One of the very best things about being based in a place like Singapore is that it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from a number of interesting and attractive destinations in the region. A very popular place for a quick weekend jaunt is Bangkok. Each and every week, hordes of Singaporeans and other travelers descend upon the City of Angels for a fun-filled program of great food, blissful spa treatments and mad shopping.
I usually like to spend at least 2 or 3 days in Bangkok but this past weekend, S and I dropped in for just one night. Some close friends of ours wanted to head up in order to dine at Le Normandie, the beautiful and classic French restaurant at the equally classic Oriental Hotel. Prior to this trip, neither S nor I had ever eaten at Le Normandie, a restaurant that several foodie friends consider to be one of the all-time great places in which to dine. And since both my darling wife and I both have a secret propensity for dressing up for dinner–and since there aren’t really any fine-dining restaurants in Singapore that one dresses up for (until Les Amis re-opens, we’re told)–we eagerly packed my best suit and one of her nicest dresses and joined our friends for this gluttonous adventure.
We arrived in BKK on Sunday morning, having hopped a dreadfully early flight. After quickly checking into The Oriental (and oohing and aahing at our room for a while), we packed ourselves into an SUV and headed off to lunch. On the way, we made a quick pitstop at MBK (Mah Boon Krong) because S needed to pick up a new pair of shoes; the one pair of flats, a brand new pair of Repettos, that she had packed for the trip had, after just a few hours of wear, inexplicably developed a rather large hole, rendering them useless and her shoeless. Fortunately, MBK is a treasure trove of both fakes and cheap original goods. S found, in just a few minutes, a nice affordable pair of soft, chocolate-colored flats to wear.
We had lunch at Chua Kim Heng (81, 83 Pattanakarn Rd, Suan Luang, tel: 02-2319-2510), a very casual Teochew (Chinese) restaurant that specializes in shark’s fin and pot-stewed (braised) goose, something S and I both love. As usual, we ate too much. We had deep-fried prawn rolls, two kinds of green vegetables, stewed goose web with noodles, rice vermicelli with prawns, liver fried with leeks, and a nice big plate of braised goose. The goose, which was the main reason we went, was very good. It wasn’t, at least to S and me, as good as the braised goose we had eaten at a stall on Thanon Songwat on a previous trip, but it was still very tasty. (Please don’t ask me for the address of the stall; we don’t even know the name. All we know is to take the river ferry to Ratchawong, walk straight, then turn right on Thanon Songwat and keep walking. After 10 minutes or so, it will be on your left.)
After lunch, we dropped into Central Chidlom for an hour of frenzied shopping. Then back to The Oriental for high tea with some friends who live in Bangkok. I don’t know how many of you are fans of afternoon tea, but both S and I enjoy the experience. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that The Oriental’s afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s very pretty and very colonial Author’s Lounge. And it really doesn’t hurt that the actual tea being served is from Mariage Freres, S’s favourite purveyor of fine teas. We ordered both the Western and Thai tea sets. Each comes with a silver tiered platter filled with scrumptious snacks. The former, obviously, piled high with European pastries, cakes, sandwiches and scones; the latter with local Thai desserts and cakes.
After tea, we chilled out for a couple hours (I watched some TV while S crashed out) before dressing up for an elegant and very well-executed dinner at Le Normandie. One of our friends had brought along a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque (one of my personal fave bubblies), a Puligny-Montrachet, and 3 different red wines (a Palmer, an Angelus, and something else which I have embarrassingly forgotten). The chef cooked an excellent meal, the highlights of which (to me) were a three vegetable soup with mushrooms, a perfectly roasted pigeon, and an orange souffle served with vanilla ice cream. Post-dinner, S and I enjoyed a special treat. One of our friends had arranged for her favourite masseuse to visit us in our room and work on our tired bodies for a couple of hours.
The next morning, we met two of our companions for a quick walk around the neighborhood. They had discovered a wonderful porridge place 10 minutes away. (Again, I don’t know the name of the cafe, but it’s easy to find. Walk south towards State Tower, turn right on Thanon Charoen Krung–which puts State Tower on your left–and walk for 3-4 minutes. It will be on your left. You can also identify it by the small sign for gourmet coffee that’s placed on the street in front of it.) This wonderful little porridge place is run by two sisters. They serve pork porridge, spiked with pork balls, innards, tendon, century egg, a fresh egg, lots of ginger and served with fried dough crullers. The porridge was fantastic. Inside the cafe, towards the back, was another young woman with the most amazing stall. From a small makeshift and mobile cart, she sold gourmet coffees and fresh juices. We ordered an espresso, a latte, an iced coffee and a tea. It was great fun watching her work. She grinds her beans fresh and uses a proper espresso machine. One of our friends, who works in F&B, exclaimed that the espresso she made was better than many he’s had at some of the finer hotels and restaurants in the region. That she could produce all that she does from just a tiny stall was really inspiring.
We had lunch back at the hotel, at their ultra-sexy Chinese restaurant, China House. Both S and I had been there before and we both adore the restaurant’s gorgeous interiors, designed by the folks behind Design Republic in Shanghai. We also really like the food there. The consultant chef is Jereme Leung, from 3 on the Bund‘s Whampoa Club. S had helped Jereme write his first cookbook, New Shanghai Cuisine, so we know his food quite well. We had a nice, light but yummy lunch. Of course, we had Peking duck. We also had a lovely little bowl of minced pork noodles which were really delicious and proved once again that sometimes it’s the simplest dishes, done well, that are the very best.
After our meal, we rushed back to our rooms to pack and hop a ride to the airport. Two days later, I still feel full from all the food we consumed in just 36 hours. Of course, I’d do it, or rather, eat it all again in a heartbeat.