Say you're making a big studio movie in which shenanigans at a New Year's Eve party in Bangkok are pivotal to the plot. Setting the scene would go like a dream using The Peninsula Bangkok's subtly sophisticated, paradoxically pulsating celebrations as backdrop.
Classic without being cliched, grand without being gaudy, the luxury riverside hotel's annual carousal with the calendar consummately captures the spirit of the occasion. Amidst such splendid surrounds, looking beautiful, interesting, dashing and just a tad vintage, doesn't demand any acting at all.
The hotel's all-gala New Year's Eve celebration takes place on the Peninsula Lawn and Terrace. I'm trying to think of another Bangkok hotel that has such a lawn. In real estate terms, it's profligate in the extreme but when it comes to creating an al fresco ambiance of opulence_anyone for tea and croquet?-its close_cropped charisma is unrivalled.
Frame it with stately home architecture _Palladian pillars, picture windows, formal gardens_trick it out with milord's kitchen's finest banqueting spread and cast a cluster of Thailand's top entertainers in on-stage cameos and wrapping the bit where the hero dons his dickey bow and sweeps the heroine off her feet couldn't be simpler.
Accentuating the exotic undercurrents, the iconic building is bathed in a saffron sheen carved with stretch-palm silhouettes and mother-of-pearl Bedouin tent canopies that mark the point where the hardy herb (hygienically sprayed against uninvited anthropods) surrenders to the flirty, flighty river that runs by it all, for once not quite stealing the whole show.
The coup de grace moment would surely arrive as the approximately 10-minute fusillade of midnight fireworks bursts upon the inky sky when everyone but the protagonists are either gazing upwards mouths agape or kissing each other. Fade to stylishly attired folks making their moves on the temporary parquet dance floor to live big band, fronted by those schmoozy crooners and sensuous sirens, well into the wee hours.
But before that there's plenty of animated chit chat at elaborately bedecked tables set with colourful keepsake-quality party favours. There is a contagious liveliness about the place emblemised by the constant stir of well-to-do people of multi-ethnic heritages milling around the buffet line that traces the terracing around the lawn and extends to two large, permanent live cooking areas, and indoors to the River Cafe, where the entire permanent buffet area is devoted to divine desserts and premium cheeses.
For dramatic effect, cut to the constant procession of live performances_the 23-piece Lai Thai Big Band flying solo, featuring well-known singers and taking a rest for creatively choreographed contemporary dance interludes, all charmingly emceed by Miss Thailand Universe 2007, the lovely Khun Farung. Throughout the evening, couples and kids run off a comprehensive directory of dance styles, ranging from formal to frenetic, ably facilitated by the band's amazing versatility.
Make no mistake, the Peninsula Bangkok's New Year_and indeed Christmas Eve and Loy Krathong_parties have been fine-tuned into true gala occasions over the past several years. With all the effort that goes into them, they are highly successful in evoking the desired mood of optimism,with generous overlay of hedonism, that characterises the most iconoclastic New Year's bashes in particular.
Not to be outdone by the visual spectacle, The Peninsula's passionate F&B team, in particular Executive Chef Mike Wehrle, who speaks of cuisine with the vocabulary of sommeliers and perfumiers, and Pastry Chef Yoann Mathy, previously mentored by the multi- Michelin star-awarded Joel Robuchon, go into virtuoso mode, which they are pretty much in everyday anyway.
You enter the enchanted arena down a staircase from the lobby into an ornamental pond quadrant lined with ice stations sporting six different caviars (trout, keta salmon, vegetarian, Russian pike, tobikko and cantaloupe), sushi/sashimi, Australian and American oysters with vodka-lime jelly shooters, steamed crayfish, clams and prawns, poached, smoked and gravlax salmon, and Boston lobster, Alaska king crab and bay scallops.
To the left, facing the party boat populated river, is the cold buffet with delicacies ranging from Foie gras creme brulee, apple jus jelly and Miso-seared scallops, pineapple salsa, soy dressing to Cajun-spiced seared yellow fin tuna, spicy mango salsa and Venison pate, morel mushroom, pistachio nut, Cumberland sauce. Plus a Chinese BBQ, uncountable salads and assorted Thai appetizers. Live stations here range from Caesar salad to steamed dumplings.
