As a big foodie I always keep an eye on the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list. I love seeing what the new trends are and which destinations have more than their fair share of world-class restaurants. I usually do a little research on the winners but never truly plan on actually visiting any – most are expensive with crazy waitlists for a reservation, plus high-end chefs have a reputation of not catering well to the vegetarian crowd (I’ve had some of the worst veggie food of my life in “fancy” restaurants).
However something about Gaggan caught my eye. First of all, the idea of molecular gastronomy meets classic Indian flavours was immediately intriguing and like nothing I’d ever seen before. Secondly, from a quick look on the website I saw that the restaurant not only tolerated vegetarians but had an entire vegetarian tasting menu with as many exciting courses as the carnivore version. Thirdly, it was in Bangkok and we had just decided to spend a few days there en route to Sydney. We had to go.
Martin made our reservation as soon as our flights to Bangkok were confirmed (we had a table booked before we’d even looked at hotels – talk about priorities!) and after months of anticipation we finally arrived for our dinner.
Tucked at the end of a dark alleyway near Lumphini Park is a beautifully renovated colonial-style whitewashed house.
As you walk in the door you are greeted by a wall of trophies & plaques – Gaggan has been awarded the title of No.1 Restaurant in Asia for the last two years running and in 2015 also ranked in the World Top 10.
The restaurant was full, even on a Tuesday night, so we were pretty surprised to be whisked away and seated at one of the “chef’s tables” with a view into the kitchen. Sadly Gaggan himself wasn’t on the pass that night but to be able to watch the team in action throughout our meal was still something pretty special.
We dove straight into the cocktail menu. I went for the Coconut Lassi, and although I can’t remember what was in it (maybe rum?) it is easily the best drink I have tasted in my entire life.
It also looked pretty spectacular served inside a broken coconut shell over a cloud of dry ice…
Then the procession of dishes on our 19-course tasting menu began, starting with a selection of small bites. Each is meant to be devoured in one mouthful to ensure you get the right balance of flavours.
The first was “Dewdrop” which you roll off the leaf and straight into your mouth.
“Chocolate Chilly Bomb” with edible silver foil and a liquid centre, “Yogurt Explosion” which really did explode in your mouth and “Edible Plastic Spiced Nuts” which yes, you eat the plastic wrapper they are served in.
“Papadum” with strawberry (meat-eaters version served with Uni).
“Uncooked Curry Cookie” and “Birds Nest”.
“Indian Tamago” and “Idly Sambhar”, which was delicious but a real challenge to fit all in your mouth in one go!
Next came my favourite dish of the whole meal – and one of Gaggan’s signatures – “Charcoal”.
Described on the menu as “Be surprised!! We won’t tell you what it is”…
The closest thing I can compare the texture to is meringue – the exterior is light and crunchy with a softer filled centre. The flavour was smoky, rich and delicious, and very hard to guess what was inside!
After “Charcoal” the meat and vegetarian courses started to get a little different. I was served “Story of Asparagus” while Martin had “Story of a fish called Kin-Medai”.
Then “Rangoli” tandoori tofu for me and lamb for Martin, which one was of his highlights of the entire meal. Both were presented beautifully, the intricate pattern is actually the sauce to go with the meat!
Finally “I want my Curry!!!”, the Gaggan spin on a classic Tikka Masala served with rice & naan, presented in a traditional Indian tiffin tin.
To be honest this was the only let down of the entire meal. The curry was tasty but nothing special, especially when compared to the quality of all the previous courses. Maybe we’re just spoiled by the excellent Indian food we have here in the UK! It takes a lot to impress us now!
We moved onto dessert next, but not before ordering another round of cocktails. This time Martin’s was the most impressive – have you ever seen a Long Island Iced Tea served like this before?!
“Mithai ki maki” – a strangely good ice-cream / sushi hybrid flavoured with pistachio and almond.
The final “Roots of Love” dessert came with a very sweet story from the kitchen, as it was inspired and created by 2 of the chef’s who have recently fallen in love with each other.
And with that our meal came to an end.
Believe it or not there were many more dishes than I’ve shown in the photos, but I thought it best to save some as a surprise in case you ever visit yourself. There also may have been a few that I didn’t get a good shot of because I was too excited to eat them!
We thanked our amazing waiter who had looked after us so well, and made our way outside. This is me trying to hide the fact that I’m absolutely stuffed…
Even if you can’t visit Gaggan in person, make sure you check out the Netflix Chef’s Table documentary (season 2, episode 6). It’s a fascinating look into the life of Chef Gaggan Anand and the work that went in to creating Asia’s No. 1 restaurant, including his time at the 3 Michelin-stared elBulli.
Not yet ready to finish our night, we headed to the nearby Up & Above bar located on the 24th floor of the Okura Prestige hotel. The cocktails weren’t quite as theatrical but it’s still hard to go wrong with a good mojito!
Plus the views are pretty hard to beat…
I really hadn’t expected Bangkok to have such a spectacular skyline but from the right rooftop bar there are views which rival Hong Kong.
The perfect place to end a pretty perfect night.