122-128 Berkeley Street, Carlton (map)
Monday-Friday 7am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm
Two warehouses up from Seven Seeds you'll find Middle Fish, a Thai cafe that opened very quietly on Thursday. Middle Fish is a labour of love for the delightful Thai-born Siriporn "Pla" Liamthong and her partner David Holtum. Pla's auntie Na Sauw is in charge of the kitchen, and it's the first time she's ever left Thailand. Result: her cooking is about as close to the real thing as you can get in Melbourne.
I popped in one afternoon, ordered a serve of som tum ($12.50) and watched it being made in front of me. It tasted just like the som tum I had in Thailand last year, ie delicious and very spicy with lots of bird's eye chilli seeds - almost too spicy for my tastebuds, truth be told. Pla noted me reaching repeatedly for cold milk and asked for feedback regarding the chilli levels in the food: I said to err on the side of keeping it authentic, and perhaps make a note on the menu that the chilli may be a little more intense than we're used to in Melbourne Thai restaurants. Good advice, d'you think?
A gorgeous warehouse space, is it not? In fitting it out Pla and David collaborated with Thai artist Torlarp Larpjaroensook, who created many custom-made pieces for Middle Fish including the wrought-iron fish leaping out of waves on the wall, several paintings, cutlery, crockery and the arrestingly beautiful chandeliers.
Photos below of khai luuk kheuy (son-in-law egg), David and Pla. When I visited the full menu was not yet available, but apart from the odd Isaan dish the breakfast/lunch menu focuses on food from Southern Thailand. Provided all goes well, Middle Fish may start to open in the evening sometime in the future.
A wonderfully fresh pandan cupcake (made for the cafe by a Thai friend) rounded off the meal nicely. Coffee-wise, there're using Five Senses beans and hope to import Thai beans in the future to make Thai-style coffee and iced coffee. Pla worked for years in several St Ali/Sal Malatesta cafes including Caffeine, Sensory Lab and Outpost.
Loved the fact that the lightbulb on this tuk-tuk painting lights up! As you can probably tell, I was quite smitten by Middle Fish and I wish it every success.