One of my favourite things to do, while on location engaging in a spot of hard-hitting hotel reviewing, is to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. Not because I’m especially bored or nosey (just a regular amount), but because listening in is so often a useful way of finding out … Gossip. Good jokes. Woeful jokes. Weird anecdotes. And most importantly, clues as to what kind of company a particular hotel keeps.
The St. Regis Bangkok understands that some of the most lucrative deals aren’t done in boardrooms, but while drinking one another under the table
Take The St. Regis Bangkok, for example. While sat at breakfast there one morning, minding my own business of course, my ear was drawn to a couple perched a few feet away. The man – fat, balding, dressed in a polo shirt (collar obnoxiously turned up) and gesticulating wildly – was attempting to convince his wife – considerably younger, Asian, immaculately turned out and doing a very good impression of someone who actually gave a shit about what her husband had to say – that what Western governments need right now is “more autocracy to get things done!” Cue violent finger-jabbing on table for emphasis.
As scenes go, it seemed a fitting one to witness in a hotel founded by an American multimillionaire who, at the age of 47, divorced his wife to shack up with an 18-year-old socialite. The brainchild of John Jacob Astor IV, the St. Regis brand has grown from a single New York outpost established in 1904, to a chain of over 60 hotels dotted across the globe today. The secret to its success? Simple: low-key luxury and top-class service at a reasonable price, relatively speaking.
Its Bangkok outpost, opened in 2011, is more of the same. Situated smack-bang in the middle of the city’s commercial district, it is, like so many of its St. Regis brethren, targeted at the business traveller – a fact made clear not only by the hotel’s extensive meeting rooms and complimentary butler service, but also by its terminally boring décor: a mix of polished wood floors, subdued floral-pattern rugs and soft furnishings in cream, brown and taupe. Altogether this has the approximate charm of an Excel spreadsheet.
On a more exciting note, there are plenty of bars. Like all good business-first hotels, The St. Regis Bangkok understands that some of the most lucrative deals aren’t done in boardrooms, but while drinking one another under the table. Fancy vintage whiskies? Head to Decanter. Specialty martinis? Try the Lounge Bar. A ‘Siam’ Mary, the hotel’s localised take on a classic bloody Mary featuring wasabi, lime, coriander, Thai basil and lemongrass? Take a seat at The St. Regis Bar and prepare for your head to be blown off.
Food tastes are similarly well catered for, with Viu offering à la carte and buffet dinners featuring European and Thai classics, Jojo plating up rustic Italian cuisine and Zuma, the London-born izakaya favourite. But while The St. Regis might be the place to wine a discerning client, it definitely isn’t the one for dining them. A breakfast of one-of-everything on offer on the buffet menu, plus a sturgeon fish omelette from the à la carte, was tasty (though serving the latter drenched in a caviar-speckled white wine sauce was overkill), but a suspiciously affordable wagyu burger at the Lounge at lunchtime was a gristle-fest nonpareil. Avoid.
All said and done, The St. Regis is a perfectly comfortable pitstop if you’re in Bangkok for work or a short shopping trip. Or indeed, if you’re keen to show your Southeast Asian companion a slice of the conservative America you call “home”. But perhaps the best thing about the hotel is that it’s just a hop, skip and a few BTS Skytrain stops from some of the best drag shows in the world. TripAdvisor might suggest that you simply can’t afford to miss the mango sticky rice when in Thailand, but everyone – RuPaul’s Drag Race fan or no – knows the nightly show at the Stranger Bar on Silom Soi 4 is what really puts this city on the map. C
The St. Regis Bangkok, 159 Ratchadamri Rd, Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
+66 2 207 7777; stregisbangkok.com