The first thing you’ll notice upon wandering into South Wharf’s latest addition is the smell. Sporting aromatic intensity of a Thai street market, BangPop is another venture from established restaurateur Paul Mathis and replaces the Sharing House. The European feel is out, while a buzzing atmosphere – reminiscent of Bangkok’s bustling street hawker stands – is in.
Still retaining some aesthetic elements left by its previous tenant, BangPop has kept the recognisable Lego bar, but has reinvigorated the waterfront space with a coat of pink paint, as well as some Astroturf and a collection of bikes lining the outside dining area.
Like the tables, the food is designed to be communal. With the punchy menu divided into seven sections – small plates, larger plates, noodles, rice, spicy salads and desserts – this is not one to tackle on your own. It’s designed to be shared and chances are you’ll want to try a little of everything.
The dishes are heavy on spices and tang – think chilli, garlic, ginger and lime. Try the Pad Ka-Nha Moo Krob (Chinese broccoli, garlic, chilli, oyster sauce and succulent, crispy pork belly) with sticky rice, or perhaps the Kang Daeng Pheng (a 16-hour sous vide duck leg curry). Also available are favourites such as Pad Thai and Penang, as well as innovative small dishes and salads. All are served in large, open bowls with condiments to spice up, cool down, sweeten and give bite to your dish.
Although the large space differs to the hole-in-the-wall Asian eateries we’re used to, BangPop maintains a busy, vibrant atmosphere. For a very reasonable price, they’re serious about bringing high-quality, authentic, casual Thai street food to Melbourne’s large, collective table.