1 Hamilton Road Fairfield, New South Wales 2165
|Opening hours||Daily noon-3pm; Mon-Wed 5.30-10pm; Thurs-Sat 5.30-11pm; Sun 5.30-9pm|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||02 9724 7842|
Green Peppercorn's decor is impressive and city-slick, but locals would simply scoff at it if the food wasn't great, too. It's one of the things I love about Fairfield: style over substance just doesn't cut it. The golden apsaras watching over chunky blonde-timber-topped tables, the floral cut-out room dividers in high-gloss white, the birdcages suspended from the ceiling and shiny tuk-tuk parked beside the bar - it'd all be for nothing if it weren't for the authentic Lao and Thai food, and the reasonable price tags.
It's this trifecta - good food, great atmosphere and fair prices - that has won Green Peppercorn the title of Best New Restaurant in the Good Food Under $30 guide, launched on Tuesday, on sale on Saturday.
Fans of Holy Basil at Canley Heights will be familiar with the model.
The menu is almost identical, apart from Green Peppercorn's handful of specialties - an aromatic banana flower and chicken salad among them - and a dessert list that includes but goes beyond the legendary flaky pastry-wrapped fried ice-cream.
The similarities aren't surprising given the restaurants are run by brothers, Tony and Tona Inthavong, and many dishes have great family significance. The Lao-style beef jerky and chargrilled pork sausages were staples that saw the Inthavongs through tough times in a Thai refugee camp, and when they emigrated to Australia.
In addition to these meaty bites are ubiquitous Thai faves such as pad Thai, massaman curry and more. Papaya salad is served in both Thai and Lao styles; we like the latter's strong chilli punch and bursts of sweetness from cherry tomatoes.
Tom zap is perfect for those all-too-frequent rainy days, the soup's chicken broth fragrant with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and coriander, plus extra zip (or should we say ''zap''?) from galangal and roasted chilli.
Whole fish, grilled and fried meat dishes are the ticket for groups; deep-fried chicken wings, or deep-fried quails with ''mum's special'' sour-salty dipping sauce are the type of crispy, crunchy, golden treasures that are best shared, sans-cutlery, of course.
The venue, which incidentally is housed inside the recently revamped Fairfield Hotel, also functions as a dessert and cocktail bar, and there's a wide range of both on offer. We've heard great things about the pandan creme brulee but opt for banana fritters with coconut ice-cream and pandan sauce. It's a sweetly satisfying mix of crispy, gooey, hot and cold. A crowd-pleaser all round.
Do … bring friends and sample as much of the menu as possible.
Don't … skip dessert; it's one of their fortes.
Dish … Lao pork sausages with mum's special sauce.
Vibe … city style meets suburban conviviality.