether this was a means of economising on fitout, Greedy Girl doesn’t mind at all – it’s quite refreshing to go into a Thai restaurant without the obligatory ethnic hallmarks (buddhas and the like) dominating the decoration. The tables have also been grouped together to foster more of a communal eating style.
Lucky enough to pull up a high stool at a corner table just for two, Greedy Girl contented herself with some water, having started the evening with a glass or two of champagne at home, while gluttonous husband had a schooner of Coopers pale ale. We decided to share some starters and finish with pad Thai.
First up was a special, a betel leaf with crispy pork belly, ginger, shallots, dried shrimp, lime, chilli and a coconut tamarind sauce. We’d already been warned that if we’d like to make the dish milder, we could remove the few slices of chilli on top. We decided to leave them intact and what a mouthful this was! Great textures, bursting with flavour and the heat of the chilli came in at the end, leaving a pleasant warmness in the mouth and, it must be said, a feeling that our lips were just ever slightly blistered. It was an amazing concoction.
Next up, we had the intriguing chicken ribs – also known as ‘kai khmin nam jim talay’. These were deep-fried with green chilli and coriander dipping sauce and pickled shallot and herb salad. The dipping sauce went really well with the chicken and didn’t overpower. Even having been deep-fried, the chicken remained reasonably moist and came away from the bone cleanly. A good dish.
This was followed by Tod Mun Pla – fish cakes. These were described as barramundi and red curry fish cakes with nam jim pla. Barramundi is a reasonably strong fish and certainly has the ability to cope with spice but, in Greedy Girl’s estimation, the fish was just overwhelmed in this dish. Greedy Girl was also not a fan of the accompaniments.
Our final dish was the pad Thai. Greedy Girl always has concerns when any restaurant/cafe trumpets itself as having the best (insert item) in (insert city). The pad Thai here had received some solid social media word of mouth and it’s one of Greedy Girl’s favourites, so she was keen to try. The dish is presented very nicely – bean sprouts on top, a little pile of peanuts and red chilli to mix in and a lime wedge to squeeze. Underneath the noodles lurked with some chunks of tofu and we opted to include chicken. While it was a perfectly acceptable dish, it wasn’t a rave in Greedy Girl’s humble opinion. She felt it needed more seasoning and the overwhelming flavour in her mouth was sweetness and a touch of sourness from the lime juice. On Tuesdays, the base dish is $9.90 and the option of adding chicken or prawn costs extra. Even with the special rate, the addition of the chicken brought the dish up to A$16. Not a bargain by any means. Greedy Girl would struggle to pay the regular price.
Having said all that, BangPop is a reasonably fun place to sit and while away a couple of hours. It’s in a great spot, with a wonderful view back over the city of Melbourne. The service is prompt and engaging and the quality of the ingredients used in the kitchen is very high.
South Wharf Promenade, Melbourne