You won’t go hungry in Bangkok. Street food vendors set up stalls on every single street corner jostling for space on the neon-lined streets.
They sell some of the best street food in the world meaning everyone, from the street stall vendor to five star hotel chefs, have to be on top of their game at all times. After two years of lockdowns leaving the restaurant sector in the country at an all time low, the Michelin Guide were keen to highlight even more restaurants in their 2022 guide.
For the first time the guide covers the ancient city of Ayutthaya with half a dozens restaurants in the areas joining the 361 eateries recommended by Michelin.
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I managed to try nine of the best places to eat in Bangkok and Ayutthaya during a short trip to Thailand.
Best places to eat in Bangkok
Chinatown street food market
Bangkok’s Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in the world. As night falls markets are replaced with dozens of street food stalls lining the side of the road under the street’s neon lights.
Five of the stalls have been recommended in the Michelin guide, but you really can’t go wrong trying a little bit of anything that catches your eye. For me that was grilled squid on sticks followed by Kanom Buang, little pancakes which look like tacos served with a soft marshmallow and egg yolk thread topping.
Jok One Table (Jok’s Kitchen, Yaowarat)
Hidden away down a side alley in a wet market, just a short tuk tuk ride away from the Grand Palace, this is a great spot to end off a day’s sightseeing.
The family who run the Thai-Chinese restaurant has sold crabs at the market for 80 years so know how to source the best quality seafood for their dishes. Food is served chef’s table style in a tiny room and booking is required.
Ann Guay Tiew Khua Gai
This busy casual spot served up fried noodles, an ubiquitous street dish. Flat noodles are topped with either a crispy or soft egg and fried until they are crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.
Another family-run casual spot known for its good value and good quality ingredients. The restaurant’s back room is filled with long tables, big enough for entire families, many of who have been returning to the popular spot for decades. Make sure to try the crab omlette, it’s their speciality (along with the green curry fish balls) and worth getting there early for as they often sell out.
Mont Nom Sod Milk bar
Mont Nom Sod or the milk bar on Dinso Road is a hugely popular cafe selling milk and toast. The toast is thick almost cakey fluffy bread, served topped with chocolate sauce, condensed milk or green pandon flavoured custard and accompanied with a variety of flavored milkshakes making it a perfect dessert spot.
The cafe dates back to the 1960s when founder Mont found his street food stall selling toast was too busy and opened his first restaurant. There are now three branches in the city (and one in Chang Mai) and all are packed with locals until closing time late at night.
Hyatt Regency Market Cafe by Khao
For something a bit more upmarket, the Market Cafe in the Hyatt Regency on the fourth floor is open to non-residents. The restaurant menu was designed in connection with Michelin star restaurant Khao and serves up traditional Thai food with slight twists.
The huge open kitchen means you can watch the chefs at work from the luxury surroundings of the restaurant. All you can eat lunches cost £27 midweek and £33 on weekends.
Best places to eat in Ayutthaya
Just over an hour’s train ride from Bangkok, Ayuttaya is a foodie’s paradise and a popular destination with Bangkok residents looking for a weekend break.
Peaceful and quaint, Ayutthaya has a much more laid-back feel compared to the frantic streets of Bangkok. The ancient capital city sits on an island, surrounded on all sides by rivers as is best known for its many temple ruins which were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991.
One of the best ways to see the ruins is by a guided bike tour late afternoon. I did this through Swasdee Ayutthaya tours (facebook link) and was impressed with our guide Chanin Pornjaroen. Born and bred in Ayutthaya his knowledge of the ruins were impressive and his pride in his hometown was heartwarming.
This riverside michelin- recommended restaurant complete with rooftop bar and huge decking is a laid-back chic spot which specialises in seafood. Try the river prawn, a specialty of the area which is like a small lobster, with a milder flavour, served with claws on. I would also recommend the pineapple fried rice served in a hollowed out pineapple with a sprinkling of pork floss.
Baan Pomphet has eight uniquely designed rooms, all overlooking the river and plunge pool. Rooms start from £70 and main dishes cost between £4 and £8.
Sala hotel and restaurant
Sala has three resorts across Thailand and five boutique hotels, including one in Ayutthaya. The hotel is made up of 26 rooms sat either side of a narrow walkway between curved towering brick walls which have graced the pages of a number of architecture magazines.
The hotel is an instagrammers dream, with a small but stylish pool area decorated completely white from floor to sky, including the walls and loungers. The hotel’s river terrace restaurant has an envy-inducing view temples on the other side of the river.
The architect-designed elegance continues into the huge bedrooms which are an oasis of calm with exposed brick, neutral furnishings and a giant round bath taking centre stage in the open bathroom.
Sala’s restaurant serves amazing food to match the views, with a meat-focused menu including the best duck red curry I ate in Thailand. For those with a sweet-tooth I would recommend the Lod-chong Nam Ka-Ti, coconut ice cream in an iced cream dessert soup with green pandon jelly-like noodles.
Rooms at Sala Ayutthaya start from around £105 and main menu dished cost from around £7 to £12.
Suriyan Chandra Restaurant
The Suriyan Chandra boat trip restaurant experience is truly unique and the most memorable part of my trip. Upon arrival at the riverside site you step through a wooden doorway into what feels like an enchanted garden surrounding an Old Mill shed, filled with vintage décor and furniture.
The restaurant has restored a number of old river boats and converted them into floating lounges, with chandeliers, rugs and comfortable arm chairs. Sipping on sparkling wine and eating delicious Thai sweets we made our way down the river, spotting fisherman and a variety of birds before stopping to visit two temples.
After leaving an offering to Buddha I tried the Kau Chim fortune sticks, though I am still none the wiser about my future as both my guide and staff back at the hotel refused to translate it for me other than to say it is ‘quite bad’.
Thankfully the bad things lying ahead in my future didn’t arrive imminently and I was able to enjoy the rest of the hour-long boat trip with only a mild sense of dread. A huge banquet of Thai specialties was served back at the restaurant. Course-after-course of beautifully presented fishcakes, soups, curries, spring rolls and even a whole fish were brought to our table in the shadow of the former mill workings, before a platter of delicate desserts. Be warned the portions are huge, but getting leftovers boxed up to take away is encouraged.
The Suriyan Chandra boat trip and banquet costs around £350 for up to six people and must be booked in advance.
Roti Sai Mai Abeedeen
The Michelin Guide not only highlights Ayutthaya’s top restaurants, it also puts a spotlight on street food, recommending Roti Sai Mai Abeedeen as the best place to try the city’s sweet delicacy.
Driving around the city you will notice dozens of stalls adorned with bags of colourful strings, which are made from candyfloss. The sugary threads are wrapped in flat, crepe-like roti pancakes and ideally eaten while the roti is still warm.
The dish is very, very sweet but worth trying for the novelty alone.