Koinonia: the name conjures up images of palm trees, oases, dusky Arabian wenches and fan-waving eunuchs. (Well, for us it does anyway.)
The reality, at least from the outside, appears a little different: Koinonia looks from the street to be a lunch-bar type, set back off the street and up a couple of steps. It is housed in the uninspired cream-bricked and new-ish building that Balshaw’s Florist is also located in. We’ve always assumed that the folk at Balshaw’s designed that building, as it is about as unattractive as that ridiculous van they drive around in with the giant rose in a plastic coffin on top of it. Anyway, do not be deceived by the building: once inside, Koinonia (which incidentally means “murder-inducing elevator music” in Esperanto) is a warm, inviting place, made all the more so by the immediate attention given us by the hostess and the leather booth-like couches around which the BSBers immediately splayed themselves.
As if this was not congenial enough, the mural on the wall expounded the benefits of “fellowship”, “virtue” and “loving thy neighbour” (or something like that – the BSBers ignored these sentiments completely and engaged in their usual infantile squabbling over the menu.)
This evening, the BSBers were joined by their travelling English friend, The Pikey. Being of Cockney extraction, there is little that the Pikey could not tell you about the potato chip, chicken tikka masala or soggy Pret tuna-and-sweetcorn sambos. How would she cope though with the fusion-style array of spices from the Orient? For Koinonia (formerly “Infusion” further south on Beaufort) offers the full gamut of Asia-wide generic dishes.
Starters were plentiful, prompt and very tasty. Duck pancakes were suitably moist (take heed, Red Teapot), san choy bow of the perfect consistency, satay sticks a delight. Even better, the menu stated that each of the starters came in 4 pieces, which was of a huge concern to the Pikey as there was no way we were going to share with her, but when the kind waitress saw the pain on the Pikey’s face, she quickly reassured us that they would be happy to make them 5 pieces each. And we didn’t seem to be charged for the extra either.
Mains continued in the same vein: chicken curry tantalised the taste-buds (although BOOTO suggested the meat was a little dry), the garlic lamb was a revelation, the squid and prawns an oral celebration, all washed down with a pad thai, a crash-helmet sized tub of fried rice and 14 litres of cleanskin sparkling shiraz (the BSBers’ cheap plonk of choice).
Our hostess was particularly generous, and seemed to be always at hand and directing staff to indulge our every (culinary) whim. She even gave us champagne glasses, which is a rare treat for a BYO restaurant.
Service: Very friendly (without being intrusive), polite and ever-present. Very quick on the drinks.
Food: Very, very good pan-Asian.
Ambience: Surprisingly chic inside, with an extended balcony overlooking the Scotto.
Highlight: The expression on the Pikey’s face as her taste-buds were awakened after decades of culinary neglect.
Lowlight: The piped Muzak. (Although this may have been deliberate – very reminiscent of a Hong Kong taxi.)
Rating: 4.5 Hello Kitty’s out of 5.
Will we be back: Definitely – undoubtedly the pick of the bunch for Asian delights thus far.
Details: Koinonia is a couple of doors down from Monte Fiore. The bill came to about $50 a head for (far too many) mains, starters and corkage. Booking is advised, particularly on warm evenings.
Be aware: Koinonia is not licensed (although permits BYO beer and wine). Also, the Liquor Barons at the Beaucott corner closes at the ridiculously arbitrary time of 8:45, meaning that the Sponge had to walk 6 minutes to the Queens to collect booze. This resulted in a lot of self-indulgent whinging from the Sponge and general disharmony at the table. You have been warned.