There's a flash addition to the Bush Inn Centre that proved well worth checking out.
Spice is nice
On a wintry Friday night, with a pair of hungry stomaches to satisfy, we joined the throng of happy patrons at Spice Paragon in Upper Riccarton.
While it was freezing outside, the restaurant and welcome were warm. We were directed to one of the last free spots, a table for two in the fully enclosed outdoor area. It made little difference to be seated beyond the main dining area, with its tables in various nooks and crannies. Besides, our waitress was so speedy, we had little time to think about anything other than putting this new Thai-fusion restaurant to the test.
With starters ranging from $5 to $13, it was easy to splash out on a multi-course dinner. Roasted duck and vegetables wrapped in rice paper ($7) was the standout option for me, thinking I must deviate from chicken for once, while the man at the table, enticed by a mention of chilli and five spice, chose salt 'n' pepper squid ($9). This was certainly a man-sized portion and proved as flavoursome as promised. The spring-roll-like entrée was less impressive, with the duck slices including an unsavoury piece of gristle. The dish, with its fresh, crunchy vegetables, would actually have been better meat-free.
Our waitress suggested we might like to share a main, but we opted to put our stomachs on the line and chose one each. We were asked if we wanted rice, too, and told the large bowl ($4) was bottomless. When our mains arrived at the table, we believed we would be asking for more. We were wrong. Our red curries - mine with beef ($28) and his with duck ($32.50) - did not appear excessive in size, but the rich, creamy sauce soon slowed us down.
We found it unusual not to have been asked what heat level we could handle - sensitive types might want to make their preferences clear - but I enjoyed the kick my meal delivered and the English bloke could have handled hotter.
Our choice of Te Whare Ra Gewürztraminer ($12 a glass) was a good one, as it helped offset the spiciness of the meals. The drop was one of many Marlborough entries on a drinks list that featured wine from Thailand, too.
Both mains were full of quality ingredients, from the seasonal vegetables to the beautifully cooked meat. The duck dish contained pieces of pineapple, cherry tomato, lychees and rambutan (white spherical fruit we mistook for lychees), while my beef shared its curry bath with green banana, eggplant, kaffir lime and Thai basil. There was also a mystery ingredient in my dish that looked like cabbage, but had a spongy, jellied texture.
Those missing the quality food and high-class experience of Chinwag Eathai, should book a table at Spice Paragon. The restaurant would have been at home on The Strip, seemed as good for two as for 20, and enabled this duo to leave utterly sated for $100.
Where: The Bush Inn Centre, Upper Riccarton.
Service: So quick we wondered if they were trying to clear our table!
Ambience: Great lighting, warm and lively.