BANGKOK CAFÉ, CANTON
At what point do you stop saying, “Happy New Year!” in a really insincere fashion to people? At the time of writing, it’s only the second day of ‘two-thousand-fourteen’ but already we’re feeling a sense of repetition up here in the EATCardiff Zeppelin. But Happy New Year all the same, readers! Thanks for not drinking yourselves into a coma and taking the time out to read about a destination we reached over the Christmas period.
Winter’s really getting on our nerves now. It’s cold, dark in the mornings, and it’s surely natural for humans, being that we’re mammals, to sleep the bloody season away and arise from slumber when it’s light? Having said that, Finland gets less daylight than we do, so don’t expect an EATHelsinki any time soon. The point of this rant at how rubbish winter is is that we needed warming up without consuming vast quantities of alcohol (for a change), and the Thai cuisine certainly knows how to achieve that!
We’ve slung praises Cowbridge Road’s way before, and we’re very prepared to do so again. Not only does Mario’s Kebab Shop serve up a mighty fine kebab come smashed or sober; Bangkok Café down the road is a sleek, clinical and friendly affair that actually has the power to make you laugh without even speaking to anyone.
The menu’s written in such a provoking way that it can’t be real, with the following as highlights taken directly from the menu with no editing whatsoever:
‘Gang Dang Bed’
‘Gung Pat Prik’
‘Pork 2 Ways’
It’s not the mouth it comes out of…
Poor understanding of Thai aside, the place itself is clean, vibrant, intimate and sort of like sitting in Google’s homepage, what with its very similar colour scheme. The staff were very welcoming on arrival, despite it being a suspiciously quiet evening for them in what was an otherwise bustling night in Canton. The lack of arses on furniture was in no way a reflection of the quality of food that was on the way, however.
Once all the menu chuckling was out of the system, we were swiftly offered beverages to accompany us. Being that Singha (pronounced ‘Sing’, did you know? Drop that ‘ha’, Johnny Foreigner!) is actually brewed in Thailand, and that Peroni is more common than a resident of Newport, we thought we’d sustain the theme with said Thai lager. Served in a branded Singha glass, our marketing brain brightened up with delight. Also on offer from the small, cramped bar are all the usual spirit suspects, while a wine fridge towards the back will suit you nicely if you’re looking for something with a bit of body to battle the obscene chilli heat that’s inbound.
We eventually chose to begin proceedings with ‘Naem’ – sausages stuffed to the brim with chillies so hot we want to use expletives right now to describe them. But this is a family blog and we don’t wish to offend (sometimes). The ‘special dip’ did little to douse the flames now raging on our taste buds, as our pansy palette winced in mercy at heat stronger than this guy. Tears everywhere. We think it was tasty, but that would be presumptuous. Nevertheless, the presentation was as sleek as the restaurant’s design, served on lightweight dishes that fit perfectly with its surroundings.
Wiping away the tears, we took a trip to the bogs to calm down. It’s an eerily clinical walk, an almost corporate office affair sort of corridor that evokes concerns that you’ve just been called to the boss’ office for a compliment sandwich. Luckily, this place doesn’t serve sandwiches, and the toilets were as clean as you’d expect given the impression from the restaurant. All good here for the vital toilet check box.
What was great about Bangkok Café is that the waiting time is rather minimal. Granted, our meal of the four was the last to arrive by some time, but it was the season to be jolly and all that jazz, so we felt forgiving enough to let it slide. Not sure why it was delayed by five minutes, but we can only assume the chef had dropped it or eaten it. Bizarre.
The Moo Yang eventually arrived and in top form on the presentation front. With this being ‘pork 2 ways’, ‘Moo’ apparently has nothing to do with beef in Thailand. Or they call cows pigs, and pigs cows. We can only speculate on such matters.
The dish was constructed in segments, sort of similar to constructing an IKEA flat-pack, only you put the pieces in your mouth rather than slinging them around the room in frustration.
You get pork twice, then. On the right is the deliciously addictive marinated, slightly crispy pork that you could pick at all day; to the ‘north’ is the ‘yam’ salad, with pork pieces and plenty of veg to achieve that five-a-day nonsense; then there’s sticky rice and the sweet dip right in front of your likely now-salivating gnashers.
Being adept carnivores, we dived straight into the grilled pork before sampling the rest. After the tear-inducing drama of the starter, this was a welcome relief as it suited our simpleton taste buds more effectively. It was all great, each part of the dish complementing each other as the sticky rice balanced the richness of the dip, while the salad freshened up the grilled main show.
What was pleasing was the quantity. For £14.50 you certainly get a fair wedge, plentiful flavours and pleasant service to boot.
To criticise, because that’s what we’re supposed to do, a schoolboy error was made as they has clearly forgotten the wine we’d ordered. On prompting, they apologised and the grape drought was over, but that really is the only genuine negative we can muster up.
It’s places like this that the city centre needs more of. While the comfort of chains will suffice for the less adventurous (which is fine), it’s always far more satisfying to see independents do it because it’s their life and not their job, especially when it’s done as well as here.
Don’t get Thai’d down – Cowbridge Road East is fast becoming the place to be.
Moo Yang £14.50
Singha (330ml) £3.50 x 3
Bank Breaking Rating:
Intact – Cracking Around The Edges – Smithereens