In the cosy space next door to Bocados on King Street, a modest eatery has opened its doors - The Humble Thai.
Launched at the end of January and promoting ‘heartmade’ food with no MSG, the small restaurant was already turning away patrons.
It’s always been a hard space to fit tables comfortably, so while there are plenty of seats, outside too, it does feel open and a little haphazard in its arrangement.
The decor is unexpected with a distinct country cafe feel - neutral tones, bric-a-brac, flowers, botanical illustrations, wallpaper.
It’s light and airy and the scent of heated garlic drifts over us from the open kitchen which supplies a cacophony of background noise to accompany the busy chitter chatter of diners.
There’s a compact selection of wines available by glass or bottle, plus beers and cocktails. Try an Ooh La La Lychee mocktail with lychee, elderflower, mint, lemon and soda for a fresh, booze-free sipper.
With a focus on healthier options, the menu has plenty of new dishes you may never have seen before on a Thai menu: seared scallops with lime and mint, papaya salad, braised pork rice noodle soup, and so on.
But you’ll also find a lot of your favourites still there: panang, green and red curries, satay chicken, pad thai, larb, stir-fries and pad see ew.
We want to try some classics that showcase this humble approach.
The four spring rolls arrive cut in half, but super hot and super fresh. They aren't overcooked - no darker browning around the edges, but they are completely crispy and cooked on the inside. A vegetable mix of corn, carrot, mushroom and chewy glass noodles taste great and earthy, a sweet chilli dipping sauce is nice.
Grandma’s chicken wings are also in the super crispy category. There are six of them and they aren’t tiny little things. Grandma’s recipe has them marinated in a dry curry paste along with fish sauce, before a deep fry, but without any oily residue. They remain moist and tender and my teeth nibble ferociously. Some fried kaffir leaves on the side add zest and punch - thanks Grandma!
Now we’re keen to try uncharted territory.
You can’t go past something called ‘chicken holy basil chilli bomb’. Apparently ‘Bangkok wouldn’t be Bangkok without it’, or at least that’s what the menu tells us. It’s a fun dish - minced chicken with sweet onion, chopped green beans, chilli and fried basil leaves. A cupped pile of Hom Mali rice (jasmine) with a fried egg - crispy on the edge, gooey in the middle - on top. It’s got some spice, but this is counterbalanced by its sweetness. I’m not quite sure it’s the bomb, but it is yummy.
A curry is a test of any Thai restaurant worth its weight and the seafood curry in young coconut doesn’t disappoint. It’s actually served in a whole coconut which creates a bit of unexpected theatre and earns points for presentation. The base is a very creamy red curry, coating a combination of scallops, prawns, squid and fish. Plenty of coconut and egg are in the mix too, creating a thick, sweet sauce. Coconut rice on the side and I’ve reached capacity.
Dessert provides more fun. A ‘powerball’ is fried ice-cream with double coconut salted caramel sauce; the egg nest is a scoop of coconut ice-cream sitting on roti with sesame seeds, smokey coconut flakes and condensed milk; and the mango tango has layers of sticky rice and mango sorbet to chill you out.
The sign on the window says “The Humble can’t solve all problems but we are a great start", and that seems pretty good to me.
- What: Humble Thai, 27 King Street, Newcastle, 4089 5164.
- Hours: Lunch and dinner Wed-Mon.
- Accessibility: Yes.
- Take note: BYO on Mondays and Wednesdays, $10. ‘Feed me’ banquet for 2pp is $45 each.
- Bottom line: Entrees $9-$13.90, mains $12-$26.90 .