Driving through the winding roads in what felt like, the outback of Australia, I stared out into pitch darkness. No sounds, no cars, no humans.. not even a house in sight. “Hannah, where are you taking us?” My dad questioned my sister with a slight nervous laugh after. “It’s fine guys, we’re nearly there” she answered, calmly checking google maps on her phone in the front seat. I would have been forgiven for thinking we were in the middle of nowhere, as the already pitch black darkness seemed to get even darker. “We’re here, there’s the sign!” A small wooden sign at the side of a right hand turning with ‘Spirit House’ indicated we had actually gone the right way. As we drew into the car park, every space taken except one, we realised that this was indeed the award winning Thai restaurant based in the middle of the rainforest, that was to be our entertainment for the night.
Walking to where we believed was the main restaurant, we were guided by a candle-lit brick path, crickets buzzing around our ears, trees gently swaying in the gentle surrounding winds. Looking left and right, other diners sat happily at their tables, candle light surrounding them in a soft comfortable glow. As the newcomers, It was as if we were on the outside looking in; the last ones to the party, yet to be part of this enchanting experience.
Welcomed in and told our table was not ready, we were guided into the Hong Sa Bar; a microcosm of peace and tranquility, with us being the main guests. You would be wrong to think the bar was an upmarket show room for Thai furniture interior design – wooden chairs with hand embroidered cushions were scattered intelligently to embrace the space and design of the area – candles flickered on every hand painted table, with floor lighting casting shadows on the overshadowing outside greenery. A mix of stone, burnt umber, rusted metallic and orange only evoked the sense of carefully considered design; design awareness that instantly relaxed its guests as they awaited their hand picked drinks. Ordering a Chai and Ginger Cocktail, I couldn’t quite believe that this was where I was eating that night.
With our drink glasses standing empty, and our cushioned seats only relaxing us more, we were informed that our table was now ready. Guided through the bustling restaurant, through what felt like an intimately lit maze of wood and shadows, we made our way to our four chaired table, surrounded by the ever onlooking rainforest.
With our menus being handed to us, we were introduced to our own personal waitress for the night, who welcomed us to Spirit House, and to the delicately thought through Spirit House Menu. With the courses all designed to compliment each other, we decided on four banquets, and one vegetarian banquet; I had to be the different one. As we awaited our food choices, we were advised on drinking the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a recommendation from our friendly and enthusiastic waitress. I sat back and took in the atmosphere, sipping on my glass of wine, sitting back into my wooden chair. So far, I was blown away.
The food was an incredible extension of what could only be described as sensational magic. To start with, I began with the Tom Yum Soup, complimented by the Vegetarian Miang.. and wow, what a combination. The combinations of tomato, along with chilli, onion, combined with the peanuts, ginger and lime of the Vegetarian Miang, was like nothing I had experienced before. Sharp and tangy, whilst spicy and sharp, it was the perfect introduction to what would only be a sensory experience.
Next, plates of Salt and Pepper Tofu, Coconut Pancakes and Jasmine Rice were delivered to the table for me. From the experience of the first course, the Coconut Pancakes relaxed by taste buds, calming them from the tangy awakening of the previous course. Devouring them in a heart beat, I set my eyes on the Salt and Pepper Tofu. Delicately cooked on the outside, surrounded by a sharp and zingy sauce, which could only set off the salt and pepper. By the second course, my taste buds were feeling as if they had run an 800 metre sprint, they were confused by this new taste experience.
After three main courses, the chef’s choice of desert was the icing, the cherry and the sprinkles on the god damn cake (as well as the candles).
With a combination of dark chocolate mouses and mango sorbet, one would be forgiven for thinking that both would need to be eaten separately. Eaten together, the two flavours complimented each other beautifully, with the dark chocolate working against the mango’s sweetness perfectly.
The desert was new that night, and our waitress was ecstatic that we had sussed out how to combine the two flavours together – the evening of food and flavour combinations was indeed not just food, but an experience. Now I’m no foodie, and I’m rarely given the opportunity to eat in such places, but Spirit House showed me that food doesn’t always have to feed us, it can create an experience for us; a memory that we hold on to, a story of complimenting and clashing flavours that can be remembered in future restaurant visits.