Further along the terrace, in front of the formal French windows, is the hot buffet offering, among others: Beef cheeks, mushroom ragout, bordelaise sauce; Boston lobster thermidor; Mediterranean style Australian lamb eggplant, olive, and; Creamy frog leg ragout, minty, buttery potato. Plus, hot Thai dishes including several curries.
Still further on, in front of the hotel's atmospheric riverside Thai restaurant, Thiptara, is where to pick up your Seared foie gras with sweet and sour cherries and live pasta cooking. Opposite is the carving station with Whole sea bass, Champagne sauce and Prime rib.
On the other hand, straight ahead from the ice stations you come to the show kitchens, one western, one Asian, featuring the likes of Stir-fried Australian beef tenderloin and Steamed tiger prawns with the hotel's renowned Cantonese restaurant Mei Jiang's delectable XO sauce. Plus grills of every description, not least US scallops, Boston lobster, Wagyyu beef rump and Lamb chops. Condiment-wise, watch out for Mike's Jack Daniels BBQ sauce whose "nice oaky flavour" goes blissfully with beef in particular.
A kids menu section is also thoughtfully provided, with the likes of fish fingers and mini pizzas. After all, they are some of the liveliest dancers at The Peninsula and need the energy.
As mentioned, the desserts are in a world of their own-not to mention a class apart. My picks would include: the homemade chocolates_liqueur, nut, fruit and herb flavours that taste better than the real things; Black Forrest Verrine, a smooth and slightly spicy chocolate affair engineered by Mike because he hails from the Black Forrest region of Germany, Pur caraibe chocolate cake with vanilla and tonka bean, Mango and passion fruit marbled cheesecake and Almond, lime and blueberry tart.
But all these barely scratch the surface-and what a wine cellar!
Don't forget to bring your own currently preferred digital image-making device.
THAT'S NOT ALL FOR NOW FOLKS!
The Peninsula Bangkok offers a variety of dining options on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
The Peninsula Lawn and River Cafe and Terrace: Gala dinner buffet. Bt15,990/Bt7,995.
The Lobby Terrace: Six-course western set menu overlooking the party area, including the music and fireworks. (Organic eggs on the rock, bacon, corn, sea urchin; pan-fried Rougie foie gras, soft apple, crispy meringue, balsamic air; halibut poached 70oC extra virgin olive oil, broad beans, tomato seed, star anise emulsion; medallion of venison loin, grenadine salsify, girolle mushrooms and pistachio oil; milk & lemon ice-cream, raspberry marmalade and pink meringuettes; softly chocolate Caraibe Finger with tonka bean flavour, crunchy Tahitian vanilla ice cream lollipops; mignardises). Bt15,990.
Mei Jiang: Six-course Chinese feast. Pan-seared goose liver on crispy mantou with spiced scallop and coconut roll; double-boiled premium shark's fin soup with wild yellow fungus and bamboo pith; stir-fried live lobster with broccoli and mild chilli sauce; braised South African abalone with shitake mushroom in oyster sauce; steamed fillet of sea garoupa with spring onion and soya sauce; pan-fried Australian pork tenderloin in barbecued sauce/ fried rice with diced Yunnan ham and egg white; sweetened bird's nest with fresh lily bulbs in Chinese almond cream; petits fours. Bt9,900.
Thiptara: Six-course Thai set menu and contemporary Thai dance performances and riverside fireworks. Bt13,990.
Dress code: elegant casual
NEW YEAR'S DAY
River Cafe and Terrace: A fun-filled New Year's Day Brunch enjoyed either al fresco beside the river or indoors. 12:30 pm - 4:00 pm. Bt3,000/Bt1,500.
Dress code: smart casual
THE PENINSULA BANGKOK.
333 Charoennakorn Road. Tel 02 861 2373. e-mail: email@example.com
About the author
- Writer: Noel Maclein
Position: Holiday Time writer