It was the local food that first aroused my interest in Thailand. Dining at a Thai food outlet back in NZ most days for lunch, I was initially drawn to Thailand by its excellent cuisine. But as much as I like Thai food, my body still seems to operate better on good old meat and potatoes. So, what options exist for the hungry farang who is perhaps bored of rice and noodles or simply needs their farang food fix?
If you want to go genuinely upmarket, there are a surprisingly high number of top end farang style restaurants, quite simply, there are too many to list. While some may baulk at the phrases "fine restaurant" and "hotel" appearing in the same sentence, Angelini's at the ShangriLa and The New York Steakhouse at The JW Marriot are both fantastic, utterly superb in EVERY respect. Food, surroundings and service are all of the very highest quality. And if you want to get away from 5 star hotels, you could go somewhere like Luca's in All Season's Place, again, a truly magnificent restaurant that is about as close to flawless as you'll ever get. The problem with all of these restaurants is that as good as they are – and they are all genuinely superb, they are not the type of places that you can dine at every night, at least not on my salary. So what options exist for those of us who haven't yet reached the goal of a Western salary in Bangkok?
If you're on a budget, you can get a decent, honest meal at the Offshore on Sukhumvit Soi 23. Fish and chips – real chips, not these skinny French fries, can be had for a little over 100 baht. Their meat pies are passable too, I guess. If you want good sandwiches, the likes of Subway and Au Bon Pain are very good, but perhaps you want something a bit more substantial than this, in slightly more pleasant surroundings.
So what follows is a selection of my favourite places to get decent farang grub in Bangkok. And as farang grub is always best washed down with a few beers, I have chosen a selection of places where there is plenty of beer on hand too.
Bourbon Street in Washington Square has been around forever and is a favourite for the many American expats in the city, a place where you cannot escape America. American accents are heard at most tables, the TVs seem to be permanently tuned into CNN and along with the decor including all sorts of paraphernalia from New Orleans, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were Stateside. They have an extensive menu of farang food with all the goodies from steaks, burgers, pizzas, Mexican and of course, a good selection of cajun food. For me, their pizzas are suprisingly good and they have some of the best farang style fish dishes in Bangkok. Prices are reasonable and the quality of the food is pretty good. Their Mexican buffet, held every Tuesday night from 6:30 PM onwards, is a steal at just 210 baht ++. Bourbon Street obviously targets the American expat market with the American bias of the menu. Hell, some of the farang food dishes here I don't even know! Thai food at Bourbon Street is seriously overpriced, so much so that it is almost at what I term "disincentive levels". 160 odd baht for a plate of shrimp fried rice which is no better than the 30 baht I pay in my neighbourhood? Hmm, stick with the farang food. While we tend to go to Bourbon Street at the weekend for breakfast – which is really good, especially the eggs benedict, my favourite dish is the lamb chops. Hey, I'm a Kiwi, what did you expect? Actually, it is probably the best reasonably priced lamb dish in Bangkok.
The Huntsman in The Landmark is one of the many British pub style venues in Bangkok with good food. I still haven't tried out their carvery buffet on a Sunday but have heard nothing but good reports. For me, they probably have the best shepherd's pie and cottage pie in Bangkok and many of the other dishes are good, if a little expensive for what you get. As it is in the basement of a 5 star hotel, the drinks are fairly dear too and at 150+ baht for a bottle of Heineken, you really want your visit to coincide with the happy hour that runs until 8:00 PM, when it is two for one on many (but not all) drinks. The Huntsman is good, but with so much competition, it is not quite as popular as it would be if there were fewer similar venues. I pretty much stick with the cottage pie at The Huntsman.
