LadyBoy brings a little fun and frivolity to Bridge Road dining and it is just what this stretch of Richmond has needed. The bright pink sign out front has piqued the curiosity of locals passing by and had a few minds wandering, until the butcher's paper was stripped down from the windows and there she was in all her LadyBoy glory. This playful, modern Thai restaurant and bar has opened with a bang and features a creative menu and cheeky drinks list, with a colourful and adventurous fit-out that reflects the fun vibe of Richmond's latest and already popular eatery.
As you walk in to Richmond's coolest Thai restaurant, a striking street art ladyboy face looks down at you and a multi-coloured wastepaper basket light installation drapes from the roof, which all sets the casual scene of Ladyboy. Below the bright neon 'rock out with your wok out' sign is an open kitchen where you can watch chef trio Mitch Townrow (Longrain), Perrin Bowman (Melbourne Pub Group) and Nik Page (Easy Tiger) at work on the woks as the smell of curry paste and smokey Thai street-style aromas waft through the restaurant – almost like you're transported to Khao San Road in Bangkok.
LadyBoy's menu features a range of smaller bites, like betel leaf, char grilled calamari, green mango, Thai fruits and herb salad, pork larb, plus their take on traditional Thai son-in-law eggs. Ask your wait staff for the story behind these. The green papaya salad packs a punch, but if chili isn't your friend, you'll find a range of condiments on the table to aid you. Larger dishes at LadyBoy Thai include a range of fragrant and dry curries and a whole crispy fish of the day; make sure you enjoy some sweet ladyboy treats to finish off. Coconut plays a starring role, with desserts like a kaffir lime pie and coconut meringue, and banana bread, sticky caramel and coconut sorbet. I dined on a banquet menu on my visit, which is the chefs' selection and changes daily. There's plenty of delicious Thai food to go around, too, so you won't leave hungry.
Out back, the Budha Bar leads to an expansive courtyard, which will be a sure-fire hit in summer. Enjoy a bar snack menu including oysters and green nahm jim, a selection of banh mi (pork, chicken and tofu) and masterstock chicken wings, all priced at a neat $8. These wings are seriously good. The cheeky drinks menu offers up cocktails like an Adam's Apple and Trans-gin-der, and the well-considered wine list is matched with any of LadyBoy's dishes.
I spoke with owners and Richmond locals, Fran Leaper and Mitch Townrow, who said they 'wanted to open a restaurant where you could dine any night of the week and it wouldn't break the budget.' They also wanted a fit-out that was playful in design, and celebrated traditional Thai culture. They brought in Cremorne-based Ingrain Designs to make it a reality. The LadyBoy build was collaborative and often spontaneous, with everyone from chefs and the graffiti artist getting involved. The result is a juxtaposition of colour and recycled materials, everything from ex-factory floor timber wall cladding and a chalkboard ping-pong dining table, to the bamboo Thai-style Budha Bar with its eclectic mix of hanging parasols, shipping crates and Asian knick knacks.
Fit-out aside, the feature piece of LadyBoy dining + bar is without a doubt the amazing Thai fare, and you definitely get plenty of bang for your ladyboy buck. The three chefs offer up a creative take on modern Thai food with flavour-packed dishes that balance the sweet, salty, sour and spice of traditional south-east Asian flavours.
LadyBoy is walk-in, but the team takes banquet bookings in the dining area for a group of eight or more. On Sundays, head down to LadyBoy from 5pm for their Thai-style roasts. LadyBoy dining + bar is open Wednesday through to Sunday, but I heard a whisper that come summer they may operate seven days a week. So get your LadyBoy on and bring on that warm weather.
Image Credits: Ally Hurley, The Urban List.