Nathan Peck, the owner of Botherambo, is not lacking in confidence. If he was, he wouldn’t have opened a South East Asian-focused bar and restaurant on Swan Street. After managing the nearby Public House for five years he made a snap decision to strike out on his own. “I love Richmond, so I thought, ‘If I'm going to do it myself, that’s where it’s got to be’,” he says.
The result opened last week, in the space once occupied by Samantha's Pizza Heaven. It’s now divided in two, with a standing-room bar and a buzzy, banquette-packed restaurant. Both sides are quick, colourful and fun, in the vein of Saigon Sally and sister Hanoi Hannah. Victoria Street has its charms, but this is something altogether more sophisticated.
The food is fresh and full of contrast, the way good Vietnamese and Thai should be. In part this is thanks to top-notch produce such as Yarra Valley roe and Robbins Island beef, but mostly it’s due to McManamey's knack for proportions.
Whether you choose from the singles section, with its canape-sized bites, go for a substantial salad, or smash a share plate with friends, ingredients such as mint, lime, papaya, chilli and pickled shallot are on hand to deliver a refreshing and well-balanced smack to your palate.
This sense of colour extends to other aspects of the place, too. The fit-out from Techne is all crumbling bricks and concrete floors, but it’s really pulled together by a lush jungle mural on the back wall. The open-air front bar isn't bad either, with its potted plants and short list of lighter beers and wines.
“Richmond’s had a bit of a tag as the area with lots of pubs and bars,” Peck says. “But I think more of a foodie culture is starting to evolve.” We can say this with confidence: Botherambo does both with ease.
65 Swan Street, Richmond
(03) 9428 9730
Sun to Thu noon–11pm
Fri and Sat noon–1am