The audacity! Opening a hotel with such a grand name as The Siam seems awfully ambitious, we thought. It reminds us of the 80s band Europe, the group named for a continent that delivered a lot less than their title promised. Why didn't they just call the hotel "The Bomb" and be done with it?
To pull off such a title as The Siam, you would need quite the pedigree, with strong links to Thai history for a start, some big cultural players of that history, even some traditional architecture as well. And antiques, loads of antiques to even begin. And then you'd need to serve delicious traditional Thai food to keep people happy too, and... Wait a second.
With all the above boxes ticked, it seems that The Siam has created just what it promises, in a perfect enclave of historic Thainess on the property's eight riverside rai. And there's a way to experience the magic of the past without the five-star room tax - the in-house restaurant located right on the river, Chon.
With the potential of a grand river entrance, the restaurant is positioned on the banks just north of the Krung Thonburi Bridge. Historical enigma Jim Thompson is said to have designed the houses of the restaurant that were initially constructed in Ayutthaya and floated down the river to their current location. If that's not historical enough, the restaurant, like the rest of the expansive hotel, is littered with antiques, possibly thousands of them, to the point where you wonder if there are any left out there for others. They are the private collection of hotel designer and owner Krissada Sukosol Clapp (known as entertainment guy Noi Pru).
The house itself creates a cosy and warm atmosphere in the upstairs dining room, while a chef's table and cooking class area are featured downstairs in front of the lawn that slopes to the river. It's a majestic setting, with very little left to chance. So Kiwi Exec Chef Blair Mathieson might feel the pressure in reaching such standards with his menu. But if he does, it isn't showing.
With so much emphasis on the food itself, even high-profile chefs sometimes put less effort into their drinks list, but no such foul is committed here. All the cocktails (from B290; prices subject to tax and service charge) we tried are delicious and moorish (or is that just us?). Try Siam Mojito with its gentle and refreshing sourness, The Bangkok for its clean melon finish or mocktail Coconut Mango Crush for its nutty and healthy finish.
Then onto the main event. The menu is divided into Thai and Western sections, not committing to a Thai-only affair like Thai Lao Yeh at Cabochon Hotel, which does so with pride. But with guests paying premium rates for rooms, if they want Western food, I guess they should get it.
Phad krapoaw nua
Featured are a host of favourites, with Northern leanings. It's full flavour, heavily worked Thai food, somewhat removed from the simple delicacies available outside on the street for a fifth of the price (but somehow from the same recipe book). Hopefully the results can put the debate of foreigners cooking Thai food truly to bed.
Som tum gai yang (B420) flirts with the obvious, and wins with its perfect balance of juice from the salad and crispy chicken, making the ordinary extraordinary. Khao soi (B320) is a soupless take on the northern curry delight, with the kick of the chilli paste to match the authenticity. Phad krapoaw nua (B340) is heavy with a rich gravy of flavour mostly from the meat rather than the basil. The chicken version might be lighter. Gaeng hung laey moo (B400) is another northern recipe, a smoky curry with a Burmese-leaning savoury flatness to it that is picked up by the porkbelly well. On the Western side, Ocean trout fillet (B650) is perfectly cooked, with light olive oil dressing to lift the pan-roasted flesh.
It seems that the charm of The Siam flows through its riverside Thai restaurant Chon. And it's for the benefit of guests and drop-ins alike, although the latter need to reserve in advance. While the march of boutique hotels continues around Chidlom/Phloenchit, the sprinkling of historical accommodations seem a more fitting place to enjoy timeless Thai recipes, as old as the furniture they're served among. Chon is the perfect surrounds for such a culinary journey; just leave your credit card behind or you may want to spend more time in the hotel than you can afford.G
Gaeng hung laey moo
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish