Tucked just around the corner from the now buzzing stretch is Sabai, utterly unpretentious in contrast. Located on Church Street, a beer-bottle cap's throw from The Swan Hotel and directly opposite the Public House, Sabai offers quality casual dining.
An image of a temple statue, with a decal of a serpentine dragon winding its way up the wall from behind the banquette seating, is the only nod the décor makes to the origins of the classically inspired contemporary Thai menu. Exposed filaments in the geo-pendants and faux-timber tables create an understated modern-Australian interior feel in this 15-month-old restaurant.
Run by husband and wife team, Manpreet Singh and Sumalee Sae-tang who are both chefs, these days Manpreet is out the front, charming his regulars, and Sumalee is in the kitchen, doing the same in a different way.
The menu, designed for the shared table, is also organic and free-range where possible. There's plenty of seafood – salt and pepper squid, poached prawn, wok-tossed mussels, crispy barramundi – but my dining companion opts for the soft shell crab sliders, served in buns with apple slaw to start. There's also duck, pork, chicken and lamb, as you'd expect, but as someone who doesn't eat meat, I'm pleased to find there's options for me for starters, mains and dessert. I start with the house made spring rolls, served with a clear sweet chilli sauce, flecked with chilli, fresh coriander leaves and cashews, with Manpreet explaining they have switched out peanuts for cashews in all meals, except for the satay, to be more mindful of those with allergies.
Classic curries are next. The yellow curry has plenty of pleasing flavour, being sweet with enough tanginess to leave a little afterkick of heat. Meat pretty much fell off the bone with the Penang curry, a Great Southern Pinnacle Beef rib slow braised for four hours. The best, though, was still to come. The pudding, steamed pandan, coconut and palm sugar served in parcels of leaves, melted in the mouth but the highlight has to be the coconut cream ice-cream with the kaffir-lime toffee. A real treat.
Words by Joanne Brookfield
Image by Sara Tansy