A new eatery pays tribute to the renowned author’s favourite places and cuisines.
Despite its central location, we almost didn’t notice the place, until we were standing in front of it. Surrounded by tall trees and cloaked in nostalgia, Hemingway’s Bar and Restaurant, housed in a two-storey teak home, pays tribute to the 1920s era and one of its most famous literary icons, Ernest Hemingway.
The old Thai home, located just a few steps from the top of Sukhumvit Soi 14, has seen a fair share of high-profile personalities passing through—from the son of Rama VIII’s Royal Guardian to foreign ambassadors. Its last occupant before Hemingway’s took over was the Tijuana-style Mexican restaurant, Los Carbos.
Inside, the various bars and dining rooms have been named and designed to reflect the places that the author called home. The Key West Café, where we were seated, is reminiscent of the Florida coast, with canopies made out of white sail material. The adjoining room is the bare-bricked Habana Bar, complete with high bar stools and tables. The bar leads out to a leafy courtyard called Spanish Garden. The outdoor dining area stands around an old fountain, one of the many original fixtures of the home.
Through a staircase, which was originally a fire escape, we make our way upstairs to an open-air balcony, called Malin Boulevard, which was added to the original structure by its current owners. The Hideaway dining room on the upper level is a French apartment–style dining area decorated with old books, photos from World War I, and even a faux fireplace. The area, general manager Damian Mackay tells us, is often buzzing with book club meetings of expat authors and the Bangkok Writers’ Guild.
Two steps beyond the Hideaway stands the Safari Sports Bar, with animal-hide stool tops and cushions and custom-made flickering lights that accentuate the sunset mural. Just outside the bar is a Cuban cigar lounge.
While the restaurant is open for business, Mackay feels there is still a lot to be done, and diners will see changes and additions along the way, such as a Thai menu, more paintings and murals on the walls, and live Cuban music on Tuesday nights in the Spanish Garden.
The Must Trys
The menu, designed by Chef Wayne Morris, is inspired by food Hemingway had written about and is reflective of his extensive travels, with a few American dishes and plenty of French and Spanish fare. There are also tapas-style finger food and set lunches with drinks (B250–B450). They also do weekly promotions marking special days on the calendar—for instance American fare for Fourth of July and a special menu for Mothers’ Day.
We started with a tasting platter (B350) of chilli salt fried calamari served with tartar sauce, which was crispy and done to perfection. Also on the platter were ham and egg croquettes served with a flavourful saffron aioli and Spanish meatballs of pork and veal slow cooked in tomato and sherry. Next, we tried ceviche made with red snapper that had been marinated for eight hours in lime, chilli, coriander, and spices, and came with crispy tortilla and a refreshing salad of avocado and corn salsa (B210). Next came the roasted baby beetroot and smoked finger eggplant salad with crumbled goat cheese (B200/300), which can be had both as an entree and a main. For the main course, we dined on sea bass cooked in oyster and absinthe broth, served with steamed mussels and braised lettuce (B450). The Portuguese dish is traditionally cooked with sea water, but here they use fresh water and seaweed. We also indulged in creamy cheesecake with a sour cream cheese layer, served with a dollop of raspberry sorbet and homemade toffee (B200).
Hemingway’s life was always shrouded with rumours and myths. One of the more popular ones claims that his favourite drink was mojito, even though he was a diabetic. Apart from the standard cocktails and craft beers, Hemingway’s serves a selection of different flavoured mojitos and martinis, starting at B195. Their cocktails contain 60ml of alcohol, so watch out for the buzz.
Published in Masala Lite magazine, August 2013