The last time I ate Ian Pengelley’s food I was surrounded by strippers. No, really. For some reason he was overseeing things at Wild Ginger, a pan-Asian dining room inside Spearmint Rhino. It was certainly an enlightening experience, and one that ensured I’ll never again ask a waitress if they’ve got any Cantonese crabs in.
So where did Pengelley go next? To this new spot that sounds like it might be a brothel. (It’s not, but he’s going to get a reputation if he’s not careful.) It’s on the former site of Bam-Bou, a restaurant with similar food but a gloomy, opium-den vibe. This new look is brighter and breezier, tricked out in elegant tones of pale green and cream.
We went for lunch (when it was rammed) and ordered a couple of dishes from a good-value set menu, plus a few from the surprisingly affordable à la carte. Seafood dumplings (prawn and scallop, prawn and chive, and sea bass) lacked the translucent finesse of the very best but they definitely delivered on flavour. So did a good bowl of seafood noodles, bulked out by some massive, meaty prawns. But the pick of the bunch? A salad of smoked trout with star fruit, mango and heaps of fresh herbs, the crisp deep-fried fish offering the perfect contrast to the rest of this vibrant, crunchy salad.
The only real disappointment was some overcooked pork skewers. But given the smart setting and fair pricing, we can let those slide. There had to be a boob somewhere, right?