Whether you prefer amber nectar or black gold, Bangkok pubs resound with shouts of “Ale have another one, please!”
Wherever your travels around the world may take you, you are pretty much guaranteed to find a British or Irish-styled drink spot in whichever city you set yourself down in. Once inside, a nice pint of tasty brown bitter, a golden lager, a satisfying black stout, or a cool refreshing cider are all readily available for your sipping pleasure. These days, wine bars and cocktail lounges are definitely more “trendy”, but for many imbibers nothing beats the welcoming feel of a proper pub—and Bangkok has plenty of great ones.
Of course, pubs have never been just about what there is to drink there, and this is even more true in the new Millennium. To satisfy customers nowadays, publicans who want to stay on top of the game have to offer a variety of temptations to entice punters through the door, such as good food, live sports, comedy shows, live music, etc. But perhaps the overriding factor is the landlord/manager of the establishment itself. It is often the managers of the places you visit that you will most remember, and who will make you wish to return for another visit. During the course of our pub crawl you’ll get to meet a few of these engaging characters.
We’ll start with the mid-Sukhumvit area, around the Phrom Phong BTS station, where you can find three excellent venues. The Robin Hood is a pub in the English style that attracts mostly Brits, but with a healthy mix of Aussies and Americans, as well as some local Thai regulars and wandering tourists. It has been at the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi 33/1 for over 10 years, and is a well-established favourite. The manager is Billy, and he is always on hand to meet his regulars and chat with new customers. Just look for the handsome bald guy flitting around the room. They serve great food, of which the most popular item is currently the Steak and Ale Pie. Live sports is shown on 20 TVs, as well as two large projector screens, and Happy Hour is from 4pm to 7pm daily, when you can partake of British ales, local beers, and a range of ciders.
Next up is The Royal Oak, ably run by Jimmy (who never seems to stop). It’s located directly on Soi 33/1, and there has been a pub on this same site for over 20 years. The Royal Oak offers Wednesday Quiz Nights, stand-up comedy upstairs every Friday (sometimes with international guest stars), live sports, and more. Happy Hour is from 4pm to 8pm, Monday through Sunday, for your imported and local beers or ciders. From the menu the most popular dish at the moment is Cod and Chips—a real taste of Old England. Join the crowd, where you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with Western expats, locals, and Japanese (the Phrom Phong area has many Japanese expat residents).
The last place on Soi 33/1, and the first Irish watering hole on our list, is Herrity’s. Here you will meet Nick, and he was happy to tell me that as Herrity’s is part of a hotel, there is really no “closing time”. Nick explained how his customers are mostly Japanese and local Thais, with a small but regular group of expats. Try to make it the first stop on your pub tour, because the most popular meal here is the breakfast, served until 11am every day. And on Fridays you can have cod, chips, and a beer for only B299! Happy Hour lasts from 11am to 8pm every day, and you have the choice of a black gold, cider, or a range of imported and local beers. You can also join the pub’s chess or computer club.
Moving along Sukhumvit Rd, to the area near the Asok BTS station, we encounter two more great pub style drink spots. The Black Swan, owned and managed by Dave, is located on Sukhumvit Soi 19 (about 200 yards up from the Sukhumvit main road). It moved from its previous location on Sukhumvit Road—underneath the skytrain overhang, just a few hundred yards away—but it still retains the feel of a ‘real’ English pub, somehow transported halfway around the world. The Black Swan has a cozy feel to it, and the regulars—who dutifully followed when it changed locations—love to sit around the bar and chat. Dave is old school, and he really knows how to make his customers feel welcome. After a visit here you are pretty likely to return to the Swan’s welcoming arms, to just quietly while away a few hours, joining in conversations with Dave and his friends. Happy Hour is from 3pm to 9pm daily throughout the year, and the current food fave is the typically English Bangers n’ Mash. Luxury!
