Who is Honey?
She’s the new girl in town, hailing originally from Singapore. Well, from Singapore House in Frewville to be quite exact. But she still has her South-East Asian culinary roots, despite a hills-change to the fast-growing town of Littlehampton, just off the freeway near Mount Barker.
She’s definitely there to get to know the locals but for the metro-based she’s worth the quick zip up the freeway to see how her establishment has developed since Hailey and Montie Waraich departed their longstanding post at one of my Glen Osmond Road favourites.
It’s clear that Honey loves a drink and you will love her cocktails too. First is the Y.E.R – say it with me: YER. And Yer, you certainly should. This delightful Yuzu, Elderflower and Rum concoction is bright and sweet, well balanced with botanicals and just a little spice.
Honey’s interior design sensibility matches this sweet and spicy approach. She’s gone a little boho but still with an Asian flair – and she doesn’t need to try too hard. The new place has much less floor space compared with the extravagant Singapore House dining room, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. A palette perfect wallpaper featuring a melange of fruits and florals adorn one wall, opposing subtle hues of dusty pink and cream on others. Original timber floors match restored tables and mismatched chairs have been given a lick of brightly coloured paints, all adding to the charm. Shelves with jars of ingredients give you just a hint of the tastes you’re about to experience; naturally we order a second cocktail to start.
Rhubarb Margarita sounds like a crazy invention, but again Honey gets her flavour spot-on. It’s one of those drinks that tastes like its colour: light pink and slightly dusty, with a delicious zing thanks to a rim of citrus salt that will get your tequila-infused taste buds doing the Cha-Cha.
If you’re feeling indecisive you should treat yourself to the “Bang-quet” (see what she did there?). This menu will take you through a little journey of “Little Bangs” and “Big Bangs”, and then finish with, you guessed it – a “Bang Bang Sweet”. But Honey’s a la carte offers too many options, so we decide to go it alone, with some guidance from smiling staff buzzing around an equally enthusiastic bunch of diners.
As we kick things off, Honey gets serious, with the most sensational Sticky Lamb Ribs that come coated in a glaze of thick black vinegar with notes of star anise and lemongrass: this is always a winning combination for me. With 15 ingredients in the sauce, I’d challenge you to recreate this one at home, but a better alternative is to just order double or a serve to take away. You can thank me later.
A locavore ethos flows through a short but sufficient wine list that features a few favourites from the Hills and plenty of other SA regional varietals. They’ve got Golding’s Chardonnay and Chalk Hill’s Grenache Rose, but grown just up the road towards Nairne is the Howard Vineyard Pinot Gris and it’s the perfect match to our next dish, when the kitchen gets a little spicy with their own take on the Chiko Roll. In place of the typically tough to chew pastry casing and cabbage filling is a crispy, crunchy, grab-it-and-eat cylinder stuffed with a curry leaf-infused minced beef and potato centre. A spicy sauce for dunking has tastebuds flying – you’ll never want to stop at the servo again.
Next is a pimped-up cob of corn with coriander, lime and parmesan that sticks to the outside, courtesy of a generous coat of zingy mayonnaise. This one leans a little more Mexican than Asian, but we’ll let her off – it’s clear by now that Honey is well-travelled. And just when we thought she was done with snacks, Honey delivers one that brings us right back to the street vendors of her former home city: a lightly sweetened bun, crunchy on the outside with a pillowy centre, that encases a sliver of pork and a medley of pickled veg. A light hand of chilli offers just the right heat, and herbaceous flavours are complemented by another mayonnaise-based sauce. She’s onto a winner with this one, too.
The menu states that the Beef Rendang is cooked low and slow, which explains the level of complexity and flavour of this classic dish. Its thick, dark and creamy coconut base has just a hint of citrus thanks to lemongrass. The curry is presented without frills, but that’s the point. Instagram aside, there’s no reason to ruin the perfect curry with unnecessary condiments and we thank the kitchen for their restraint. Honey Bang Bang’s version of rendang is proof that less is absolutely more.
And for the last number in her act, Honey delivers a song of love and devotion dedicated again to her dear hometown: a black sticky rice dessert.
This is occasionally called forbidden rice, but I forbid you not to try it. This final Bang is actually not as sweet as you’d expect, despite the name. It’s a balanced staple of India and other Asian countries where they eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner- and I can understand why. The rice is silky. A coconut cream has a porridge-like texture and a dried milk crumb on top provides crunch. Honey has dried, lightly preserved or poached a medley of fruits then added some fresh and seasonal for variety in her version, and we like it.
It turns out we like Honey, too – a lot. She has a sense of cheeky fun – you’ll see that in her face on the wall. She’s also got style and, more importantly, is delivering food packed with flavour.
Honey Bang Bang
82 Princes Highway, Littlehampton
08 8398 3396
Lunch: Wednesday to Friday, 11.30am-2pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Thursday, 5.30-8.30pm; Friday and Saturday, 5.30-9.30pm
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.