Staying local is the new going out, which suits us just fine because most of the time we’re too lazy to even consider taking the BTS. After all, nobody wants to trek across the city for a decent cup of coffee or a night out drinking great cocktails. There are a few relatively “new” neighbourhoods making their mark in the city and, being the ever devoted journalists we are, we decided to take their best venues for a spin, starting with the recent hipster favourite, Suan Phlu, which toes the line perfectly between trendy and a little bit down at heel.
Come to Suan Phlu hungry. Despite its growing reputation as one of the city’s favourite spots to hang out, restaurants are still reasonably priced. Best of all, they show a little originality. Uncle John is something of a cult venue, serving up both French and Thai cuisine from two neighbouring Suan Phlu locations —one with a street-side open kitchen and the other with an indoor dining area. Bangkok’s love affair with all things French is usually a pricey business, but this low key (read: a bit shabby) restaurant serves up tasty French fare at a fraction of the prices you’d usually expect to pay.
If French cuisine doesn’t cut le mustard with you, Nando (nope, not the fried chicken place) dishes hefty portions of no-frills Italian food on a handful of outdoor tables. This family-run venue offers a reasonably lengthy menu of homemade pizza, pasta, and a few other authentic dishes, as well as a handful of desserts. But the real charm of the place is the friendly service from Nando himself.
Recently, Fred Meyer (of Issaya, Namsaah, and Pizza Massilia fame) opened Kom-Ba-Wa in a Suan Phlu shop house. The Japanese joint serves what he says is “food I’d like to eat.” It’s also food that we would like to eat. The menu is full of creative dishes, silky smooth sushi, and must-try desserts.
A trip to Suan Phlu isn’t complete without a cocktail or two. In fact, let’s be real — a trip to just about anywhere isn’t complete without a cocktail pit stop. But Suan Phlu’s nightlife venues are more notable than most.
Junker & Bar is a seductive little spot. Though the bar is small, its cocktail credentials are spot on, as W Hotel’s former mixologist, Bard Passapong, runs the place. He has a passion for gin, so expect to find some weird and wonderful bottles in stock. There’s also a rotating line of potent Thai craft beer available, such as the spooky-labelled Phee bok. Still hungry? The bar stocks shamelessly greasy American fast food and Thai chicken wings. Pretty hard to resist after a cocktail or two.
Taking the wind out of Wongs’s sails, Smalls is the new go-to after-hours venue for the discerning drinker. Quiet, cool, serving great drinks (with polite service), and without the notorious cloying smoke found in Wong’s, this venue is a no-brainer when it comes to a late night tipple.
For those headed there a little earlier, stepping through its revolving doors will reveal a charming slice of 1920s Paris. Think smooth live jazz, chic décor, and an impressive array of absinthe and accompanying paraphernalia and sugar cubes. Be warned: Small’s prides itself on its big pours —45ml versus the typical 37.5mlpour — so you might leave a little more squiffy than you set out to. The venue has three levels, but it’s the rooftop (sadly sans amazing view) that really sets this place apart: a rooftop bar without pretention is a rare find in Bangkok. Smalls is one of those gems that’s just as perfect for a Tinder date as it is a messy night out with friends.