There’s been a buzz around Quince for months, generated by social-media savvy partners already well known on the scene through connections with Bed Supperclub and Oskar Bistro, and head chef Jess Barnes, who has been active in pop-up restaurants and other events around the city. Consequently Quince was already packed the night we arrived for a taster just before their grand opening last month.
Jess first came to Bangkok to open the Italian restaurant Grossi in the Intercontinental hotel in 2009, then went back for a spell in his native Australia. “I wanted to return to Bangkok, but to do my own thing,” he says. “And that’s Quince. Part of our concept is responsible eating – where possible using local, organic and sustainable produce and supporting the direct community and producers.”
Tucked away just off Sukhumvit Road, a five minute walk from Phrom Phong Skytrain, Quince is located behind the furniture shop Casa Pagoda, whose owner – another partner– supplied some of the furniture for the restaurant.
It’s a glam factory interior with elements of rustic chic. The de rigueur ceiling of exposed aircon pipes, girders and gaffa tape looms over unvarnished floorboards and hefty wooden tables inlaid with dark metal squares that could have been chipped from the blacksmith’s anvil. The wait staff wear aprons like greengrocers or the joiners who just knocked up the furniture.
The front room has a bar, dealing in cocktails designed by self-styled ‘mixsultant’ Joseph Boroski, while the back room, dubbed the cellar, has white walls of warehouse brick and an old farmhouse-feel stairway leading to a surrounding balcony and private rooms. The obligatory weathered chandelier hangs from a corrugated metal ceiling. Exposed plaster and an iron armature from the original 1950s’ town house complete the look.
The timeless poppy soundtrack shifts from Blue Velvet to Come Fly With Me as I tuck into a starter of sweet watermelon pickle and sticky-soft, toffee-like quince jam working against a salty black pudding (B200). Alongside I have a colourful salad of smoky eggplant (B250). It’s torn apart and tossed on the plate and decorated with green pearls of edamame beans, white blobs of sour labne, and orange-red dots of spicy romesco sauce.
The food is presented to share rather than individual portions, and there’s a Mediterranean feel to it that makes the choice of by-the-glass Spanish reds appropriate, and extremely welcome as a diversion from the ubiquitous Cabs and Merlots from Chile and Oz. There are five by the glass in total (from B210), including Siam Winery’s Monsoon Valley Colombard.
“We are trying to avoid clichés and do simple food cooked well,” says Jess. “And the menu changes quite often based on produce available.” Keeping it local, they have lamb and beef from Pak Chong, free range chicken from Kanchanaburi, and Jess says all the seafood is wild caught “except one sustainable fish-farmed barramundi from down south”. The fruit and veg are organic where possible.
“We have also begun to grow our own lines of produce, and this will develop as time goes by,” Jess continues. “We grow our herbs in the garden, churn butter, make quark and labne, and a good friend Michael Conkey bakes bread for us twice a day. We are veering away from mass production, trying to keep things honest, real and with integrity.”
They’ve made a single concession to excess in a dish of wagyu striploin (“after pressure fromthe partners and some customers”, B2,800), and for those who need it there are some big hitting wines to match, such as Harlan Estate 2006 (B70,000). It sits among good mid-range labels like Palacios and Zind Humbrecht and grape varieties that stray from the mainstream into areas like Nerello Mascalese. Bottles start at B1,200.
Being saintly, we eschewed the wagyu for home-reared lamb shoulder confit – three flavourful slices served with nicely glazed carrots (tops and tails attached) and cauliflower puree. Finish with something from the list of four desserts, include quince trifle (B160) and a tasty chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel (B160).
Quince does exactly what it says on the box – simple home cooking at good prices. You could easily walk out of here with three courses under your belt for B800 before wine and taxes. With punters’ support for the concept, let’s hope they can resist the pressure to go the upmarket route of expensive imports. There’s already enough wagyu in town.
Book your reservation instantly with Chope, click below:
Sukhumvit Soi 45 | 02-662-4478 | 11:30am-6:30pm (with no hot items), 6:30pm-10:30pm (dinner) | facebook.com/quincebangkok