Books are a very special and integral part of my life; it has been so ever since I can remember. At all phases of my childhood, I have been a book nerd seeking to escape into another world through words and characters.
In the past four years of living here, I have slowly formed a small gang of friends who appreciate books and reading as much as I do. And finally, earlier in the month, we decided to have our first ever book swap meet. It was to be a pretty informal affair, just a handful of us meeting in the city to swap some of the books from our collections. And we also decided to make a visit to the State Library Victoria; what better place for a book lover, rite!
Time must never be a parameter when a bunch of women decide to meet so the plan was to catch up in a central point before heading to the library. And since I arrived in the city without having any lunch (just an excuse), I decided to join up with another GF. So randomly, without any clue whatsoever about the place, we landed up at Monkey King inside Melbourne Central. And before we knew it, others joined and soon what was supposed to be a quick lunch turned into a slow, relaxed and delicious lunch affair.
Monkey King is relatively new to the Melbourne Central food scene. As I understand it, the restaurant is going through some changes so the space is divided into a bar and restaurant, and they operate separately in spite of being in the same space.
Industrial chic, boho with contemporary Asian influences, the décor and ambience of Monkey King is definitely worth mentioning. With beautiful art murals and interesting accessories, the space is lavish and welcoming; definitely a respite from the crowds.
I was quite impressed with the bar menu, especially the cocktails. There were a range of tea based cocktails, with really interesting flavour combinations. You could also consult the bartender and come up with your own cocktail creation which can then be named after you.
Before we get into the food, here are the cocktails we tried out;
Cucumber and Rose Tea Tom Collins; a perfect afternoon drink created from a blend of Gin, Gifford Lychee Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, rose syrup topped with soda. It was refreshing, delicious and that hint of rose was just amazing.
Hibiscus and Peach Bellini; a blend of West Winds Gin with lemon, peach sugar, hibiscus syrup topped with sparkling wine. Again a refreshing drink perfect for long chatty afternoon with friends.
Peppermint Tea Mojito; with Mt Gay white rum, lime and an in house peppermint tea syrup. A beautiful ombre drink again perfect for the afternoons.
So as I mentioned, Monkey King currently operates another restaurant inside its space called Bao & Co. As the name suggests, the menu focuses on different style of bao which is essentially Chinese style steamed buns with a variety of fillings. It’s a simple and small menu but we sampled quite a few dishes to reach the conclusion that this was an amazing place to return to.
We ordered different style of bao along with a few sides and here’s what we had;
Wasabi Barramundi Bao – crispy barramundi, seaweed, dill, wasabi mayo with pickled vegetables all encased in the softest bao. Damn delicious and highly recommended!
Crispy Fried Chicken Bao – chicken, pickle, coriander, carrot, cucumber, red cabbage with chilli mayo. This one was fabulous especially with bits of crispy chicken against the freshness of the vegetables.
Veggie Lover Bao – with a vibrant, refreshing mix of veggies, the vegetarian version of the bao is equally delicious as its non vegetarian counterpart.
Papaya Salad – we could all go back just to eat this salad. Carrots, chilli, green papaya, crushed peanuts, fried shallots with cherry tomato; this salad was bursting with delicious flavours and made the perfect side to the bao.
Crunchy seasoned wedges – perfectly seasoned and crispy wedges yet soft and fluffy inside.
Edamame Bean – Boiled green soybeans with sea salt. One of the healthiest yet really delicious snack to munch on.
Veggie Spring Rolls – crispy rolls with delicious mixed veggie filling; it was freshly made and that made all the difference.
And as always, we left no room for dessert but there were quite a few sweet bao versions to try out; maybe next time.
Melbourne Central Shopping Centre,
68 Menzies Alley,
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone no: (03) 9066 0207
Monday: 11.30am – 11.00pm
Tuesday: 11.30am – 11.00pm
Wednesday: 11.30am – 11.00pm
Thursday: 11.30am – 3pm; 4pm – 1am
Friday: 11.30am – 3pm; 4pm – 1am
Saturday: 11.30am – 3pm; 4pm – 1am
Sunday: 5.00pm – 10.00pm