Bangkok House Restaurant is the kind of Thai restaurant you want to be ‘in the know’ about. Restaurant managers Gavin Long and Somjit Gibson have been looking after customers here for the last six and a half years. “Bangkok House was Napier’s very first Thai restaurant 21 years ago and we expanded it just on three years ago” Gavin adds.
Over the winter months many of us rely on the easy option of dining out or takeaways and Bangkok House does both. “We’re fortunate with the locals who keep us ticking over in the winter months and it’s a good foundation for us. The seasonal customers are an icing on the cake for things like Art Deco Weekend.”
I’m keen to understand what makes one Thai restaurant stand apart from the rest so I ask Gavin what’s their secret to keeping customers
returning for so many years. “All Asian restaurants, whether it’s Chinese, Thai or Indian, every one of them use the word authentic. It’s can be an over used word,” says Gavin. “Somjit comes from northern Thailand and learnt her cooking from her family, her mother and aunties and picked up local ingredients from her local Lampang market, just south of Chang Mai. “We strive to be authentic, and our customers are the judge of that.” We get some wonderful comments on the food, from people who have been to Thailand and fallen in the love with the food there. So how does Bangkok House go about making Thai authentic in New Zealand I wonder. “One sauce does not fit all dishes here. The quality control comes from making the sauces ourselves. We could buy the satay sauce commercially, but getting the peanuts and grinding them up with herbs and spices, it just tastes better.” says Gavin. “You can taste the difference with our chicken satay sticks or mixed vegetable with satay sauce. There are only two entrees not made in the kitchen ourselves, the Thai fish cakes are our own recipe, as is the entree Crab Rangoon; that’s a United States inspired dish introduced by the previous owner” says Gavin. The Crab Rangoon is a dish I hadn’t tried until today, although you only get one piece on the mixed entree dish, so I recommend ordering it as separate five piece platter so there’s enough to go around!
Moving on to the main dishes, there’s something of a habit I see quite often with friends going for Thai food, and that’s browsing the menu for a while and then choosing the exact same personal favourite dish every time. Gavin gets to know all the dishes that are Napier’s favourites. “The popular dishes, the ones our customers say are outstanding are the Pad Ped Jungle curry, the Spicy Squid and the Red Curry
Duck with lychee and red grapes”. I sample the Jungle curry with crispy pork belly and it comes with stalks of green peppercorns that have a bit of tang, without the fire of other peppercorns. “The secret to the Bangkok House Spicy Squid, is in how we coat the squid, bamboo shoots, onions and carrots. We also use coconut milk rather than coconut cream and it’s cholestrol free.” says Gavin. For those of you ready to try something different, you’ve come to the right place. “People do progress and try new dishes. We get a feel for where their tastebuds are at, and if they feel like something new, we steer them in the direction of something that will suit their tastes.” says Gavin.
“If people ask us to select a banquet for them with five or six dishes, we always include one with cashew nuts, Mussamun Beef, Sweet and Sour Pork is a family favourite with big groups of people. There might be a group of 20 people so we serve dishes that everyone can get into and enjoy.” says Gavin. For those who want to experience the regional differences in Thailand food, the Bangkok House Sunday Banquet could be the ideal opportunity.
Bangkok House Sunday Banquet
“For the people that have had the opportunity to travel to Thailand and try the food there, they’ll know there’s quite a difference between the regions. Soljan is a specialist in the northern style. If they come to our traditional banquet, we focus on the different regions of Thai cuisine. We don’t use any of the dishes from the traditional menu. Our banquet is regional with exotic styles where people get to try something different. Entree’s can be Thai soups and there’s four different mains served with both steamed jasmine and sticky rice for each group of four at the table.” says Gavin.
Booking is essential well in advance for the Bangkok House Sunday Banquet. “We started it originally with a long table right down the
restaurant, nice and friendly. A little bonus is some of Thai ladies come through and do some Thai dancing to impress the guests. It’s an affordable banquet experience covering all the main dishes chicken, pork and beef and fish. “It also gives us the opportunity to create some of the Thai desserts, multicoloured layered desserts that present really well and suit the leisurely pace of the banquet format.” says Gavin. The next Sunday banquet is on Sunday 29th July starting at 6pm. Food starts to be served at 630pm and is set price with BYO wine built into the price so bring your favourite wine if you like.
I ask if there’s any Thai ingredients that aren’t easily available in New Zealand. “The Pla Salad is an interesting dish with an apple salsa instead of the green skin of the mango. It comes with a lightly fried Gurnard. We recommend it as a healthy choice.” says Gavin. “Lemon grass, we can’t grow enough lemon grass at home and fresh Kaffir limes, avoiding the frozen ones.”
Clearview Estate are the house wines and has wide appeal. “It’s worth trying the Gerutiztraminer, we also stock the Pinot Gris” says Gavin. Singha, Beer Chang and Tiger Beer from Singapore are also available alongside the Hawke’s Bay Independent Brewery beers. “The summer ale has a bit of honey and is a good food matched beer for us”. says Gavin.
If you’re ready to treat your tastebuds to Thai, try them for lunch, dinner or get a group together and book right in for the Bangkok House Sunday Banquet in July. Pricing is yet to be set, but will be around the $35 per head with no BYO wine corkage.
July 29th Banquet Booking and Takeaway Ordering: 06 835 5335
Menu: Bangkok House menu
Visit: 7 days 5pm till late for dinner, 12-230pm Tuesday till Friday for lunch.