Just as the Mekong River traverses the borders of Southeast Asia, so does the menu of Ponsonby's newest restaurant, Mekong Baby.
After gaining inspiration from a trip through Vietnam and Cambodia, owner Dominique Parat transformed his former 262 Ponsonby Rd pizza place GPK into a Southeast Asian paradise, with well-lauded Auckland chef Ben Convery at the helm.
The fusion of Burmese, Himalayan/Nepalese, Thai and Vietnamese flavours results in an intriguing menu, delivered in three core sections - Small Beginnings, Little Bigger and Happy Endings. Alternatively, you could leave your dining destiny in the hands of the staff and proclaim "Let's Eat" - a random selection of dishes from the menu for $60 per person.
As pointed out by our friendly waitress, plates are made for sharing and are prepared medium to hot, unless requested otherwise. We had the kingfish sashimi with nam jim, coconut and basil ($16), which on the night was replaced with tuna; fried squid with nuoc cham and Vietnamese mint ($15); pork belly with apple slaw and chilli caramel ($26) and the pad see ew with braised wagyu skirt, kai lan, rice noodles and shallots ($24). This was plenty enough to satisfy the appetite of two people, so much so that there was no room left for a Happy Ending.
The drinks menu is a whole other ball game. At 15-something pages deep the drinks menu encompasses all corners of the globe, Asian-inspired cocktails, 20-odd local craft beers and two whole pages dedicated to tea blends. It's worth mentioning that the wine is even categorized into dry, crisp, rich etc. to prompt an easy decision when looking for the perfect meal accompaniment. We chose the dry Escarpment Pinot Blanc from Martinborough ($14 glass, $58 bottle) and followed with two cocktails; the Rum Sun ($15) - a fruity concoction of black strap rum, almond, lime, mango, orange and the Shangri-la Sour ($15) with Umeshu plum, Chambord and lemon. It should be noted that water, both sparkling and still, was $8 a pop.
The decor designed by Parat himself and partner Katherine Heatley is sophisticated but comfortable and based on a small French colonial village in Vietnam called Hoi An. The restaurant is split into two main sections, a dimly lit area centered around a marble bar and a more formal dining area with bench seating, exposed brick walls and overhanging lights -brought together by Asian-inspired prints and murals displayed throughout the space. The only minor downfall was the soundtrack - perhaps better suited for an elevator in the CBD.
I urge you to heed the advice splashed across the men's restroom wall - 'come one, come all'. I can't wait to go back.