You half expect white gloves and pearls to be mandatory for high tea at the Mandarin Oriental’s Authors’ Lounge, a lovely spot to refuel in the afternoon. Cucumber sandwiches, homemade pastries and jams, cookies and sweet treats are served on three-tiered silver trays, but the warm and friendly staff prevents the ambience from turning stuffy.
You all but expect to come across Joseph Conrad or Graham Greene nursing a whiskey at the venerable, but fun, Bamboo Bar in the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, which features leopard- and tiger-print fabrics and an array of potted greenery. It’s not memorable enough to warrant a special trip, but if you’re having dinner at one of the restaurants, it’s a nice spot for a drink and live music before or after.
Jewelry designer Elizabeth Locke, a frequent traveler to Bangkok, recommends this classic, saying, “It’s beautiful and has great service, and the staff will understand if someone wants to order a Diet Coke. It’s on Sathorn Road, and any concierge will know it.” Part of the Blue Elephant group, a collection of Thai restaurants whose original outpost opened in 1980, Bangkok’s Blue Elephant is housed in a Colonial-era mansion, and the menu offers a modern twist on traditional Thai cuisine. There’s a cooking school on the premises as well, in case you want to learn to prepare those rice paper–wrapped prawns or that juicy tamarind-flavored duck you just ate.
The acclaimed fine-dining restaurant at the Ed Tuttle–designed Sukhothai serves up a stylish ambience (the restaurant is surrounded by lotus ponds) and consistently terrific Thai cuisine prepared with top ingredients. Guests can choose between the elegant (and air-conditioned) dining room and the romantic outdoor terrace.
Dine in the Dark
This multilevel, cool but welcoming restaurant, bar and art gallery, on an unassuming street, is a real find. Darren and Cherie Hausler are an Australian brother-and-sister duo, whose inspired and well-executed menu includes such dishes as pumpkin, coconut and blood-orange soup; fig-and-blue-cheese ravioli; and pan-fried duck foie gras. Cocktails, too, are delectable. This is an intimate, delicious spot located away from the bustling city. Request a table on the terrace, which is shaded by leafy trees, for a romantic, peaceful dinner. Afterward, take a ten-minute stroll to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar for some late shopping, or head to the Met Bar at the Metropolitan hotel, also within walking distance.
A short walk from both Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, this neighborhood eatery is bold in design and flavor, which should come as no surprise: Err comes from chefs Bo and Dylan of the now closed Bo.Lan. Style-wise, there’s a mix here of throwback kitsch, industrial toughness and street-art vibrancy. The kitchen, however, turns out elevated street food plus homey classics like baskets of crispy chicken skin and sliced green mango in spicy fish sauce, braised pork belly and ribs in a sweet-and-spicy pepper and toddy palm sugar sauce.
You probably won’t go out of your way to come to the all-organic health restaurant on the second floor of the Metropolitan hotel, but if you’re planning to go to the Como Shambhala spa, it’s worth scheduling in some extra time before or after for a light meal and an energizing juice here.
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Jim Thompson House
“Not only do you have beautiful things, but what is rare, you have arranged them with faultless taste,” wrote Somerset Maugham in a letter to Jim Thompson, whose former home is now a not-to-be-missed museum. The self-made American entrepreneur came to Thailand in the late 1940s, after World War II. In subsequent years, Thompson single-handedly revived Thai silk weaving, a craft that had been slowly dying out. Not only did he revitalize an industry that runs strong to this day, he also championed socially responsible business practices, letting his female weavers work from home (where they were able to watch their children) and giving the core group of his weavers shares in his Thai Silk Company. Thompson disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Malaysia in 1967. There are lots of theories of what happened to him; be sure to ask your guide.
Thompson was a major collector of Southeast Asian art, and many of his unique finds from Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Laos are displayed in the house, which he began building in 1958. The complex is made up of several typical Thai houses that were taken apart and moved from Ayutthaya, the ancient capital. It’s a stunning oasis of beauty and serenity and the second-most-visited attraction in Bangkok (trumped only by the Grand Palace). Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Tip: You can visit the interior of the home only on a guided tour. When you purchase your ticket, you are given a place on the next tour given in your language. During the unavoidable wait, you are encouraged to hang out in the boutique; a nicer way to while away the time is to have a coffee at the gorgeous little café and restaurant on the property.
Acclaimed chef and Indagare Insider Daniel Moran recommends this sleek Japanese-fusion restaurant. The Bangkok outpost of this international sushi titan is one of the most talked about restaurants in town, from the rumored shady business dealings to the “models night” that draws every clotheshorse in the city. But, all controversy aside, there is a lively vibe to Koi. The tables are packed every night and the bar scene (we recommend the wasabi martini) is always buzzing with a young, well-heeled crowd.
Technically, the bar at the Metropolitan hotel is a “members only” hot spot, but Indagare members can call ahead and get on the list. There are comfy leather-chaise seating groups, trendy cocktails (think Tom Yumtini), loungy music and Bangkok’s beau monde to watch. But be sure to come on a weekend after dinner, as the bar tends to be dead during the week.
Awarded the prestigious ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ by Restaurant Magazine, Nahm at the Metropolitan hotel stands as one of Bangkok’s hot spot dining experiences. Australian born chef David Thompson crafts every dish with bold flavor and sophistication. With tables in the sleek dining room and out on the terrace overlooking the pool, Nahm offers top-notch traditional Thai cuisine in an elegant setting.
