Review: Khao San Road
The original Khao San Road in central Bangkok is a backpacker's paradise, offering a kilometre of cheap accommodation, shopping and entertainment.
In Christchurch, Khao San Road is the name of the corner bar attached to the Spice Paragon restaurant at the crux of Victoria, Salisbury and Montreal streets. It is pleasantly busy early on a Friday night, although not as humming as the restaurant next door. Black walls match black tiled floors, but there's plenty of wood to alleviate the darkness once night falls.
This bar is full of happy people chatting under zig-zag Edison lightbulbs and swollen glass balloon bulbs. The new building might look sharp, inside and out, but the clientele leans towards the casual end of smart-casual. A bouncer, standing in a suit outside the door, might be the best-dressed guy here.
After a long week, Jane deserves a drop of Pegasus Bay Riesling ($13 a glass). Ben decides on an Emerson's Bookbinder ($9), the brewery's interpretation of a classic English ale. A short while later, a smiley barman brings me my Thai Smile ($16). He is not actually Thai, but any man who happily brings me drinks is fine by me.
I have no idea how authentically Thai this delicious concoction is, but it is billed as one of the original cocktails of Khao San Road. It's a refreshing mix of coconut, fresh ginger, lemon, lime and Ketel One Vodka, topped with ginger beer and served with a chunky slice of raw ginger and a kaffir lime leaf.
The bar menu ranges from a bowl of salted peanuts with kaffir lime leaf and dry chilli ($5) to a dish of slow-cooked beef cheek in red curry sauce ($31). We share a beautifully presented mixed platter of crispy pork balls, UFO pork (Unidentified Fried Object) and crispy squid ($29.50).The fried squid reminds Ben of Cobb & Co, in a good, nostalgic way. The UFO is odd and oily, consisting of skewered fried bread with a crumbed pork topping. Possibly good for counteracting alcohol, the UFOs taste nice, if a tad greasy. Likewise, the tangy pork balls are oily but tasty.
The assistant manager happens to be in the bar at that moment and allows us to have desserts served in the bar. We order coconut sticky rice pudding (which is green!) with Thai custard, caramel cheesecake with brownie, and frozen chocolate mousse parfait ($14 each).
The desserts are beautifully presented and mostly delectable, with multiple components. No-one has heard of minimalism here. Sadly, none of us liked the Asian fruit jelly garnishes in green and red. The vanilla bean icecream didn't need to be smothered in chocolate sauce with chocolate decorations on top and an almond biscuit on the side, plus nuts and raspberry sauce. And I could have done without the hundreds and thousands, but if your main complaint is that Khao San Road might be trying too hard, surely that's not bad at all.
Where: 76 Victoria St, central Christchurch.
Service: Helpful and accommodating.
Prices: Thai cocktails about $16, beer from $6.50 to $11.50.
Ambience: Modern, woody, classy fusion.
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