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  • LIFESTYLE

    Small talk

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 31/10/2014

    » While the little venue has been gaining a reputation for being a nifty neighbourhood bar, we think its kitchen is worthy of some attention too. It’s the latest chapter of regional proprietor stalwart David Jacobson, who first came to the region in the early 90s to open the pioneering Q Bar in Saigon. The New Yorker is a gracious host, often on hand to decipher the nuances of his cocktail list and jazz collection, with plenty of juicy anecdotes in between for good measure. This latest local pad, Smalls, is just that, quietly occupying a corner on the leafy Suan Phlu (where Chez Pepin formerly stood). It’s three levels of kooky stylings, with DJs and live acts downstairs in the ornate parlour room, a kitchen and balcony on the middle floor and a rooftop upstairs for open-air action amid upholstered chairs and cosy tables. All corners of the adult cubbyhouse have something to offer, in a feast of textures (brick, recycled timber, corrugated iron, padded stairwell) and details (Jim Thompson photo outside, a caged Barbie, ceiling mirrors). The crowd ranges through the week (and night), attracting everyone from locals having knock-off drinks to dining daters to a dedicated bar crowd into the smaller hours.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Pub grub hub

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 21/11/2014

    » Sanity aside, there’s a new comfort burger point in town. It’s housed in the cosy wood-laden surrounds of the shophouse that the original incarnation of Seven Spoons once occupied. It houses 10, maybe 12 at a pinch, but this isn’t the place for the be-seen scene. Not yet anyway. To diversify from its origins, the visuals follow a Polynesian bent, with a tiki twist. It’s still finding its feet decor-wise, but seems to have the right intent – the young front man Pavee “Wham” Bhayungvej was a visual merchandiser in a past life, after all. The music is on point and inviting as can be. The two-storey shophouses of the area ooze charm and potential – it’s a shame they are so far away – unless you live over in Samsen or the like, of course. The crowd is a mix of Wham’s friends, Seven Spoons devotees and the odd walk-in, who would be pleasantly surprised to see what they find inside the snug room.

  • LIFESTYLE

    More is more

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 19/09/2014

    » Nestled at the front of Groove upstairs, this hunting lodge-themed restaurant is starting to garner plenty of attention in the area with some pretty stiff eating competition. To pull off the concept, they have gone all out with the decor to good effect, which is fun enough to dispel the mall feel that other venues in the precinct suffer from. It’s easily located by the iconic grizzly bear that towers over the entrance, instantly confirming the hunting tendencies of the place. The expansive premises has enough room for about 80 diners inside, which can stretch to over 100 with the outdoor area. Hang up your rifle on entry as you slink onto a bar stool after a solid morning’s hunting. The crowd is a steady stream of cool kids that all seem to know each other — friends of friends of friends, etc — Bangkok-style.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Comfort to a “T”

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 25/07/2014

    » If you have made the leap of faith and moved down the nether regions of the Sukhumvit BTS line towards Bearing, your gamble is starting to pay off. The infrastructure of the area is kicking into gear, and T’s Cafe by Maison de Baguette is one such blossom, colouring in a new residential area that stood bare not long ago, and local residents must be wrapped. The space is a slither carved from an existing structure on a huge and semi-dormant family block of land. The dead-end soi gives it a neighbourhood and homely feel, with the friendly Japanese couple who own and run it already engaging the local community with leftovers and collaborations. Inside the smart conversion of the modest shoe-box-esque space, there’s enough room for around 15 diners. The interior is a calming spread of Ikea-esque neutrality, with light timbers, prerequisite industrial light fittings and cute patterned stools at the counter bench. The soothing soundtrack comes courtesy of a local jazz fan who willingly shared his collection. The crowd is majority Thai at this stage, but the Westerners will come.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Peek-a-boo

