Pla Liamthong worked with Salvatore Malatesta, of St ALi fame, in his cafes at Melbourne University when she first arrived in Melbourne nine years ago. “Good coffee is very important to me,” she says, “and I’m passionate about cooking and hospitality and wanted to bring it all together.”
Liamthong opened Middle Fish on Berkeley Street in Carlton with her partner David Holtum. Having designed and built the large open space themselves (Holtum is a carpenter by trade), they serve southern Thai food for breakfast and lunch and offer “good Asian food and great coffee.”.
“We wanted a space that was modern and industrial but also had a cultural feel to it.” She explains. They brought in Thai artist Torlarp Larkpjaroensook, who created the two large artworks, a scooter and a tuk-tuk (Bangkok taxi), that adorn the walls and the chandeliers throughout the space.
The menu focuses on the flavours of Liamthong’s home in Chumphon, southern Thailand. “But there are dishes from other parts of Thailand too – well known dishes.” Breakfasts include various omelettes on toast or rice and traditional Thai rice soup. Lunch is all about soups, curries and fiery salads with big Thai flavours and textures. Mix this with coffee as good as anywhere in Melbourne and its a winning combination.
And the name? Well, Middle Fish is in fact Pla’s nickname. “Pla means fish in Thai and I am the middle child, so I’m Middle Fish,” she laughs.