COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE – Quince Eatery & Bar checks all the right boxes when it comes to Bangkok’s burgeoning organic and sustainable eating world: a house littered with trendy furniture, a drink list packed with cocktails from the prohibition era (and homemade bitters!), the quintessential clip-board menu, and a foodie philosophy.
So all the ingredients are there, but how do they blend together? Generally they merge into something pretty great, but there’s definitely still room for improvement. It’s a genuinely exciting restaurant, and it’s clear by taking a look around at the clientele that the local food community and the hi-so sphere have taken quite a liking to it.
As I pulled up to the parking lot I noticed a Hummer parked alongside a BMW six-series and Range Rover Evoque – a far cry from the Priuses and fixies one might expect after seeing the crowd at the Lard-o-licous pop-up dinner put on by Quince chef Jess Barnes earlier this year. The billion-baht parking lot is situated in front of a quaint, country-style house with panoramic windows and high ceilings. The owners of the neighboring Casa Pagoda furniture showroom have a hand in the business, so it’s no surprise that the décor is done very well.
And it’s the ambience that outshines every other aspect of the dining experience here. If you’re bringing a date out for a getting-to-know-you evening make sure to request the back room, as its properly-spaced tables and subdued rusticity make for fantastic conversation. The front room has the hustle and bustle of a Manhattan eatery and an excellent bar to match the controlled madness. You get a nice view of the bartenders shaking up beverages as well as a glimpse at who’s coming and going. This is where the power tables are situated.
The cocktails are done by Joseph Boroski, which we’re a little tired of, but honestly – they’re really quite good. The best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had in Bangkok was right here at Quince and there’s a Vesper on the menu that would make Ian Fleming proud. The drinks are stiff, well mixed, and pair well with the setting.
A seemingly abbreviated menu and inconsistent service seem to be the only pickles at Quince. There’s something about the menu that just doesn’t work: Dishes are designed to be shared, but the portions are just a tad too small to really satisfy more than a single diner. The line between entrée and appetizer is blurry, with the menu’s “Something More Substantial” (which we think means entrée) being less filling in some cases than the lighter dishes. The ricotta gnocchi, zucchini, parmesan, mint+chilli from the “Salads, Veggies and So On” section of the menu was significantly more substantial than the grilled wild tiger prawns in pancetta, cauliflower + pistachio salad which featured two skimpy shrimps and a bit of salad. On our first visit the fish of the day arrived in its most bare form: a whole fish wrapped in paper. What happened to the garnish? To really get a solid meal here you may end up having to order quite a few dishes.
The pig cheek rillete with Quince paste and pickles, however, is an outstanding pork cheek and spice mix of spreadable deliciousness. The roast bone marrow dish really does give you the feeling of “sucking out all the marrow of life,” as Thoreau would put it. It’s tender, succulent, fatty, and delicious. Pork belly is hard to do incorrectly, cook it slow and gentle and it always turns out incredible because of the astronomical fat content. Quince’s pork belly is no different, except it came with a little more fat than we bargained for. Talk about Lard-o-licous.
The esoteric dishes also tended to be the tastiest, like the smokey eggplant, labne, sweet onion, romenesco salad, or the green beans, hazelnut dukkah, pennywort, and sheep curd. Make sure to order these alongside your entree for the full effect. The roast lamb shoulder also rings in at 1.5 kilograms, so it’s best to share. This is complemented incredibly well by the roasted carrot, shallot, poppy seeds, honey + thyme.
Timing is everything, and on our second visit to Quince, it was off. A single appetizer arrived at the table, we shared it, then the second appetizer came, we shared it, then the first entrée came, we shared, it and then the second entrée came… and we shared it. This one-at-a-time sequence is something that plagues the entire restaurant scene in Bangkok, but with a Western menu and stellar setting we expected more from Quince. The way it should be: Apps come first and mains are fired when the guests are nearing the end of the appetizers. The way it was at Quince: One dish comes, we eat it, another single dish follows. It’s these little snafus that keep Quince from reaching its full potential.
With such great ambience it’d be a shame if they didn’t address this timing issue, but in the meantime we’ve discovered a great way to enjoy Quince: Come here for the incredible cocktails and treat the dishes like tapas, order a bunch and share them without perhaps expecting a bursting full stomach. The food is experimental and fresh – but you can’t totally rely on the normal lineup of app-entrée-dessert to fill you up.
Quince Eatery & Bar
Bookings – 02 662 4478
Coconut’s Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Bangkok. No freebies here.
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