What used to be known as Shenanigans, and before that Delaney's, is now known as the The Irish Xchange. At Shenanigan's the food was very good, but a little on the expensive side. When they renovated, rebranded and reopened as The Irish Xchange, they completely redid their food menu and what they came up with was very good indeed. A good pub sized menu, they have all of the usual pub grub including some of the best pub style pies and for me, the best pork chop in town, all at very reasonable prices. The menu is quite novel in that you can order every single thing individually, right down to several styles of potato and even the vegetables you (don't) want. And if you get there for happy hour, you are on to a really good deal. It is hard to see them keeping their grub at these prices but they could afford to put up prices a bit and they would still represent very good value for money. I don't see a lot of the customers at The Irish Xchange eating which is surprising given that the food is very good. My favourite dish is the pork chop – and I don't usually eat pork!
The Londoner seems to be getting more and more popular. It's a funny place and the name is deceptive for inside it is more like a cross between a British pub and a German beer hall. The menu in The Londoner is a very good pub menu, not nearly as extensive as say that at Bourbon Street. They have very good steaks, pies, burgers, roasts and even their pasta dishes are pretty good too. What I really like about The Londoner is that they seem to use top notch ingredients – imported meat, good cheese and good sauces – all as good as you get at home. Good sized portions are served and unlike some other places of this ilk in Bangkok, meals at The Londoner really do fill you up. Thai sized helpings of farang food can be frustrating, to say the least. While I am a big fan of the food in The Londoner, it is so much better when one has one of their 50% food discount vouchers (which can only be used on Mondays or Tuesdays). Fortunately, the vouchers are very easy to come by and spending 1,000 baht or more (be it food or drinks) gets you one. They changed the menu at The Londoner in the last week or so and put up the prices, most of my favourite dishes went up in price by about 8%. The bacon cheeseburger is now a steep 290 baht + tax ( all of their prices are plus tax), which is a whole lot more than the 130 odd baht for the same thing at Gulliver's. Admittedly, the food at The Londoner is much better, but it seems to me that they are getting dangerously close to the point of being too expensive. Without a discount voucher, I’m not sure if I’d choose to eat there so often. Thai food there is dear, but like the farang food, they do give you generous sized portions. There are so many dishes here that I really like, but if pushed for a favourite, I'd have to go for the Philadelphia steak sandwich.
Gulliver's in Sukhumvit soi 5 is quite frankly a little bit out of its depth in this company. A clean, modern bar, the food in Gulliver's is good and reasonably priced – but unlike some of the other places mentioned here, you never forget that you are in Thailand when you eat here. At the risk of upsetting half of the city, Gulliver's is very much on the English teacher's approved list. Prices are reasonable, but portions aren't that big – and you might find one plate might not be enough. The quality of the farang food is ok, certainly nothing to write home about. Thai food here is, unlike the other venues listed, very reasonably priced – and very good too. I often order the bacon cheeseburger, but always order the cheese garlic bread before it.
Any of the venues listed here have good farang food. There are many other places too from the various other British pubs, to some of the hotel restaurants like Henry J Beans through to the Hard Rock Cafe. I have limited this to the places I eat at frequently. If you have a farang food craving in Bangkok you needn't fret. You can get decent farang food, no problem.
Where is this pic?
It was the Sheraton Royal Orchid.
Anyone for a walk?
FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
An air of superiority.
The big issue plaguing the country at present, the bird flu, is having a very real impact on the ground. Just like many other shops all over the city, my favourite khao mun gai shop (chicken on oily rice) has begun selling khao moo daeng (red pork on rice) instead due to a lack of demand for chicken. At a noodle vendor yesterday I ordered a fried chicken with noodles dish and it wasn't until I had received the food and paid for it that I realised they had replaced chicken with pork – without even letting me know! And at least one of my favourite restaurants as removed all chicken and egg dishes from the menu. My guess, based on talking with with friends and colleagues is that chicken consumption is down by between 80 and 90%.
Lucky Luke's, one of the few shining stars in Nana Plaza, will be rebuilt next month and will be glass enclosed with air-conditioning. I have to admit surprise at this. This bar seems to be doing very well and seems to be busy all the time, be it afternoon, early evening or late. Still, with the hot season coming soon, the air-con will provide a nice reprieve from the heat.
