It takes guts to open a restaurant during Covid, but we’ve had some cracking openings in Brisbane this year: Pasta Club, Maya, Little G, El Planta and Uh Oh Spaghettio. Now comes Naga, a colourful Thai restaurant at Eagle Street Pier from husband and wife team Andrew and Jaimee Baturo.
“I don’t think I could be opening in a more perfect time,” Andrew tells Broadsheet. “It’s spring, we have beautiful weather, we’re on the river and it’s going to be really vibrant. I think it’s going to be the beginning of things [post-Covid].”
Andrew Baturo is best known as the co-owner of the Dap & Co hospitality group, which operates The Gresham, Popolo and Walter’s Steakhouse. Naga is the second venue that the Baturos own together, after French-Vietnamese restaurant Libertine in Petrie Terrace.
Heading up Naga’s kitchen is talented Bangkok-born chef Suwisa Phoonsang, who’s been cooking at Libertine for the past six years. The Baturos first thought about opening a Thai restaurant with Phoonsang four years ago, and finally she’ll be cooking the food she grew up eating (many of the dishes at Naga are based on family recipes).
The menu is expansive. Smaller dishes include house-made milk buns stuffed with massaman beef; flower dim sims; and chargrilled lemongrass and coconut beef skewers. Larger dishes include Mekhong Thai whisky drunken noodles with marinated pork; chilli pork-belly stir-fry; and Moreton Bay bug pad thai. There are also a few dishes that originate from the northern and north-eastern regions of Thailand, such as chicken and coconut curry noodle soup; chargrilled pork-neck salad; and a DIY green-papaya salad.
Drinks are focused around creative cocktails. The wine list features a large amount of rosés and chillable lighter reds (perfectly suited for the summer); there are a few beers on tap (including the Naga Lager); plus some house-made iced teas that can be spiked with a spirit.
Given the impending redevelopment of Eagle Street Pier, the Baturos see Naga as a long-term pop-up, which gives them the opportunity to experiment and take some risks.
“You don’t often get the opportunity to go into spaces like this,” he says. “Even though it’s only short-term, we can be a little more creative and try things I’ve been wanting to try, but have held back [doing in the past].”
The former dark and moody Pony Dining space has been injected with pops of colour – inspired by the tropical fruits and vibrant produce found in Thai markets – by renowned interior designer Anna Spiro. The '70s-inspired fit-out has splashes of orange; beautiful teak-framed chairs with woven fabric; a colourful bookcase stacked with an eclectic line-up of Thai cookbooks, Lonely Planet travel guides and more; and a ceiling adorned with glowing white lanterns. (The playlist is suitably ’70s too.)
“We wanted to create an energy there and a sense of fun,” Spiro says. “You want to go to these venues and feel welcome and happy to be there. Everything we’ve done in Naga is all about that.”
The 150-seat space also has plenty of curved accents – a reference to both the Brisbane River and the Phaya Naga serpents from which the restaurant takes its name.
Upper level, 18/45 Eagle Street, Brisbane
Tue to Thu 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 11.30am–11pm