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Monday 25 November 2013

The London Foodie Goes to Thailand - Bangkok & a Perfect 16-Hour Stop-Over

Bangkok is one of the major travel hubs in Asia, and whenever I travel to the southeast of that continent, it is more than likely that I will stop over for a day or two there. This is the first of two stop-overs in Bangkok I made on this latest trip to Asia. The second was for 3 days, and will be posted later.

Many things can be said about Bangkok, and few will leave it feeling indifferent. I can think of few places further removed from my everyday life at home in north London. I love Bangkok for her frenetic pace and brash nature, the unrelenting heat and humidity, her crazy characters, but above all Bangkok is the home of the best (and most affordable) Thai food in the country.

Bangkok skyline from my room at The Metropolitan Bangkok

And so, having had a relaxing couple of weeks in Laos and Cambodia, I was looking forward to my 16-hour stopover in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok en route to Phuket.

Dinner at Nahm was for me a no-brainer, so to get the most out of my 16 hours I decided to stay at TheMetropolitan Bangkok Hotel (where the restaurant is based), have a spa treatment at COMO Shambhala followed by cocktails at the Met Bar, hit the bars and shopping district of Silom, and then collapse into bed before my flight to Phuket the next morning.

Where to Stay

I am a great fan of COMO hotels, having stayed at Uma by COMO hotel in Ubud, Bali reviewed here. The Metropolitan Bangkok, created by Singapore interiors architect Kathryn Kng, has 171 rooms and suites.

The design in the public areas of the hotel, as in our room, was of clean open spaces filled with plenty of natural light, and a tasteful blend of Asian antiques with furniture by contemporary designers.

Our room followed this theme – with dark wood flooring and whites, it was simple but well furnished, clean, airy and comfortable. The bathroom was in limestone, and was elegant and spacious. The room had great views of the city, and given the location and my plans for the evening, I could not think of better place to rest my head for the night.

The hotel has a well-equipped gym and a 20 metre outdoor swimming pool that looked very tempting (the pool, not the gym mind you), but with so little time and anticipating a week in Phuket, I had to give it a miss.

Breakfast was taken at the Glow restaurant, and was one of the best I had in Thailand. The cooking was light, healthy and fresh, and follows the healthy eating concept of other Glow restaurants in its sister hotels I tried in Ubud. The buffet was varied and generous, with a good selection of juices and yoghurts, fresh cut fruit and granola, pastries, cold meats and cheeses.

I particularly enjoyed their ricotta and avocado salad, and the smoked salmon, courgette and dill salad, both fresh and delicious. Most importantly, the coffee was good and strong.

I also got to enjoy one of their cooked dishes – stir-fried rice with prawns and an egg sunny side up, with chilli and lime, which was really delicious and kept me going until dinner time.

The hotel is well located on the South Sathorn Road in the business district of the city, a pleasant 10 minute walk from Rama IV Road in the Silom area, the busiest shopping district of the city with thousands of shops and bars, as well as the saucy Patong night-market area. In all, it’s a great location to stay in Bangkok.

What to Do

Massage at COMO Shambhala

Having checked in, with a couple of hours before dinner at Nahm, I decided to book myself a 75-minute deep tissue massage at COMO Shambhala (3,000 Baht or £60), the hotel’s luxury spa. This was a restorative treatment that got me walking on clouds. The masseur was very professional, and the setting opulent. Compared to spas in London, this was good value for the quality of treatment and setting, and made a great start to the evening.

Where to Eat


Listed by San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants of the World at number 32, and at number 3 for Asia, my meal at Nahm was the main purpose of this stopover. I was lucky enough to try the menu in Nahm’s previous location at The Halkin Hotel in London (reviewed here), so I hoped I was in for a treat.

The restaurant had subdued lighting, dark stone floors and displays of lush tropical greenery and orchids. It had a coolly elegant feel about it, and on the night we were there it was full.

The set menu was a very reasonable 1,800 baht (around £35 per person) for canapés and 5 main dishes including salad, soup, relish, curry and a stir-fry, steamed or grilled dish. These were all presented at the same time, as is customary in Thailand. We also had a bottle of 2011 Australian Yarra Valley Chardonnay - Little Yering (£35), which was a good partner for the food we chose.

We kicked off with a selection of 4 delicious canapés – with fresh and vibrant flavours to stimulate the taste buds, and contrasting crunchy textures, they were ideal appetisers that heralded good things to come.

Smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings:

Salted thread fin perch with ginger, chilli and green mango on betel leaves:

Blue swimmer crab, peanuts and pickled garlic on rice cakes:

Prawn and coconut wafers with pickled ginger:

Following the canapés we had two of the clear soups on the menu – one made of minced pork and prawns with pak warn and squid, and the other of roast duck with Thai basil and young coconut. The clear broths of both soups were intensely flavoured but also refreshing from the myriad herbs and vegetables, like tomato and young coconut. I enjoyed having the soup as a cooling accompaniment to some of the hotter dishes.

I love the combination of crustacea and pork, and the salad of fresh water crayfish with pork and Asian pennywort was no exception –zingy, sour, sweet and nicely balanced.