And at long last, construction should begin next month on the long promised bridge connecting the middle floor of Nana above the entranceway. The adjascent Vixens Hard Rock is finally being built too. With Nana's gogo bars struggling a little of late, all of this new construction can only help to drive customers back to Nana. And with Cowboy fairly quiet at the moment, I fully expect there to be a big swing back to Nana this year.
Cascade in Nana got raided Friday before last. In what at first I thought was something of a joke, Cascade are looking at a one month closure for showing "tits". Now how can that be? Given that this bar has been a ladyboy bar, what was actually being shown? Does the display of silicone constitute tits? Given that Voodoo has been showing recently too, it seems that the Crown Group (who run both of these bars) are prepared to take a risk or two to get more customers in the door. After all, with 7 bars in Nana Plaza, if one of them gets closed they just shift the staff into another of their bars.
Blue BBQ in Sukhumvit Soi 33 is offering 2 for 1 drinks every Tuesday night. This special has been running for a month but doesn't seem to have caught on as much as you would expect. Sounds like a good deal.
Bar owners in Pattaya are complaining of the shortest high season in recent history – having started just before Christmas and apparently ending by the close of January. There remain many Chinese, Korean and Russian families down there, but they are not big spenders and generally avoid drinking spots except to ogle and maybe indulge in something non-alcoholic, according to bar owners. Working girls are griping about wanting to return to Isaan but not even being able to afford that luxury, let alone send home enough money to elevate or sustain their families’ standard of living.
Shenanigans, Pattaya's most popular Irish pub, has increased its Monday specials to start at 12 midday on both Monday and Tuesday. On Monday they have a three course menu, with two choices for each course for 199 baht. Tuesdays is a full Shenanigans meal for 100 baht – check the Shenanigans boards for menus. To Celebrate Valentine's Day, Shenanigans chef Sunny is doing his International Carvery & Buffet, with Western & Thai food at a special lovers price of 395 baht for one or an even more reasonable 495 baht for two.
If you live in the ThongLor or Ekamai neighbourhoods, you might have found the boys in brown knocking on your door, requesting to check your passport. Concentrating on the cheaper apartment buildings in that part of town, they have demanded to see the passports of foreigners living in several buildings in what is actually quite an affluent part of the city. The seemingly never ending hassles of life for a Westerner in Bangkok continue…
Flowers To Thailand is offering a special Valentine's Day special for Stickman readers. For all orders of over $50, they will include a free teddy bear. This special is only available to Stickman readers so when you order, make sure you mention that you are a Stickman reader. Your teeruk will love you forever, yeah these Thai girls really do melt when they receive flowers. Just click on the link above to make your order.
A friend took a girl out of a sleazy bar last Saturday night but rather than take her back to his apartment, he went off to a short time hotel in the Nana area. As it was full, he headed off to another, teeruk moaning and groaning at all of the walking she had to do. That second hotel was full too! In the end, he visited four different short-time hotels in the Nana neighbourhood but all of them were full! At the last one with her moaning and groaning about being forced to pound the pavement late on a Saturday night, they begrudgingly joined the queue, waiting for a room to become available. While the bars in Nana Plaza are relatively quiet, the short-time hotels are full. What gives? And apparently the word embarrassment has been given a whole new meaning by the guy who was in front of this fellow in the queue at the hotel. Said fellow was waiting with a ladyboy who was getting quite impatient, no doubt very keen to commence the bedroom Olympics.
And speaking of ladyboys, one unfortunate punter was embarrassed by myself and a friend on Friday night. A very well dressed middle-aged farang wandered in to Admakers in Lung Suwan on Friday night and sat down with his katoey date at a table very close to is. Myself and a friend, after a few beers, just couldn't help ourselves and burst into into laughter. The funny thing is, neither of us actually intended any harm and both tried hard to stop ourselves, but we couldn't. This ladyboy was so……obvious! I felt sorry for the guy because within about 30 seconds of getting there, they stood up and left. While I respect people's freedom, and I would never openly say anything to rude to someone with a ladyboy, it really is hard to keep a straight face.
