If you judge a city by the number of construction cranes elbowing the sky, then Bangkok is in boom mode. But if you look beyond the high rises and massive shopping malls, you'll see the city has serious culinary cred. In addition to Bangkok's bustling street food scene, where you can stand on a road slurping pad Thai, you can eat yourself silly in a restaurant considered one of the world's best. Here's how to spend one perfect weekend eating and drinking around Bangkok.
Bangkok now has more than 30 high-altitude bars and the Rembrandt Hotel has one of the most prized rectangles of real estate in the Thai capital. Head to the 26th floor, where you can sit and watch the sun brush the glittering skyline crimson and pink before setting over the city. The narrow terrace has been laid with a verdant carpet of imitation grass and decked out with loungers occupied by a low-key crowd of locals and travellers. The bartender here really loosens his bow tie with the drinks list, so do order the Holi concoction named after the colourful Hindu festival. If you want to go back to where it all began in Krung Thep, which is what the locals call Bangkok, head to Vanilla Sky, one of the first bars to go sky high. There's also relief from the balmy weather at SEEN at the Avani Riverside Bangkok, where a breeze rises up over the river. Follow the bartender's suggestion and order the Samurai made from Nigori sake, rosemary-infused Aperol and yuzu.
Book one of the hotly contested tables near the glass wall of windows at the Rang Mahal Bangkok, near the rooftop terrace at the Rembrandt Hotel. Expect to hear the faraway honk of crazed traffic in this opulent dining room, which attracts a mix of elegant expats, women in saris and men in silk suits, all here to enjoy excellent Indian food and a bit of spicy gossip. You will be handed triangles of naan to dredge through bowls of yellow dhal, beef vindaloo and a lamb curry redolent of garlic and roasted spices. If you are the kind of traveller who collects meals as souvenirs, push the button to the 65th level at Tower Club at Lebua, where you will find Mezzaluna, which has two Michelin stars. Trust chef Ryuki Kawasaki and experience the tasting menu, a carefully choreographed procession of plates featuring standouts such as amaebi (sweet shrimp) and miso-grilled Brittany blue lobster.
Those who fell for the beguiling charms of Bangkok a few decades ago may be surprised by the new wave of artisan coffee shops dotted along its busy streets. Roots at The Commons is a popular hangout for digital nomads who appreciate specialty coffee. If there's a tropical heatwave, order an iced coffee and a few biscotti while enjoying unlimited wi-fi. Kuppa also taps into expat cafe culture as it was opened by a Thai local who spent time working as a barista in Australia. This casual spot was the first Bangkok cafe to roast its own beans in-house, so you can order a signature house blend with a few baked treats. If your Facebook feed is clogged with pictures of cutesy animals, then you'll likely fit right in with the Rabbito Cafe crowd. Enjoy your coffee in the company of rabbits while contemplating the proliferation of pet cafes in Bangkok.
One of the joys of travelling in Thailand is joining a clump of locals rusted onto a roadside stall sucking satay gai (chicken) off sticks. Bangkok is one of the world's street food capitals so sniff out hawker stalls with a high turnover. Catch a Barbie-pink taxi to Chote Chitr in the Phraeng Phuthon Quarter for yam too a ploo (wing-bean salad) and practise asking for it pet mak (very spicy). Then head toward the coconut ice-cream at nearby Natthaphon, which serves one of the city's most famous frozen treats. Continue your street food quest at Khun Yah in Chinatown, which will transport you from Bangkok to Beijing. The scruffy eatery specialises in spice-laden curries, stir-fries and noodle dishes. Tow Pochana is only open for three hours a day and specialises in one dish – Chinese braised duck. Expect the staff to shout at you when your plate is ready and for it to be better than you could have imagined.
Call up your expat mate with the plum posting and meet them for dinner at Nahm, located in the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok. The restaurant, launched under the guidance of Australian chef David Thompson, has been one of the city's most celebrated eateries since it opened in 2010. While Thompson left Nahm in 2018, the restaurant has retained its Michelin star under chef Pim Techamuanvivit. Order the fiddlehead ferns and black grouper fish dish and you will understand why. Those whose tastes tilt toward contemporary Thai will also appreciate the R-Haan, which has a freshly minted Michelin star. Let time slow to a crawl over gang run juan (river prawn curry) and wild banana flower spicy Thai salad with charcoal grilled frog. Finish with a cocktail overlooking the manicured lawns that seems a world away from busy Bangkok.
The colour, chaos and noise of Bangkok are part of its charm. If you want to be in the thick of it, join the current of humanity flowing down from the platform at Ratchathewi Station and onto Khao San Road. Follow the heinously hungover as they stampede to the Brunch Maker's Cafe for eggs and toast or brekkie tacos. You can also sidestep down Rambuttri Alley to Madame Musur for avo on toast. This boho Bangkok hangout is where you will find knots of dreadlocked gap-packers swilling coffee and lounging on rattan sofas. It's a fun place to be overhung. If you're still craving carbs, head to Holey on Sukhumvit Soi where you can grab a brunch baguette stuffed with ham, brie and red onion chutney. If the heat and humidity is too much, head to the open-air food hall near a mall known as The Commons. Egg My God has an egg-centric menu while Soul Food 555 is where floppy-fringed millennials descend for Fatso Crab Burgers filled with soft-shell crab and sour green mango.
The Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok's most popular attractions. The river offers visitors a great vantage point from which to see examples of the city's architecture and must-see cultural attractions. Disembark from your longtail boat at the Chon Thai Restaurant, a glamorous restaurant serving high-end Thai food within three century-old Thai teakwood houses. The restaurant is part of The Siam Hotel, the only luxury hotel located in Bangkok's historical Dusit District. Go with chef Damri Muksombat's recommendation and order the poo nim thord (crispy fried soft-shell crab) with the yum som o goong (pomelo salad with prawns). Paste Bangkok Thai Restaurant is one of the more refined spots to people watch in the Ratchaprasong district in the heart of Bangkok as it attracts a mix of moneyed couples and Insta-famous Asians who like to clog social feeds with images of the chive root salad with lobster. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Carla Grossetti travelled with the support of THAI and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Rembrandt Hotel, rembrandtbkk.com
Roots, Egg My God and Soul Food 555 near The Commons, thecommonsbkk.com
Natthaphon, 124 Phraeng Phuthon Road, Khwaeng San Chao Pho Sua
Khun Yah Cuisine, east of the Golden Buddha, off Th Mittaphap Thai-China
Tow Pochana, 180 Moo 9, 25 Suksawad Road, Rat Burana
Brunch Maker's Cafe, facebook.com/brunchmakers