801 Bourke Street Docklands, VIC 300803 9620 4580
|Opening hours||Monday to Wednesday 7am-4pm; Thursday and Friday 7am-10pm; Saturday 6-10pm|
WHERE AND WHAT
Ah, Docklands, the thorn in Melbourne's side, the stain on its psyche. The architecture (I use the term loosely) is a neo-Brutalist abomination but the second wave of food businesses springing up is bringing new life and a glimmer of hope to the area. You just have to pop by Pok Pok Street Food to see all is not lost.
WHERE TO SIT
On a dreary Monday lunchtime, this Thai cafe on the main Docklands drag is chockers with office workers; by all reports it's the same on Saturday night, which makes it important to book if you're schlepping across town. It's a retro-industrial space that talks to the design-loving heart of the average inner-city dweller: polished concrete, communal tables, graphic street scenes on the walls and outbreaks of colour in the candy-pink metal stools.
The beer selection runs from Chang and Singha to James Squire and Hoegaarden; there's a short selection of house wine, and non-imbibers can hit the coconut juice or coffee beans from Sensory Lab.
An exclusive Life & Style survey found adding the words ''street food'' to an eatery's name makes it 50 per cent more attractive to the average consumer. Pok Pok Street Food - the first bit is an onomatopoeic take on a mortar and pestle - has a butch pan-Thai menu that includes the marquee classics (pad Thai, tom yum soup, green papaya salad) and less ubiquitous dishes with a regional bent. Mains, none of which pass the $14.50 mark, are divided into curries, wok and rice-noodle dishes. Mussel omelet padded out with bean shoots - a southern Thai classic - is fat, golden and a little charry; massaman curry constitutes a single long-cooked lamb shank in a totally moppable coconut-based sauce brimming with cashews, roasted shallots and potatoes. A tamarind king prawn curry is too watery to really convey the sour heat you're looking for in such a dish, but I loved the soft spring rolls, flapped around poached chicken and tofu, with thin slices of omelet and a subtle, sweet tamarind relish. Desserts are as street as Khao San Road: fried roti filled with condensed milk and sugar, or banana and Nutella.
What feels like the entirety of the area's sizeable suit brigade.
A south-east Asian spring in the Docklands step.