There is a sign at the Nana intersection in English prohibiting people from hailing a taxi on Sukhumvit Road within 100 metres of the Nana intersection. It's a small sign though and it doesn't seem to be stopping anyone. i'm not sure if it's new, but I certainly haven't seen it before.
Word out of Cowboy is that the police intend to intermittently pop into bars and check the IDs of both staff AND patrons. If anyone is found under the age of 20, the bar can expect to be closed. Even if done subtly, this will drive customers away. The Thai police make the average law abiding farang very nervous indeed.
For any English teachers thinking of jetting away from Thailand and off to Korea in search of better money, the word on the street is that “hogwans” are to be avoided. A hogwan is a language school. A close colleague who I have worked with in Bangkok for approaching five years did his time in Korea and tells me that he heard as many “horror hogwan stories” in Korea as he has “bad bargirl stories” in Thailand. Seoul might have some advantages – and the money is a hell of a lot better – but the hogwans are to be voided. There are apparently some decent ones, but there are also many, many bad ones. According to my American colleague, be very careful of any hogwan who will hire you sight unseen, and be especially wary of any who offer to send you air tickets along with promises of riches to be had.
In Renoir Bar earlier this week, one could be forgiven for thinking that the management has been replaced with a team who were once in the beer bar business. Showing the place to an American pal who was in town, I had told him how the bars in soi 33 were a lot more upmarket than your average Bangkok gogo bar. Within a minute of entering the somewhat plush surroundings of Renoir Bar, a girl sits across the bar from us and gratingly asks “you play game” while pulling out the cheapest, nastiest, garishly coloured plastic connect 4 set you have ever seen. So much for this soi trying to make itself more upmarket. But if I was forced to be honest, there were a lot of very pretty girls in there indeed.
And down in another soi 33 bar, I could not help but feel sorry for a certain lady working there. I recognized her as someone who used to work in Soi Cowboy some time ago, back in the days when I spent more time cruising around the bars, so we struck up a conversation. I noticed a nice ring on the middle finger of her left hand and commented how it looked very much like an engagement ring. She said that she had recently married an Australian gentleman from Sydney. So, why was the ring on the wrong finger? Well, it seems that for whatever reason, the Aussie has been tardy in getting the paperwork done for her visa, but not only that, he is not sending her any money! So, she has been forced to return to the bar environment and works in soi 33. He is apparently fully aware of this believing that she is working behind the bar only… But she is doing more than just work behind the bar, and thus has moved the ring one finger over. I guess there is nothing new in this story, but this girl desperately wants out of the bar, desperately wants to go and live in Australia, but is literally being forced to sell herself to survive. If you take a girl out of the bar, but don’t send her money, well, what do you think she is going to do? Mr Australia, you appear to have made a reasonable choice (despite the fact that I have said a zillion times that guys who marry bargirls are mad), but for Christ sakes, send her some money, otherwise it is all going to go pear shaped fast.
It must be asked if anyone has tried to copy the discount food vouchers from The Londoner. It looks like they have been made up on a colour inkjet printer and a scanner and printer could do a pretty good job of copying them. Given the popularity of The Londoner, I bet some plonker has tried.
An English teacher is required for some part time work in Hua Hin, teaching two boys 13 and 16, for 8 12 hours a week. Interested parties should send an email to me and I will pass it on to the person concerned.
At least twice in this column I have told of how I have seen guys on motorbike speeding around the police at traffic checkpoints to avoid being stopped. At a couple of different police checkpoints they have come up with a way to counter this. Policeman stand with these huge wooden sticks and hold them out, threatening to knock riders off their bike, forcing them motorists to stop. Has there been a prison breakout recently? Is their suspicion that terrorists are floating around the city? There must be something going on because all over the city I see checkpoint after checkpoint EVERYDAY! Honestly, this city feels more like a police state all the time. Apart from Wireless Road with all of the embassies, I wonder what is going on. I can't help but feel that all of these checks are a great inconvenience to the average citizen.
