25 September 2023

The Institutions: Morks celebrates 15 years of rebellious Thai food

| Lucy Ridge
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Table with many plates of food including a whole fish

Morks has become a Canberra institution over the last 15 years. Photo: Pew Pew Studio.

Morks on the Kingston Foreshore is celebrating 15 years in Canberra, but the story of the restaurant has a much longer history in the Capital.

Benn ​​and Mork Ratanakosol grew up in their parents’ Thai restaurant in Yarralumla. The family ran Sukothai from 1990 until 2008.

“Mork and I grew up in that restaurant: washing dishes when we could barely reach the sink and serving tables as free child labour!” Benn joked.

The family restaurant closed so his parents could retire, but retirement didn’t suit this busy family! Before long, they’d hatched a plan for another restaurant, this time steering away from the old-school Thai takeaway-style cooking and looking to put Thai food on the map.

“Back then, Thai food was really seen as cheap and cheerful,” Benn explained.

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but we wanted to show that Thai food could be so much more than that. French and Italian were seen as being much fancier, and we wanted to show that Thai was up there with all those European styles.”

Old family photo inside a commercial kitchen

Ratanakosol siblings (L-R) Benn, Nei, Mork and Aim at their parent’s Thai restaurant in 2002. Photo: Supplied.

Morks, named after Benn’s brother who is the chef, first opened at Florey shops in 2008. At first, they received a lot of feedback about the prices, the menu, and the style of cooking. Benn says a common response was, “What kind of Thai restaurant doesn’t serve Pad Thai?”

But people quickly began to appreciate this new, elevated style of Thai cooking, and they amassed a loyal following of customers.

In 2013, the family moved to the Kingston Foreshore and they’ve been there ever since. As the community has become more accustomed to different flavours, they’ve continued to develop their style and now describe their cuisine as ‘Rebellious Thai’.

Nobody asks about Pad Thai anymore.

Benn and Mork together in restaurant

Benn (left) says he and Mork enjoy working together. Photo: Michelle Kroll

To celebrate 15 years of Morks, they’re bringing back some favourite dishes from over the years. Benn explained that chef Mork changes the menu regularly to adjust for seasonal ingredients and to give people new items to try when they return. But there’s always been a few dishes that people wanted to have again and again.

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For the next few weeks, the team has brought back the BBQ Pork Buns, Soft Shell Crab Roti, Red Duck Curry, Sweet Potato Dumplings and Egg in Hay dessert. These dishes will be featured on both their a la carte and tasting menus.

A fancy looking dessert with fairy floss on nice plate

Egg in hay is a much-loved Morks dessert they are bringing back for the anniversary. Photo: Morks.

Over the last 15 years, Benn says they’ve noticed many changes in the hospitality industry. He says customers are more open-minded and excited to try the range of cuisines in Canberra.

He’s also grateful to have developed relationships within Canberra’s hospitality community. When they first started out in Florey, he and Mork didn’t know many other people in the industry.

“These days, we’re such good friends with so many venue operators and the staff. We can go into so many places and we’re treated like cousins,” he said.

“That’s something that’s really pushed us: our passion for the industry and the community.”

An older photo of Benn and Mork

Morks moved to the Kingston Foreshore in 2013. Photo: Supplied.

The move to Kingston exposed them to a whole new customer base, but they still have regulars from the Florey days visit them in their not-so-new location, especially for special occasions. Benn said they love seeing people who have supported them since the beginning still coming in to celebrate events and enjoy their food.

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The restaurant was also included in Gourmet Traveller’s list of Five Best Canberra Restaurants in August 2023, proving that even after all this time, they are still at the top of their game.

As for the next 15 years? Well, they have no plans to slow down.

“We’re still having so much fun and we have so much passion. We just want to keep going.”

Benn has also hinted that they’re interested in potentially opening a second venue, but there are no firm plans at this stage.

Restaurant interior

Morks was listed in the top five Canberra restaurants for 2023 by Gourmet Traveller magazine. Photo: Pew Pew Studio.

Morks is located at 18/19 Eastlake Parade, Kingston. They are open for lunch from 12 to 2 pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and dinner from 6 pm to 9 pm, Tuesday to Thursday, and later on Fridays and Saturdays. Book online via their website, or follow Morks on Facebook or Instagram.

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