Botherambo Richmond is the latest venture from Nathan Peck and expectations were high before it even opened thanks the savvy recruiting of Kam McManamey (formerly of Elwood’s Dandelion and South Wharf’s BangPop) as head chef. McManamey has quite the reputation amongst those in the know in Melbourne’s food scene thanks to his steadfast dedication to flavour, authenticity and technique. When word got out that he was going to be involved in Botherambo (named for the side street off Swan on which it is located) the restaurant found itself on many a “must try” list.
The space is split in two, with one half of the venue containing the restaurant proper and the other half containing a more casual bar space. Exposed, sandblasted bricks and a concrete floor, along with strategically placed lighting and a large plant jungle mural makes for a very atmospheric, trendy space.
On the food front Botherambo is heavily influenced by northern Thai food, but also sets sights a bit further to include influences from neighbouring Vietnam. The menu, which is designed to share, is split into 6 sections – Singles, Salads, Shares, Large Shares, Sides and Sweets. Drinks wise, there are a variety of Thai and Vietnamese inspired cocktails along with craft beer and a focused selection of white and red wines.
The “Saigon Smash”, which contained Cachaca, lychee, coriander, Thai basil, lime and palm sugar was a real crowd pleaser amongst my group of friends.
Ba La Lot Beef Parcel ($6.00)
We started with the Ba Lot Lot Beef Parcel which contained lemongrass, pickles, rice paddy herb and nouc cham. A really tasty starter with a medley of textures and the perfect balance of sweet, salt and sour.
Betel Leaf With Cloud Mushroom, Chilli, Perilla, Kaffir Lime & Saw Tooth Coriander ($5.00)
This dish really reminded me of Vietnam, with the simple flavours of the leaf and herbs being the stars and the mushrooms providing some contrasting texture.
Pork Neck Salad ($16.00)
The pork neck in this salad was mixed up with lemongrass, cucumber, tomato, coriander, mint, ground rice, chilli. As with the first dish we had, this was a brilliant medley of textures and flavour components. One of my favourites of the night.
Sweet Grilled Corn ($9.00)
The sauce on this slightly charred corn was an interesting one. I didn’t expect it to be so complex with the bright red preserved tofu and coconut cream doing interesting things to my mouth. Interesting in a good way.
Green Tofu Curry ($24.00)
I really enjoyed the green tofu curry, but for the fact that there wasn’t actually much tofu in it. It contained elephants ear mushrooms, wing bean, cloud fungus, green peppercorns and coriander and was full of flavour. A good example of a mild curry.
Red Duck Leg Curry ($28.00)
The red duck leg curry was a medley of baby corn, wood ear, snake beans, krachai and thai basil along with duck meat that was so tender it fell right off the bone. The sauce was very tasty but somewhat disappointing in that it didn’t have much of a kick to it. I was a big fan of the red duck curry at BangPop and was expecting a curry with a similar spicy kick in the guts but even my friend who doesn’t have a huge tolerance for spicy food found this to be quite mild.
Yes I know the Jungle curry is on the menu for those who want to be challenged on the spice front but I was expecting more from this dish. Still tasty, but definitely toned down for the local clientele, which seemed to be a bit of a pattern across the dishes we ate.
Coconut Sorbet ($5.00)
This dessert was really tasty, consisting of choc kaffir lime ice magic and peanut sesame salt. A great balance between the very noticeable kaffir lime and the peanut sesame salt, this little dish was one of my favourites.
Silken Tofu ($12.00)
Unlike the green tofu curry, this dish actually had too much tofu and was a struggle to eat. Flavour and texture wise it was really nice with ginger, jasmine flower syrup and puffed sticky rice creating a refreshing, fragrant almost soup-like sauce.
Steamed Pandan Pudding ($12.00)
Pandan is almost like chocolate for me in that whenever I see it on a menu I have to order it. This dessert was a tale of 2 halves. The toddy palm, lychee, coriander and mango sorbet were delicious – simple South East Asian flavours done right. The pudding however fell a bit flat. It wasn’t bad it was just, for lack of a better term, “meh”.
Botherambo is about as far from Victoria Street as it is from Chapel Street, and its food veers more towards the Chapel Street side of things – more Hanoi Hannah than Jinda Thai. The food is tasty, the ingredients are of the highest quality, the technique is flawless and service is on point. If Botherambo really wants to vie for the title of Melbourne’s best Thai restaurant though, I think there need to be a few more daring options on the menu. All the elements are already in place, and I’ll be really interested to see which direction Botherambo heads towards as the year progresses.
65 Swan Street
Telephone: (03) 9428 9730
Sun – Thu: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Fri – Sat: 12:00pm to 1:00am