The signature Thai restaurant at the exquisite Siam hotel sits in one of three beautifully preserved wooden houses once owned by Connie Mangskau, a friend of silk pioneer Jim Thompson. A wooden statue of mother and child greets as you enter, lying on a table to resemble a reclining Buddha. There are orchids and candles on the tables, old mirrors on the walls, and slender standing lamps that cast light from delicate grilled metal shades. Viewed through wooden shuttered windows, the river flows beyond the palms.
Blair Mathieson, who was previously chef for three years at the Chedi, in Chiang Mai has designed a small home-style menu, with food far more impressive than the slightly insipid Siam Mojitos on the list of cocktails (B390++).
Dishes worth returning for include the pomelo salad, Yum Som O (B320++), which has the textural addition of water chestnut and occasional pieces of toasted coconut to add interest. For luxury, a sliver of lobster tail lies on top. Sa Lat Phed Todd (B350++) has juicy soft, almost pâté-like slow roasted duck flesh contrasting with light crispy skin, gained by flash frying in a wok. It’s a delicious dish, served with a sticky sweet tamarind sauce like melted toffee.
Another standout is Gaeng Chapoo Poo (B460++), an enticing bowl of dark red curry with large meaty gobs of crab and those beautiful tangles of green chapoo leaves that lift from the surface like healthy pond life. It’s one of the great saliva-inducing sights of a Thai dinner table, the moment you know it will taste good and strange.
Many hotel Thai restaurants – with an eye on tourist newbies – lower the heat and sour elements of traditional dishes and leave them too sweet. Not at Chon, where the flavours, though restrained, are as finely balanced as the surroundings. The dinner hour traffic is heavy in this part of town, so it’s best to get the hotel shuttle boat, which leaves Taksin Pier regularly until 6.30pm and can be arranged by phone to stop at piers along the way.
The Siam hotel, 3/2 Khao Rd, Dusit | 02-206-6999 | thesiamhotel.com | Daily noon-11pm