Rendez-Vous au Lys
This relaxed, family-run Thai restaurant (the owners are a French-Thai couple, which explains the name) is located on a quiet soi, a few doors down from the M.R. Kukrit Heritage Home, which makes it a great lunch spot if you’re touring the museum. After snacking on freshly prepared curries and noodle dishes, stay for a game of pétanque in the courtyard.
This riverfront boutique hideaway hotel, located directly across the water from Wat Ahrun, embraces a stylish, more contemporary English décor. A short walk from some of Bangkok’s most notable sites like Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, Sala Rattanakosin offers a stylish dining room and outdoor overwater dining deck with dead-on views of Wat Ahrun. Stop in for lunch while sightseeing or come for drinks to enjoy a spectacular view of the glowing temple at dusk from the scenic restaurant deck or chic open-air rooftop bar and lounge.
This small street, off Sukhumvit, the main thoroughfare, has become a popular destination for diners eager to try street food. Its rows of small stands sell everything from spicy seafood soups to sticky rice and sweet mango. You have to be a little intrepid (or go with someone who speaks Thai and can order for you), but the food is local, authentic and, according to many locals, safe to eat. If you change your mind at the last minute, just keep walking: Face Bar and excellent the Indian restaurant Hazara are just down the street. For insider information on and private tours of the best of Bangkok’s street food contact our bookings team.
For casual, savory Thai cuisine, head to this cozy local restaurant in the Sukhumvit where both locals and tourists feel right at home. With a huge photo album menu of traditional Thai dishes, Taling Pling offers a laid-back, authentic dining experience.
Indagare Tip: Allow a decent amount of time for a meal here, the relaxed atmosphere is also reflected in the speed of service.
The Never Ending Summer
Housed in a remodeled warehouse on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the Never Ending Summer serves up traditional yet unique Thai dishes. The menu is inspired by the owners’ favorite childhood meals and includes items that you won’t find in every other Thai restaurant, such as Pla-Hang-Tang-Mo (watermelon with dried fish) and Moo Sarong (pork meatballs wrapped in noodles). Patrons can watch the cooks in action thanks to the open kitchen and airy dining space or enjoy the view from the riverside deck.
Occupying the 24th and 25th floors of the Hotel Muse, The Speakeasy is no ordinary bar. This two-story hideaway houses several different dining and drinking spaces, from the terrace bar to private salons to the Blind Pig, a reservation-only cigar lounge. They all deliver a sexy, clandestine vibe meant to evoke a secret Prohibition-era hot spot. Bartenders prepare classic libations with an Asian twist while the kitchen (with a menu by Michelin-star Chef Jean Baptiste) churns out an international selection of elegant tapas (like mini croque monsieur, white prawn carpaccio and potato beignets). The stylish rooftop bar is an exceptional destination for a sunset tipple.
The serene Thai restaurant of the Peninsula hotel is lit by torches and candles and has a wonderful location right by the Chao Phraya River. Tables are set along the river and throughout five teakwood pavilions (imported from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya). It’s a beautiful setting in which to try traditional Thai dishes, like spicy papaya salad served with chunks of fried bass; yellow curry with duck, lychees and Kaffir limes; and the delicious minced chicken with spicy basil. Dessert may include homemade coconut ice cream served with honey and fried banana. Thanks to the different intimate sitting areas (along the river, in the garden, or in one of the salas), the restaurant feels warm and romantic. If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can take the shuttle boat there from the Sky Train station at Saphan Taksin, which runs from 6 a.m. until midnight.
Vertigo Grill & Moon Bar
Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar teeter on the 61st-floor rooftop of the Banyan Tree, situated between the Sukhothai and Metropolitan hotels. The open-air restaurant and rooftop bar supplement the sweeping views from Sirocco Restaurant and Sky Bar atop the State Tower by offering a more refined, mature experience. While less of a ‘hot spot’ than a bar and restaurant at the State Tower, Vertigo Grill offers sophisticated seafood and fine quality steaks with the city’s only uninterrupted, 360 degree views over the skyline. If you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy dinner here, drinks at the rooftop Moon Bar provide a fantastic setting and a relaxed atmosphere to sip on cocktails with friends and family. Not for those who suffer from vertigo.
Named after James Bond’s now-iconic signature martini, this recent addition to Bangkok’s buzzy cocktail scene has quickly become a hit among the city’s serious cocktail enthusiasts. The bar’s sleek, modern style (a lot of dark leather furnishings that resemble a member’s only club) is a departure from Bangkok’s more colorful drinking establishments. The mixologists create many styles of beverages, from classics to barrel-aged drinks (the Negroni, aged for a month, takes on a earthier quality) to exclusive house creations. There’s a kitchen here, too, that serves European fare including squid ink pastas and burrata, making it a great spot for either happy hour or dinner.
WTF Cafe & Gallery
This gallery-cum-bar on a quiet alley in Sukhumvit is consistently named one of Bangkok’s buzziest art and nightlife destinations. In addition to edgy exhibits (from photography to illustrations to interactive paintings), WTF gained a lot of fans thanks to its tasty cocktails — some are time-honored classics while others are trendier, like tipples that highlight the flavors of small-batch mezcals. The two-story space also often stages well-attended events such as poetry readings and DJ dance parties.