Former LA pro photographer turned veteran publican David Jacobson became a legend after he opened Q Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 in 1999, kicking off a successful club scene that has since taken over virtually the entire soi.
Fifteen years later Jacobson and his French partner Bruno Tanquerel left Sukhumvit glitz behind to set up shop in the three-storey 1960s relic at the corner of Suan Phlu Soi 1 that formerly housed Chez Pepin restaurant.
Decorated with vintage furniture, quirky art, and Tanquerel’s own sculptures and paintings, it’s reminiscent of Le Derriere, the room Tanquerel designed at the back of Q Bar (which Jacobson no longer has any ownership in) but with a more bohemian feel.
As at Le Derriere, absinthe – served with the proper fountain and slotted spoon – is a speciality, along with a wide selection of wines by the glass and such hard-to-find liquors as Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Whiskey. As at Q Bar spirits are dispensed in stout New York-style 45-cl servings rather than the anemic European 30-cl pour commonly seen elsewhere in Bangkok.
The new location has found an enthusiastic local market. “Sathorn was an obvious new frontier for us, as there isn’t that much out this way in terms of bars and restaurants,” says Jacobson. “At the same time, a lot of people live in this community. Why would they travel all the way to Thonglor or Ekamai for an evening out, if they have places to go here? My goal has always been to provide a great atmosphere for people who want to go out, meet their friends over excellent drinks served by a knowledgeable and kind staff, get a bite to eat, enjoy the music, etc. That said, bars that offer an atmosphere conducive to engaging in a conversation are rare and often boring. At Smalls we try to provide a neighbourhood experience that is both cosy and adult.”
To that end the playlist at Smalls tends to be non-commercial, with an emphasis on jazz and world music, rather than the standard hip-hop, house and techno heard in many Bangkok clubs. On occasion Smalls hosts live blues or jazz ensembles, but what seems to be working best for the club, so far, are occasional visits by eclectic DJs like club veteran Justin Mills, who dares to spin Tom Waits, Zapp, The Heavy and Eric Dolphy back to back.
Smalls’ kitchen, which stays open at least until midnight nightly except Tuesday (when the bar is closed), serves a well-conceived roster of entrees and bar snacks, including much-lauded fresh Irish oysters on the half-shell.
186/3 Suan Phlu Soi 1 | 09 5585 1398 |Wed-Mon 8.30pm-2am