Upper East Side’s ritzy indulgences get translated in three floors of epicurean experiences
History has witnessed the name ‘Waldorf Astoria’ in its annals on numerous occasions—first, as a towering twin landmark in the middle of Manhattan; second, as a renowned hotel brand finding its home within society’s grandest venues—Beverly Hills, Bangkok, Dubai, Rome and Versailles. Tucked in its past is a revelry of excessive opulence; once the centre of two feuding relatives who literally found a way to bridge their differences. Over time, New York’s Waldorf Astoria has become home to power and politics, dreamy parties, and honourable celebrations; Marilyn Monroe was an advent resident, throwing in a thousand-dollar per-week stay at the Suite 2728. Grace Kelly and her husband Prince Rainier III of Monaco celebrated their engagement here, and the royals of Windsor have graced Manhattan’s elites in its lavish banquet halls. It was, and it still is, most of New York’s experiential indulgence, and it finds its way into Southeast Asia with its first instalment in Thailand’s golden capital.
The 57-floor building finds a nest right in the heart of the colourful Ratchaprasong, immediately fitting in with its luxurious and historic neighbours. The top three floors designed by AvroKo, New York are nothing less than spectacular and the real gems are lodged at the pinnacle of the building—jewels of the crown, as they are aptly described—all of them beckoning for a sumptuous sensory escape.
Waldorf Astoria Bangkok’s 55th-floor is home to Bull & Bear, seafood-and-steakhouse of legendary status. The smoky colours of the interiors immediately tell what is to come; Garuda and Naga, the bull and bear, makes a striking spectacle at the entrance with their poses, welcoming guests for a meaty gastronomic feast. Art deco elements brim inside the interiors, starting from the feather chandelier hung like a giant charm, to the protruded ceiling lamps that accompany with soft lighting. Geometric patterns are spread all over the room, from the patterns on the glass window to the herringbone floor. Partitions separate the venue into various spaces–the main dining, a private bar and an open kitchen that affords a glance into the slow-roasting and fire-grilled meats presided over by Executive Chef Alessandro Santi.
Launch into the menu with a light appetizer; the Bull & Bear Salad, for one, is a harmony of baby spinach, avocado, kale, apple and red quinoa topped with truffle vinaigrette, or the Lobster Bisque—a plate of charred bread, lobster, with smoke creme fraiche. Enter the mains with relish; the prime steak cuts include the New York strip steak—a gloriously marbled 55-day Black Onyx beef—or the Prime Australian Stockyard Wagyu. For the seafood farers, indulge in the Kristal Gold Caviar, thrown in with Bellini’s, cured egg yolk and spring onion, and then relish the Blackened Australian Barramundi with sweet corn and smoked chili. To cap off the meal, submit into a slice of the key lime pie—a majestic treat topped with meringue, raspberry and ice cream or indulge in Smoked Michter’s Bourbon Cheesecake, with caramel and chocolate ice cream glazed with spiced oranges and pistachio.
The Loft, lodged on the 56th floor, is Waldorf Astoria’s dazzling showpiece, accessed through a sweeping symmetrical staircase in black and brass, embellished with a gold-leaf adorned brass balustrade handcrafted by a local artisan. The sky-high cocktail den is a nostalgic memento of the Old Waldorf Astoria, in which one is taken back into the past with the lavish Art Nouveau accents in rose gold and marble. Sleek and sophisticated, with remarkable vistas of Bangkok’s skyline, the crystals from the chandeliers and glasses tingle with the bokeh lights from the outside. Walls are draped with damask patterns and gold accents, while the furniture is a blend of leather and suede, as seen on the banquettes and the ottomans.
Many of its accents vie for one’s attention—the communal table is a slab of old wood bathed with paint, bearing the story of an artist’s memoriam in Old Paris. The ink-splashed theme continues through a glass-encased shelf of art supplies. But, perhaps the true craft of it all, is the grand menu of libations, which helms from the hotel’s very own 1935 bar book, written by historian Albert Crocket and interpreted by head bartender Michele Montauti. Astoria, for one, is a mix of house-blend dry vermouth, orange bitters, and Brooklyn Gin, while Waldorf is a concoction of Michter’s Bourbon, Mancino sweet vermouth, chocolate bitters, and cardamom. Manhattan follows through, with Michter’s Rye, Di Baldo Italian vermouth and a splash of cherry brandy. When into fizzes, indulge in Floradora, a lovely glass of iron balls gin, mulberry syrup, lime, ginger ale, and cassis liquor. Non-alcoholics will love Dummy Daisy, made from soda, green apple juice, and lemongrass syrup. Not to be missed, the bespoke selection features out-of-the-box concoctions, from the monkey shoulder and pandan vanilla soda Origin, to the Absolut Elyx, Thai Basil leaf and Galiano’s Clever Hippie.
The Champagne Bar is like a secret tucked inside a hat, one that serves rare glasses of Clos Saint-Hillaire and Billecart Salmon, among its extensive list of curated wines. Finding this speakeasy is a bit tricky—the elevators only go up until the 56th floor. There are no magic words, no secret gestures, but there are hints: the 57th-floor venue is reached through a door lodged inside a two-metre artwork in the classic style of Art Nouveau. Guessing which in the gallery can take time, but every trace of impatience will be washed out by the sight of a palatial double staircase that takes the victorious to the next level. Literally.
Arrive in a secret room decked like a millionaire’s penthouse, magnified by a nostalgic chandelier hung over an ice-chipping counter. AvroKO New York magnificently gifts the space with indulgent intimacy: floor-to-ceiling windows, lush tropical plants and the cosy velvet-suede couches in jewelled tones, encircling the round marble tables. Gaze into the tasting corridor and take a pick, then sit back with a glass of Franc Pascal, the wine menu’s most recommended, while admiring the cityscape as the sun dims into the evening skyline.
It is recommended to book a table in advance as the jewels of the crown of Waldorf Astoria Bangkok are no longer a secret! waldorfastoria3.hilton.com ◼
© This article was first published online in Oct 2019 – World Travel Magazine.