Now along to Sukhumvit Soi 15, where The Drunken Leprechaun is nestled away on the ground floor of the Four Points by Sheraton hotel. You know you are in for something different when you are greeted at the entrance by actual leprechauns (Thai “little people” in costume). It’s a medium-sized place, with the typical dark wood and emerald green that you’d expect in an Irish pub. The manager here is Hoania, and he takes pride in his establishment. And he’s more than happy to pass the time of day with you, when the place is not too busy… which isn’t very often. Live music is one of the staples here, and you can oil your wheels by taking advantage of the Happy ‘Hour’, which lasts from 12 noon to 8pm (when the entertainment begins). Sport is also popular, and during their showing of English Premier league matches there are special deals on Singha beer. They also have a great selection of food, but the Irish Stew here always goes down well.
The last place on the Sukhumvit leg is Hanrahan’s Irish Pub on Sukhumvit Soi 4 (near Nana BTS station). Breakfast here is popular with the tourists staying in the nearby hotels, or with the expats residing in nearby condos and apartments. However, things really start to liven up after 4pm when the four-hour Happy Hour begins. Hanrahan’s is quite a big place, and as it is in a popular tourist area it sees quite a big turnover. The people you bump into here are mostly Westerners—either expat locals, or tourists—who pack the place out when popular sporting events are being screened. I go there myself to watch F1 on their big screen TVs or projectors. The food is great, and their home-made 100 percent beef hamburgers are delicious.
The final two spots on our jaunt around Bangkok are located in very different ends of the city. The first, Molly Malone’s, is on Convent Road, just off Silom Road (near the Sala Daeng BTS station). It’s a good place to escape the bustle of busy Silom, and given that it is only a few yards down Convent Road, it is a welcoming oasis for local expats who work nearby, many of whom also like to bring their Thai colleagues along. Sporting events are always being screened, and tourists exploring the area are often tempted inside. Irish beers and ciders are their best sellers, Tim the manager told me, especially during the Happy Hour, which lasts from 4pm to 7pm—when you can grab a beer for as little as 75 baht.
Finally, winding up this pub trek around Bangkok, there’s no better inn to end up in than The Londoner, now located on Phattanakarn Road between Sois 32 and 30. It is the only purpose-built British pub in Bangkok, and it’s also the oldest microbrewery in the city (it first opened in 1997, and was originally located on Sukhumvit Soi 33). In its current location the building itself is new, but once you enter the doors you feel as though you are in an old style ‘local’. The décor is essentially Brit, as is the beer they brew, even though Peter the designated brewmaster hails from Germany. He has been producing Brit style beers at the Londoner (he was at the old pub, too) for 17 years, and is inordinately proud of his craft.
The manager here is Damian, and he also is immensely proud of his place of work. And as I was shown around the well-proportioned building, his enthusiasm became infectious—especially after I was treated to a sample of their most popular brews. I tried three of their microbrew beers, of which my favourite was the Londoner Brew IPA, closely followed by the Londoner’s Pilsner, and the new low carb beer. Damian pointed out that from Monday to Friday the clientele here is mostly Thai, whereas Saturdays it’s 50 percent Thai, 50 percent Westerners, and Sundays see mostly expats and their visiting friends stopping by for food, ale, and chat.
The Londoner’s food is some of the best you will find in the city, which comes as no surprise as their chef is the captain of the Thai Cooking Team. They offer live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and if you over-indulged on a Saturday night head to The Londoner come Sunday morn for the ‘Bloody Mary Bar’, wherein you design your very own pick-me-up drink with fruits, vegetables, and a vast array of condiments and spices.
And if you have managed to cover all the places listed in this article. It might be just the place in which to recover. Cheers! Slainte!
Oktoberfest is Coming!
Although it began as a German tradition, Oktoberfest is a beer celebration that is now enjoyed all over the world. In Bangkok there are many bars that make the most of this annual event (which actually begins in mid-September), and the fact that The Drunken Leprechuan is an Irish Pub doesn’t stop them from offering great Oktoberfest deals. From September 16th to October 3rd, enjoy classic German dishes such as Grilled Sausage Platter and Pork Knuckle, and quench your thirst with esteemed imported brews such as Erdinger Weissbier, Weihenstephan, and Paulaner Weissbier—all are available at irresistible prices!
By Robin Westley Martin