Just the right amount of clamour and noise in the background, the addictive aromas of lemongrass and spices floating through, ice cold Singha on a very balmy 28 degree night, food that delights the senses, and company that keep you laughing all night.
You’ve got to love when quality food and company and a great atmosphere all come together to make a killer of a Friday.
I was so pleased when Sheena and Thomas from Chasing a Plate asked if I would like to grab a meal with them, as it had always been one of those situations where we bumped into each other at events, but always only had time for a ‘Hi!’ and ‘Bye!’ before running off somewhere or getting distracted by something else!
When Sheena asked if I was interested in going to Botherambo, I couldn’t respond fast enough or with enough enthusiasm, as the new Thai eatery had caught my eye on Swan Street and had been sitting on the back of my brain…however, silly me underestimated how busy it would be, and so when we rocked up at 7pm (I stupidly decided to fit in yoga beforehand), we were greeted with a one and a half hour wait. Hmmm.
Fortunately, Botherambo is kind of split into half, half dining, half bar, and so we moved straight out into the bar area, starting at a standing table and then very stealthily sneaking to a table with stools as it evacuated. The bar area is kind of like a covered courtyard, and here we got a couple of beers and a little nibble to keep us going, while we also waited for Brad (who as always lost track of time, and rocked up looking red as a lobster after an afternoon of soccer in the sun).
The fried squid tenticles (yes spelt with an i on the menu) with siracha, kewpie mayo and lime was delightful, lightly battered, lovely and zesty, and maybe not quite as finger-food-y as I imagined. Picking it up with your fingers and tearing away isn’t such a sexy look! I could have gone with a little more siracha and mayo (but everyone could really now couldn’t they?)
It’s been a while since I’ve waited this long for a table, but you know what, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be! Suppose beer always helps.
When we were seated, Botherambo was humming away happily, with a birthday party on a long table up the front by the window, cosy couples on the bar, and groups of good looking 20 and 30 somethings having a jolly ol’ time. Botherambo had just enough cool going on without being pretentious, dim lights that weren’t too dark, colourful walls contrast against grungy brick walls and just enough background noise to fill the space but not induce shouting across the table. It was surprisingly comfortable, especially for a hip new space.
The menu is distinctly Thai, I imagine chef Kam Mcmanamey (previously of Bangpop) wouldn’t have it any differently, with curries, plenty of lemongrass, and lots of Thai classics, with a couple of other south east Asian influences, such as the Hanoi hot pot.
I had been perving earlier in the day on the chargrilled chicken ribs when perusing the menu, with turmeric, lemongrass, green chilli nam jim, pickled shallot and herbs. Lightly grilled, with a delightful char, these chicken ribs were meaty and bursting with flavour. The herbs and chilli making it quite vibrant. On another random note, I’m loving that chicken ribs are all over menus at the moment, my family has been eating them for years, and it’s surprising they haven’t been brought to menus earlier. Good on you Melbourne!
The crispy duck leg salad with kohlrabi, cucumber, lychee and chilli, was cooling, refreshing and bright, with a nice kick of heat of course. Fortunately (for me anyway) it was not quite as hot as the som tum salad that I remember having at Bangpop!
I’ve always got to have Thai fish cakes and at Botherambo they’re made with Cone Bay barramundi and served with green mango, cucumber, chilli and coriander. Again, well seasoned, lovely and zesty, a wee bit of chilli hit going on.
We originally ordered green tofu curry, to try and get some vegetables into our meal, but when the red duck leg curry came out instead, we couldn’t be bothered correcting anyone, as it smelt and looked damn good (and who needs vegetables anyway...?). Served with sweet baby corn, wood ear mushrooms, snake beans, krachai and Thai basil, all I wanted to do was take the whole bowl of gravy, fill it up with some white rice to make it like a rice porridge and slurp it all up. Rich, without being heavy, savoury and sweet. Although I will always have to be more partial to Malaysian curries (or my dad will probably disown me), I absolutely love a good Thai curry gravy. The duck was delicious as well, very tender and falling off the bone.
With a serve of sticky rice? Oh yeah.
To wrap up the savouries (literally actually), we also got the DIY grilled lemongrass pork, served on skewers with lettuce cups, vermicelli, perilla, green onion, fried garlic and a sticky soy bean pork dressing. Wow, they did not hold back on the lemongrass and these were intensely aromatic and juicy. I do enjoy a DIY meal, as it just gets you involved, a little messy, which always means a bit of a laugh at each others expense. From crunchy and crisp lettuce to cool and springy noodles and finishing with sauce trickling down your arm to the elbow, it’s all good here.
The girls continued the menu dominance when it came to sweets, and we settled on a serve of coconut sorbet with chocolate kaffir lime ice magic and peanut sesame salt, which for $4, is an absolute steal. The kaffir lime is surprisingly pungent, and refreshing, adding a zest to the cool sweetness of the coconut sorbet, the chocolate and peanut sesame salt adding a touch of indulgence. Beautifully balanced, and small enough that you could even perhaps consider two.
The only dish that left us feeling a bit underwhelmed for the night, was the steamed pandan pudding, with toddy palm, lychee, coriander and mango sorbet. Whilst it looked lovely and was quite light and fluffy the steamed pandan pudding was quite bland, lacking in sweetness, which I suppose the fruits and sorbet it’s served with is supposed to help, but I’d hope that as an element itself, it’d contribute a bit more flavour. I did love the mango sorbet though with the lychee and could have easily gone for another scoop of that!
Other than the one dessert dish, we absolutely loved everything else about our meal at Botherambo. On top of the great food Kam’s got going out of the kitchen and the cool, but not too cool for school vibe, the service is great, staff are friendly, patient (especially the poor guy fending off all the people vying for a seat, and dealing with me 3 or 4 times before seating us) and attentive. We were never short of water, our food came out quickly, we only had one forgotten Singha order, but if that’s all I have to complain about, I think we’re doing darn well.
Although I do absolutely adore Jinda with all my heart when it comes to Thai food, Kam brings a slightly different and refined approach to Thai food at Botherambo, and whilst Jinda is the kind of spot you’d pop in and out for a really cheap and cheery eat, Botherambo you can hang out in all night (as we did!); it's a little more dressed up, and it surprisingly still doesn’t dent the wallet too badly at all. Good work indeed.
65 Swan Street