(THE NATION) - The walrus-moustache logo ought to be enough to tell you the restaurant is Blunos, but it also helps that the name of the restaurant is Blunos. You have entered the culinary world of cheerful British chef Martin Blunos, who sports a moustache of his own and usually Union Jack trousers too. The guy has got a sense of humour, and that is what livens up his first restaurant outside his homeland.
Blunos opened in December on the 14th floor of the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Bangkok, taking over the space vacated by Italian restaurant Luce. The ambience, posh and a bit stiff in the former guise, is now friendlier and far more casual. From the partially open kitchen come colloquialisms like chow, nosh, chomp and munch. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the adjacent pool, and outdoor dining is an option, though not in the “outside” that Blunos seems to fear.
“I want to protect you from the stress and bad things outside,” he says. “We serve happy food for happy people. The food is simple, yet honest, and it can make you feel good and smile, and at the same time it will satisfy your taste buds.” The dishes he creates are good enough to have earned a pair of Michelin stars for each of his restaurants in Britain, Lettonie and Blinis, though they’re both now closed. Thailand lucked out because Blunos was in Bangkok several years as guest chef at another luxury hotel and met Kevin Kanjanapas, who owns the Eastin. When they met again in London three months later, Kevin twisted Blunos’ arm and a permanent move to Bangkok was arranged. “It’s challenging and exciting,” says Blunos, who’s appeared on television’s “Iron Chef UK” and “Master Chef Australia”. “My previous restaurants were fine dining, but this one is informal, casual and fun. The dishes are international comfort food and they look good, taste good and make you feel good.”
A refreshing and vegetarian nibble to start with is Coco’s Pea & Mint Dip (160 baht, above), named after the chef’s daughter. It’s a chickpea puree topped with whole peas and served cold with crispy bread to dip in. “The recipe is my ex-wife’s,” Blunos explains. “She’s a nutritionist and wrote a cookbook for kids. She loves Coco Chanel and that’s why our daughter is named Coco. She cooked this dish for our kids all the time – it’s rich in iron and Vitamin C – and I added seasonings, like onion, chilli, garlic and salt, to please the grown-ups. It’s great in the hot weather.”
Another wonderful vegetarian option is Welsh Rarebit (150 baht, above), the classic dish of multigrain bread covered in melted savoury cheese, here complemented with a cooling salad of apple and celery.
For a fun street-food vibe, there’s King Prawn Skewers with Sriracha Dip (450 baht, above). You get five skewers of prawns, and the aroma when they’re grilled with thyme and star anise is fantastic. The Sriracha sauce is mixed with mayonnaise.
The Lobster Roll (550 baht, above) is half a Canadian lobster poached, cut into chunks, tossed with orange rind and served in a soft garlic-buttered roll with orange-mayonnaise dip. It goes great with a glass of ice-cold Prosecco, which costs 200 baht. “I prefer lobster with orange because lemon is too strong and acidic,” Blunos says. “Orange also brings out the flavour of the lobster better, as well as freshening the taste.”
Another must-try is Pork Belly (590 baht, above). The meat is still juicy after being slowly braised with apple juice, ginger and spices. It’s presented on a bed of parsley, apple, chickpeas, onions and bell pepper that have been sauteed with butter and jus from the pork. There’s a pork-skin fritter on the side for some crunch. “I was using pork imported from my home region, the West Country of England, which is well known for its good pork, but then I tried using local pork and was impressed with the sweetness and firm texture,” says the chef. “I think it’s better than the imported pork.”
The Eastin Hotel also has the Chinese restaurant Chef Man, popular for its Peking duck, and at Blunos there’s Peking Duck Pizza (570 baht, above). The toppings – crispy duck skin and hoisin sauce – come directly from the kitchen of Chef Man. “It’s also topped with shredded spring onion and cucumber. It’s an exciting combination,” Blunos says. “We’re trying to do more with Asian flavours – Thai spices and seasonings – because more Thais are coming here.”
Blunos won last month’s “Iron Chef Thailand” competition with a Milkberry Puff (above) conceived and executed on the spot in 20 minutes, using the surprise ingredient assigned to him – Chitralada sweetened milk tablets from the Royal Projects. He developed the recipe a bit further and added it to his menu, where it is tagged at 280 baht. “I’d never even seen a milk tablet before,” he says. “I broke it up and boiled it in cream and got a sticky, fatty cream that tasted like condensed milk. It was a nice combination to go with puff pastry and berries.”
The restaurant’s poolside bar has resident DJs spinning upbeat tracks Wednesday through Sunday starting at 7pm.
Blunos is on the 14th floor of the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Bangkok (BTS Surasak). It is open daily from 11.30am to midnight (last orders is 11.30pm). Book a table at (02) 210-8100 or www.EastinGrandSathorn.com