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 08/08/2014

    » The team that delivered the ever-popular Hyde & Seek gastro bar on Ruam Rudee in 2010 has dropped the long-awaited follow-up venue in Peek-a-Boo. And, as suggested by the name (which is known as ja-ay in Thai), they are in a particularly playful mood. The interior (courtesy of the fresh-faced 10 x 10 Design Studio) is in fact a forest of trees, three to be exact, with the bar positioned in the biggest trunk. There’s plenty of dark timber and greenery draped around the airy space that extends to two outdoor areas and room for 150 people. Groove as a food district is still finding its feet (and taste buds), and might need to rely more on nearby hotel patronage, but it has loads of potential with its breezy layout and solid spread of options, in what should be perfect for the indecisive who can just opt for Groove and decide the specific cuisine on arrival.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Comfort canteen

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 27/06/2014

    » Almost every inner Bangkok hood has an Italian restaurant by now. Good for you if you live in Narathiwat/Sathon (Sensi/Il Bolognese) or mid-Sukhumvit (Appia/Bella Napoli). But there are still some holes to fill and La Cantina was targeted at doing just that south of Asok on Sukhumvit Soi 16. It’s a curious soi, with plenty of local office worker traffic during the day and a trickle of punters at night, but just enough to keep La Cantina afloat from both services it seems. The modest cafe-style shophouse is courtesy of local expat Luca from Piemont, Italy. He has opened in a tough climate, as have many others. Inside is a homely spread of casual dining for around 35 pax with some very recognisable Italian emblems on show. It’s fuss-free and won’t woo a first date, but mightn’t have you recognised by any social media scourers either.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Urban Isan barn

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 25/04/2014

    » After an extended golden era of European dining in Bangkok, it seems that the city is ready to get back to doing what it should and does do best — be Thai. And a wave of new eateries are bringing authentic Thai cuisine back to Bangkok, in a modern setting and without the inflated Euro-centric price points. Opened in November, Z Cafe is a slick conversion of a shophouse into the obligatory industrial-chic interior complete with exposed brick wall sections, filament light bulbs and some handy use of plumbing in shelves. Downstairs houses enough room for around 30 diners that can look out onto the sub soi, which can get pretty colourful at night with the neighbouring entertainment venues of the area. Upstairs is a cosy space for another 30-35 diners — perfect for a private group(s), as was happening the night we visited. And the kitchen is on the third floor (sorry wait staff). The measured ambience is no fluke, however, as the place is associated with the Anna’s in Phuket and the Anna’s Cafe chain. The crowd is mainly Thai at this stage, with the area’s office workers embracing the Thai menu and the comfortable air-con interior. The cheesy pop soundtrack could do with a little refining, but with the mood set right, the rest is up to the kitchen.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Style for jam

    Richard Mcleish, Published on 07/02/2014

    » As Bangkokians become willing to brave unknown postcodes, new boroughs are emerging across the city from Sathon to Samsen. The latest spot to reach beyond the BTS is Never Ending Summer, landing firmly on the muddy banks of Thon Buri. And the reach is rewarded with extra space, charm and niche. From old warehouses (medicine, ice and battery factories), architect Duangrit Bunnag has fashioned The Jam Factory - the new home of his design office, a gallery, bookstore and Never Ending Summer - in an enclave of style for all the senses. An old ice factory, the restaurant affords 16 tables easily (70+ pax), all with a view of the open kitchen at the back and trimmed with industrial specks from decades past, artworks and rustic fittings. The result is a deep-pocketed architect's romp in a new restaurant motif for the city that seems ready for it and more.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Sense and Sensi-bility

    Guru, Richard Mcleish, Published on 14/02/2014

    » THE SET-UP: Engaging all the senses and sensibilities of the Bangkok dining scene is newcomer Sensi down in Sathon. It’s a house conversion on a sleepy soi of Narathiwat — an area with plenty of potential midway between Sathon and Asok. At the helm in the kitchen is 28-year-old Chef Christian Martena, poached from Italian stalwart Opus down in Silom (which also produced Chef Francesco from Medici at Hotel Muse) by his savvy business partners. His wife Clara is doing front of house, which creates a particularly homey feel, with a visit akin to an evening with the couple at their own home. They are willing hosts and it shows. Inside the house are well-spaced tables, enough for 54 pax, which might not be enough if its popularity continues to rise.

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