There’s always a buzz when Ash Sutton opens a new place and Bangkok Betty fits the fantasy formula that provided such riches with previous creations like Iron Fairies and Maggie Choo’s. In lesser hands his outlets would be tacky pastiches. That they aren’t is testament to his talent for execution, which equals his imagination in concept. Ash fabricates stories then turns them into not-quite-reality. Just what you want on a night out. It only takes an absinthe or two to believe you really are in a workshop making fairies.
This time the setting is a Second World War-era bomb-making factory somewhere in the US; the name Bangkok Betty is based on a notional good time girl. Her cartoon image romps provocatively on the wall behind the bar.
Betty is touted as Ash’s first proper restaurant and it does have a more comprehensive food menu than his other outlets, with bistro plates like oysters (from B120 apiece), seafood ragu with pappardelle pasta (B350) and sous vide pork belly (B450). Finish with homey favourites like drunken brownie with bourbon Horlick’s ice cream (B260).
But it still feels like a watering hole. The long bar itself is the focal point, made up like a bomb production line in stainless steel, with mock blueprints etched in wood panels. Around the room there are bombs and bits of bombs everywhere – hanging from the ceiling, propping up the island tables – while wooden plank floors, machinery bits, pulleys and clamps, brick walls and archways add to the effect. The dining tables and bar settings are machinist stations. The tops have repros of propaganda posters; little bolt drawers have plaques containing the wartime motto, “Loose Lips Sink Ships”.
Bangkok’s ubiquitous mixologist Joseph Boroski has crafted the cocktails, (from B290), each named after a real life US period war plane. Put some friendly fire in your belly with the likes of Final Approach (Johnny Walker Black, fresh ginger and lime and homemade lemongrass syrup) or Kickapoo Joy Juice (Ketel One vodka, black currant liqueur, fresh pineapple, watermelon and palm sugar). Local beers start at B150, with an expanding list of imports from B220.
Sutton has set a very high bar and Bangkok Betty is all a bit too slick and shiny to actually feel like a bomb factory. So the fantasy isn’t realised. But, while it lacks the authenticity of Iron Fairies or Maggie Choo’s, there’s still lots to like. The sound system plays jitterbug tunes and stomping 40s and 50s R&B; and there’s a live band, Chai’s Blues, featuring one of Bangkok’s best guitar players.
In the centre of the room, the bar has its own real life Betty, who climbs aboard a large phallic bomb and poses for photos for a stream of cameras. BB might not quite explode but it does fizz with the infectious air of tourists letting their hair down.
GF Holiday Inn Bangkok Sukhumvit 22, 1 Sukhumvit Soi 22
02-663 4223 | 11am-2am