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Eating, Bangkok

The unusual thing about food in Bangkok is not that it has a huge variety of excellent restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine, as this is to be expected from such a huge metropolis - it is the quality of the everyday food served at the stalls on every street corner. In a food-obsessed country where people greet each other with the question “have you eaten rice yet?” it is difficult to find a bad meal unless you walk into Burger King or McDonalds.

In marked contrast to other southeast Asian capitals, notably Manila and Jakarta, the average every-day food of Bangkok and of Thailand in general is clean, cheap, safe and arguably the tastiest in southeast Asia.

A less laudable thing is that, outside the luxury establishments, restaurant waiters tend to have short memories. For example, what could be simpler than fulfilling your order for a glass of coke with ice? Even this simple task is beyond some of the waiters, who will forget your drink, then forget to bring you the ice you asked for, twice, and then forget to bring you your bill, after being reminded. But there’s no point in getting angry, as this will only make things worse: the best you can do is to maybe embarrass the waiter into better performance by, with a large if sardonic smile on your face, questioning whether his problem is with his brain or his ears.

Only the most avidly curious or impecunious of travelers ever snack on chicken feet or try the deep fried bugs that are sold out of barrows all round Bangkok. For a better feed, try the Royal Dragon restaurant, listed in the Guiness Book of records as the world’s biggest, which has a waiter who flies around supported by a cable and harness.

For an alternative take on the phrase ‘in-flight food’, try out the nearby Flying Chicken restaurant, where the cook sets light to a whole barbecued chicken and then hurls it to one of the edges of the restaurant, where it is caught on the pronged helmet of a child sitting on top of the shoulders of a waiter riding a unicycle. For a gourmet meal out the visitor is spoiled for choice. If you take a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River, book one of the better ones for an under-cover table, musical serenade and waiter service.

Alternatively dine at one of the many superb and atmospheric riverside restaurants, one of the best of which is Supatra River House, which overlooks the Grand Palace and stages theatre performances every Friday and Saturday. For an unforgettable meal, non-residents as well as residents can catch the Oriental hotel’s ferry across the river to its riverside dinner pavilion, where their meal will be accompanied by maybe the best dinner-show in town.

The Author's Wing at the Oriental Hotel is an elegant if formal place to ‘take tea’ – just don’t forget to keep the little finger of your cup-holding hand off the cup. Biscotti at the Four Seasons Hotel is known for its Italian fare and Le Vendome for French haute cuisine. Madison at the Four Seasons Hotel, an American steakhouse with an improbable-looking but real fire place, serves Wagyu, Kobe and Matsuzaka beef. Taihei @ Banyan Tree has good city views and is one of the city’s best Japanese eateries. Sirocco, with the highest outdoor balcony of any restaurant in Bangkok, offers Mediterranean fare and live jazz performances. Cy’an at the Metropolitan Hotel is a cool place to enjoy Mediterranean-style meals on the open-air veranda fringing the pool.

Novel French gourmet food can be sampled, or maybe even gorged on, at D’Sens at the Dusit Thani Hotel. Redefining room service, the Bed Supper Club offers ‘dining in bed’ as well as an up-market club, a stage, a theatre, a restaurant and an art gallery: this is an in-place where guests are expected to be rich if not beautiful, so if you are no longer such an oil painting, maybe take your bankbook along to prove you’re rich enough to qualify for entry.

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