Down in Pattaya they are dancing in the afternoon again in TQ Bar. It was touch and go for the last month but for now they can dance until the "decision" on bars in March. All the show bars are back having their own brand of shows that make Bangkok's shows tame in comparison. Classroom gogo bar has completed its room upstairs and it has a pool table, sofas and chairs. It also has a closed circuit TV system so patrons can keep an eye on the downstairs stage while enjoying a game of pool. In another trend that is taking place, the live DJ is gone, replaced by a computer / MP3 player that holds 4,000 songs. The whole set-up is smaller than a paperback book and leaves more space for seating.
Has anyone noticed that when one sees these so called models on the streets outside office buildings and shopping malls handing out small free samples of toiletries or whatever is flavour of the day, they seldom, if ever, give said free samples to farang passers by! I would even go as far as to say that they go out of their way to avoid farangs only giving their freebies to the indigenous population.
How much of what is published in websites or discussed on message boards online actually makes any difference in “the real world” or in this case, to the Thai people in Thailand? The net might be a growing medium that is getting more and more respect in the West, but what about Thailand? Do the locals even know what goes on, or what is said, online? It would seem that they do. A quite hilarious tale appeared online earlier this past week when a fellow found himself in a naughty bar in Soi Cowboy. That well rounded waitress – you know, the one whose chest defies gravity – went and sat on his lap and somehow his mobile phone which must have been attached to his belt was the victim, crushed, ruined, never to make or receive another call. Anyway, the said fellow wrote about it online. A friend of mine read the story and later in the week found himself in that bar and talked with this particular waitress about it. She was fully aware that the story had been discussed online and had even been told about it by several customers.
Mrs. Stick's Corner
Each week, Mrs. Stick answers your questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick likes to think of herself as an open-minded Thai lady so go ahead, ask anything because you won't shock her. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what
she says. Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email. Questions for her should be limited to 100 words.
Question 1: Valentine's Day is close and upcoming. What can I do to show my love and undying passion for the love of my life? Roses? Is there something else more romantic in the Thailand culture to express my feelings? If there is, PLEASE tell me. No, she's not a prostitute or gogo bar employee.
Mrs. Stick says: If you really want to impress her, jump on a plane and take her down to the best restaurant you can find in Phuket. Wine her and dine her at an expensive restaurant beside the beach. Assuming Phuket could be a bit pricey, how about dining at one of the restaurants on a high floor of one of the buildings in Bangkok and watch the city with a nice view. Suggestions include level 37 at the Sofitel or the restaurant on top of The Banyan Tree. Have the waiter bring flowers in the middle of the dinner. Alternatively, why not cook for her at your place? Cooking her favourite food is a way to her heart. But don't order food from the restaurant downstairs!
Question 2: I recently used the address ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in a letter to a Government department and not a named individual. This caused great consternation including the comment ‘we are not French’ (well we can all understand that nobody wishes to be considered French). Is it something to do with the position of women in Thai society that all such letters should be addressed to Dear Sir?
Mrs. Stick says: If you know the person's name then you should use khun followed by their name. Khun can be used for either men or women. If you don't know the person's name and you are writing the letter in English, then there is no reason why what you write is not suitable. If these people are so touchy about such things, you could try and find the officer's name first and address it to them, including their title. That should satisfy them. Actually, I think it is quite embarrassing that they got angry about this.
When reading this column, please remember that I am a local resident of Bangkok and not a tourist. With this in mind, one needs to remember that my thoughts, anecdotes and general nonsense ramblings will likely be more critical of things than those of someone not based here. While I may moan and groan about certain things, it is likely that the average tourist will still have a blast. I try to write in such a way that appeals to both those locally based and tourists alike, but sometimes it isn't easy to appeal to everyone.
Your Bangkok commentator,