Newcastle’s oldest Thai restaurant has had a facelift
If you haven’t been to the oldest Thai restaurant in Newcastle, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of the iconic Darby St eatery; Benjamas Thai Restaurant.
It’s consistently been a popular choice for group gatherings, romantic dinners and family celebrations, and with the new owner, Chin taking over in October last year it’s going to keep doing so for hopefully many years to come!
“I was the manager here for three years and then I took over about a year ago. After I took over, I felt like I wanted to change the interior. I actually graduated with an architecture degree and I can do design, so I just thought - why not? I did it all by myself with the help of my family. Even the building side of things and the floor that you’re standing on.”
Owner Chin and partner Jean are both originally from Thailand with Chin moving to Australia at the age of 16.
“My parents brought me here. I came here with my mum and my little brother. I graduated from the University of Newcastle and I was studying my masters when the old owner offered me the manager position here. I dropped out of the course, but I ended up loving it here and now I just wanted to make the space look great.”
The space itself is almost unrecognisable compared to the original design. Complete with a moody dark green interior with hints of gold and traditional Thai ornaments throughout – you might even believe you were sitting in a restaurant in the middle of Bangkok.
“The green and gold colours actually mean Benjamas; the flower. I picked a lot of colours of green before deciding on this one; this is just right.”
“The renovations only took us five days. It was so quick because all of my family helped me. All of my cousins, my partner; everyone. I feel so proud now knowing we did this.”
From the design to the hands-on laying of the floors and painting, every last detail was completed by Chin, Jean, and their families to bring the vibrant new space to life.
“Even though the shop looks so much better, we still maintain that affordable pricing. We want this to be the same Benjamas that always was; cosy and welcome to everyone.”
Still trading under the same name, but now just with a brand spanking new fit-out, the Thai restaurant is continuing to serve up some of the best Thai food you can find around town.
“The menu is pretty much the same, but I’ve slightly changed the flavours to showcase more authentic Thai food.”
A visit to the Darby St space will ensure a deliciously authentic Thai cuisine with an extensive menu on offer featuring all your traditional Thai favourites as well as a few more exotic and adventurous dishes.
In the kitchen himself, Chin is the hands (and brains) behind each dish served in front of you.
“My mum and my grandma are real chefs. I’ve been learning from them for a really long time. I always thought I would never be cooking and that’s why I chose architecture, but I ended up here!
“I really want the food to look beautiful so every dish we cook, we cook it one-by-one, which means every time the dish looks and tastes unique.”
When it comes to the menu, you can find all your traditional favourites including the famous Pad Thai wish rice noodles, chicken, egg, shallots, bean sprouts, carrots, peanuts, tamarind and lemon juice as well as plenty of adventurous dishes including the jaw-dropping Pla Lard Prik; a deep fried whole fish topped with Benjamas spicy sweet and chilli sauce.
For starters, you can get your hands around favourites like the spring rolls, curry puffs and satay skewers just to name a few, but our recommendation has got to be the Tofu Satay. Vegan or not, this has got to be one of the best dishes on the menu.
Wrap the night up with a Thai Milk Tea Cake special – ever tried Thai Milk Tea? Well, it’s like that but in cake form; delicious!
“We do everything here with our hearts. We really want you to eat our food and have the best Thai dish you can have.”
Head on into Darby Street and support Newcastle’s oldest Thai restaurant, Benjamas and give their authentic Thai dishes a try.