Bangkok is a living and breathing creature in its own right. It grows with new spots and hidden treasures popping up everywhere everyday. It’s a city for everybody: every neighbourhood, every street, every soi has a different personality to offer. And it’s truly worth exploring them all.
The Thai capital is a city worth getting to know well because it will reward you handsomely — either with an out-of-the-way café that serves the best matcha latte you’ve ever had, or a little bookshop you can call your very own hideaway. The LSA Neighbourhood Guides aim to help you get started towards exploring the various wonders around Bangkok. For this edition, we’re going around Suan Phlu, Bangkok’s leafy yet dynamic street in Sathorn.
What will strike you first about Suan Phlu is its open sky. Despite being in the financial hub of Sathorn, there are no skywalks or trains in sight here. Instead, the area is lined with only ground-level bohemian cafés, classic bars, and artisan bakeries. There’s a real sense of community here, and we love its “slow life” Parisian vibe. Here are our top 10 reasons to visit this neighbourhood.
[Hero image: Olta Restaurant + Bar; Feature image: Smalls]
1. The walkable pavements
As we all know, this is a rare thing in Bangkok. To be able to walk along the streets comfortably in this city is somewhat a kind of luxury, and Suan Phlu is one of the few sois where you can actually do this. Sometimes known as the ‘French Quarter’ of Sathorn, the area will remind you of walking along Parisian Arrondissements with its line of cafés, bakeries, and independent shops.
2. The toasted sandwiches from Holey Bakery
First of all, you should know that Suan Phlu is home to what is agreed as “the best bread in Bangkok”. Holey Bakery is famous across the city for their freshly baked loaves, perfectly buttery morning croissants, and mind-blowing toasty sandwiches. It’s a great no-frills café that’s ideal for a quality catch-up.
3. The pomelo salad from Plu
The casual yet polished restaurant is a fabulous find for refined Thai recipes in a trendy, relaxed setting. Flavours are crisp, clean, and refreshing — particularly with the pomelo or tea leaf salads. Whilst popular with its regular customers, Plu is neatly hidden away from bustling areas and is located in a quiet residential area — complete with its own carpark. Go for the food, then stay for the eclectic tropical decor and fantastic cocktails crafted by Water Library.
4. Live jazz and espresso martinis at Smalls
Old but gold, this is a bar that needs no introduction. Having been awarded a spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list this year, Smalls is now pretty much a household name in Bangkok. It’s always a classic night out here — great cocktails, quality wine, comfort food, Gallery pizza, and Wednesday Jazz nights. Stay tuned with them because they also frequently have pop-ups and special themed nights collaborating with cafés, restaurants, and guest DJs.
5. The peaceful weekends
Because it’s located in the office district of Sathorn, workers tend to steer away from the place on the weekends. This leaves Suan Phlu one of the quieter and more peaceful places to be for your Saturday and Sunday brunches or casual drinks. If you’re looking for a more relaxed and low-key weekend, this is a much better option than heading out to the crowded and traffic-cursed Siam or Phrom Phong.
6. Gourmet cheese shopping at El Mercado Grocery
Here’s how to live out the Parisian lifestyle right in the heart of of Bangkok. El Mercado Grocery stocks some of the finest wines, meats, and gourmet cheeses in the city, along with a wide selection of organic and artisan products. Their top quality ingredients, friendly expert service, and fresh produce are the stuff of pantry dreams. A small tip: head over after work to grab one of their sandwiches or salads that go on 50% discount after 5pm.
7. The friendly buzz of Suan Phlu Market
From day to night, this soi buzzes with local energy and dynamism because of its lively market culture. You’ll find endless little alleys of some of the most fantastic street food, from classic Pad Thai to hot pot (the must-try for the latter is Jay Oun Moo Jum). Besides this, there are also little stalls for everything from independent T-shirt shops to handcrafted hair accessories.
8. Peace and culture at Fathom Bookspace
Another rare thing in Bangkok — independent book stores. Suan Phlu also happens to be home to one of these as well, with Fathom Bookspace being the hidden cultural gem in one of the Soi’s small residential alleys. The space features a range of titles from fiction to self-help (albeit mostly in Thai), as well as an in-house café serving fresh iced coffees and matcha lattes. They also frequently hold talks, workshops, and gatherings for book discussions. It’s a perfect little mid-city sanctuary.
9. Open-air burgers at Arno’s
In Suan Plu, you’ll also find a lovely branch of Bangkok’s favourite steaks and burgers joint. Taking all the premium quality (yet famously affordable) meats and “showcase refrigerator” from their Naradhiwas flagship, this branch also takes on the Suan Plu lifestyle and features an open-air terrace. If you’re worried about parking, the restaurant lets you park at Somerset Hotel free for 2 hours.
10. The deconstructed banoffee pie from Olta
The newest kid on the block — and on Bangkok’s trending food scene — Olta serves up British classics with a twist. The modern and chic interior is split over two floors, with cosy booths and bar counter seats. Their menu concept is centred around sharing dishes so you can try several things from the menu. If you only order one thing from this place, make it their banoffee pie, which comes deconstructed and is a wholesome bowl of messy goodness.
Update: Sadly, post-lockdown, Olta has had to permanently shut its doors. We now eagerly await a new opening in its place. Stay tuned.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok on 19 September 2019.