Bangkok’s watering holes have undergone a radical shift in recent years, the rise of slick cocktail lounges and low-key boutique places changing the face of the city’s bar scene. Shades of Retro, though, was one of the pioneers, set up in Thong Lor 14 years ago and now tucked around the corner from its original premises. If it was an original when it first opened, it remains a unique place today. From the inviting indoor-outdoor bar at the front of the premises to its eclectic knicks-knacks that fill the space inside, this place is one of a kind. Among the little piles of Scandinavian furniture and bric-a-brac that were either left over or collected, there’s also a seriously well-stocked bar that specialises in cocktails and boutique spirits.
Cocktail culture has taken off in Bangkok – in a big way – but at many places that translates to a long list of sweet, syrupy concoctions. Thankfully, That’s not the case here, where there are some seriously punchy drinks on offer. Try the Ol’ Bitch (B280), which combines sake, vodka, elderflower nectar, absinthe, lemon zest. It’s easy drinking but the absinthe definitely adds bite. Equally, the Smoke on the Water (B280), fusing rosemary whiskey, sugar and bitters and gives off a delicious perfume as the rosemary smoke wafts off the glass. But that boozy goodness cuts through the rest and lingers on the lips.
The food is several cuts above what might reasonably be expected from a small bar. The fried baby octopus with black wasabi ink aioli (B240) comes colourfully presented but the produce and preparation are first-rate. Equally, the drunken chicken (B240) – tender poached chicken breast in Chinese wine served with spring onion and ginger dressing – goes perfectly with a dry beer.
Shades of Retro, though, is particularly well-known for its burgers and the Big Black Burger (B380) is exceptional, taking a gorgeous Wagyu patty, seasoning with truffle oil and serving it up on a dark chocolate bun. It’s full of rich flavour and has a real complexity. It’s satisfying to see such commitment to quality in a small operation.
Shades of Retro
808/12 Soi Tararom 2, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor)
02-714-9450 | facebook.com/shadesofretrobar | 3pm-1am