Bang Saen, an hour’s drive east of Bangkok, has long been a popular weekend retreat for Bangkok folk.
Western visitors are now starting to discover its charms too. And there are so many options when it comes to eating out. Take the high-end restaurants aimed at Bangkok’s rich and famous, sprinkle in the live-music spots popular with the town’s university crowd and add a pinch of Scandinavian cool, and you have a resort brimming with choice.
Here’s our pick of the top 5 restaurants in Bang Saen.
1 Sea Salt
Set on a private strip of beach just north of Bang Saen, Sea Salt is all about fine dining with your toes in the sand.
There is an inside option, filled with plush funky furniture and mood lighting, but outside is where most people head. Seating is under white canopies or in the open, with a nearby pier making for a scenic backdrop. Shrimp, crab and fish make up the bulk of the menu, but there are some western options in the form of steak and pizza. It offers several twists on traditional Thai dishes though, so you can venture beyond your basic ‘tom yam’ and ‘khao pad’ (fried rice). Service is friendly and efficient, without being intrusive.
After dining, it’s almost obligatory to fill up your Instagram page with photos from the pier (tip: if you’re arriving around sunset, book ahead as it gets busy).
The whitewashed benches and tables that sit over the sea here provide this restaurant with a light, bright feel.
This restaurant-on-stilts has been in the heart of Bang Saen for years and so doesn’t have to prove itself. Service is leisurely, the atmosphere is chilled and the food is good. Really good.
Seafood is the main staple here, with fried squid and eggs, tom yam with seafood and freshly-cooked fish cakes all worth trying. Any leftovers are gratefully accepted by the fish below. In turn, herons perched on a nearby rock periodically swoop down to pluck those fish from the waters.
Pakarang (meaning ‘coral’ in Thai) may not be as fancy and upmarket as some of its newer rivals, but in terms of freshness and quality, it’s up there with the best in Bang Saen.
3 Six Corner
There may be giant figures of Spiderman and Captain America dotted around this charming restaurant, but it’s really the food that’s the super hero here. Tucked just behind the array of beachfront student bars, Six Corner is a popular spot with locals. Dishes include standard Thai options but also some more unusual offerings too such as vegetable tempura mixed with spicy pork.
Service is friendly and efficient, though don’t expect lengthy chats in English. Six Corner also doubles as a coffee shop and bakery so try and leave space for dessert, as the strawberry, blueberry and banana cakes are essentials.
Across the table from us sat a Thai actor in floral shirt holding court with a group of friends. Next to them were a couple of models taking selfies. Chariot is that kind of place; it’s where Bangkok’s elite come when they want fine dining with a view. And the food’s pretty good too.
Situated close to Khao Sam Muk (monkey mountain) and overlooking the waterfront, Chariot is a class act. The all-black, open-air venue peers down upon the sea (meaning it’s wise to book if you’re arriving at sunset) and is packed with chic features. Service is slick and efficient (‘you want to see the specials? Here they are on my tablet’), while the menu is epic. Steamed seafood stuffed into a coconut shell (250 baht), raw shrimp in a seriously spicy sauce (180 baht) and sea bass in a chili and lemon sauce (400 baht) are recommended. Dishes are generous in terms of quantity and fiery and fresh in terms of quality. If it wasn’t for the sea, you could imagine this being in the heart of a trendy Bangkok spot. It may not be the cheapest joint in town, but Chariot is probably the coolest.
5 Chardonnay Khao Sammuk
One of the better places in Bang Saen for both Thai and Western food, Chardonnay is a chilled spot, close to ‘monkey mountain’.
As well as the imported steaks (500-600 baht) and regular Thai dishes, it also boasts a decent wine selection. We were a little concerned after having to use Google Images to explain what ‘medium rare’ meant when ordering steak, but the chef clearly knew what we were after. The succulent New Zealand tenderloin just melted when touched. Seating options are outside, where live music is played nightly, or inside where the decor is all-white and chic.