The relish was a delicious dish of minced prawn and pork simmered in coconut cream with young chillies, red shallots and coriander, fresh vegetables and deep fried cured carp.

The coconut and turmeric curry was also outstanding – it had blue swimmer crab meat and a refreshing tang from the calamansi limes cutting through the richness of the coconut-based sauce.

The stir-fried soft shell crab was spiked with chilli, salt and coriander, very crisp, and light as a feather, it was one of the highlights of our meal.

We also had a couple of desserts – the pistachio pudding and golden tear drops with perfumed mung beans, and another of pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream.

These were authentic Thai desserts and very different from what we expect of puddings in the West – they were packed with a variety of different flavours and textures and rounded off our meal very nicely.

Drinks at the Met Bar

One of the hippest bars in town and conveniently located in The Metropolitan Bangkok, The Met Bar draws in a crowd of locals and expats who know how to party. After the fantastic meal at Nahm, we headed there for a couple of cocktails and for some serious people watching. We didn’t hang out long as we had an early flight to catch to Phuket, but the evening was going strong as we left around midnight.

Bar staff getting ready for the evening

Travel Essentials

The Metropolitan Bangkok
COMO Shambhala Spa
Nahm Restaurant
The Met Bar

27 South Sathorn Road
Tungmahamek Sathorn
Bangkok 10120
T +66 (0)2 625 3333
F +66 (0)2 625 3300
W comohotels.com/metropolitanbangkok

COMO Daily Rates start from THB4,500 (£90) for a City Room (exclusive of tax and service, room only)

Thursday 21 November 2013

An Evening of Christmas Baking with Richard Bertinet and a Recipe for Chorizo & Manchego Breakfast Muffins

Words & Photography by Simeen Kadi

A recent crisp Autumn evening found me in Marylebone at L’Atelier des Chefs enveloped in a cloud of cinnamon and allspice. Lurpak, Britain’s favourite butter brand, has just launched a slow churned butter and I had been invited to put it to good use in some Christmas baking.

My baking skills aren’t up to much so it was lucky that Richard Bertinet was on hand with some great recipes, tips and seemingly heatproof fingers. Richard Bertinet is well known for his cookery school in Bath and for his award winning cookery books (find out more here). And, I am sure that those who have attended one of his classes will also know him for his easy, genial manner and his patience.

We started off watching Richard mixing together dough for Spiced Christmas Tea Buns, but it wasn’t long before I was elbow deep in sticky dough. Richard was very handy with simple tips for working the dough, such as keeping your arms loose and working through the torso. And the ‘French Shrug’, the insouciant movement of shoulders and hands practised by our Gallic neighbours (especially Parisian waiters) which is both infuriating and alluring in equal measures. When used by Richard it instantly relieves sticky hands from gooey dough – try it next time, it really does work.

Richard Bertinet is a real authority on baking and we heard how bread making in the West has developed over the centuries, from mediaeval techniques for frasage (the initial mixing of ingredients) to the right method for stretching the dough to ensure enough air has been incorporated.

Stuffed with walnuts, cranberries and a goodly amount of the rich, slow churned butter, the dough was not very pliable at first but with perseverance (not my strongest trait) I got it to approximate Richard’s silky smooth dough. And after a turn in the oven and slathered with lashings of rich butter there wasn’t much to distinguish my paltry effort from that of the master baker.

Lurpak’s slow churned butter is actually very good – the long slow churn in small batches delivers a deep, earthy flavour and a rounded creaminess. We used it to make chocolate and orange crumpets, although, for my money, I would prefer to slather the butter on plain old toasted crumpets any day.

If you have more patience than me (very likely) you might like to try one of Richard’s savoury recipes:

Chorizo & Manchego Breakfast Muffins

Working time: 40 minutes
Resting time: 1 hour
Baking time: 30 minutes
Makes 14 good sized muffins

  • 100g Manchego cheese
  • 150g cooking chorizo
  • 450g strong bread flour
  • 50g fine polenta or semolina
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 20g fresh yeast (or 2tsp dried yeast)
  • 275ml water
  • 75ml full fat milk
  • Semolina for dusting
  • Lurpak Slow Churned Butter for serving
  1. Grate the cheese and dice the chorizo.
  2. Mix the flour, polenta or semolina, honey, sea salt, yeast, water and milk to make the dough. Then add the cheese and chorizo and fold into the dough. Leave to rest for an hour.
  3. Lightly dust your work surface and turn out the dough onto it. Turn the dough over and dust with semolina. Roll out gently to a thickness of about 2cm. Use a 10-12cm cutter to cut out the muffins.
  4. Place a griddle or flat frying pan over a medium heat. Oil the pan and add the muffin circles making sure not to crowd them in the pan – make them in batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  5. To serve, slice in half and spread generously with the butter.

Lurpak Slow Churned Butter has just been launched across the UK. For more information and for recipes go to their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LurpakButter/app_169525643247814

Richard Bertinet’s Cookery School can be found on http://www.thebertinetkitchen.com/
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