Bangkok's 4 best moderately-priced French restaurants

Bangkok's 4 best moderately-priced French restaurants

The 2011 French festival may be almost over, but the feast is only just beginning. Bon appetit
bangkok restaurant-Bangkok food- french food
An elegant simplicity characterizes all the best French food.

As La Fête -- Bangkok’s two-month festival of all things Gallic -- shrugs to a close, many of us will be tempted to exercise our Francophile tendencies further: smoking Gitanes; having sex in the afternoon; reading existentialist philosophy; maybe all three at once.

And, of course, sample a little French cuisine. Sadly, many of the high-profile restaurants in Bangkok seem designed to lure people who don’t really care what they eat, so long as it’s expensive.

The food is often good, but the emphasis on high-cachet ingredients rather masks the elegant simplicity that characterises the best French food.

Real French people tend to be thin on the ground at these glossy eateries, as they prefer their normal stamping grounds in the vicinity of Silom.

So, if your style icon is less Coco Chanel, more Gérard Depardieu, here are the places to go:

 Aubergine

bangkok restaurant-Bangkok food- french foodNunteera Cox trained at Leiths in London, and is motivated by a straightforward mantra: “I love food”.

The style and ambience of her restaurant, Aubergine, is partly determined by the structure of the 1940s house it occupies; rather than a conventional open restaurant space, it’s more like a collection of distinct dining rooms, which adds to the cozy atmosphere.

Nunteera recommends extra-garlicky frog’s legs to begin, or maybe escargots, followed by rabbit stew that benefits from a good kick of mustard. Crêpes Suzette is presented in all its pyrotechnic glory, and for once tastes as good as it looks.

Aubergine, 71/1, Saladaeng 1/1; +66 (0)2 234 2226; www.aubergine.in.th

Paris Bangkok

Bangkok food-Parisian food- Bangkok restaurantJust round the corner is a relative newcomer. Paris Bangkok is a little more cosmopolitan in appearance, with Buddha statues mingling with Art Nouveau posters, and one or two of the dishes edge into fusion territory.

But Swiss-born manager Philipp Seipelt characterises the menu as honesty with just a twist of refinement, suggesting oeufs mollets (soft-boiled eggs), and then navarin d’agneau (lamb stew), washed down with a reasonable Côtes du Rhône. The lunch menu is a particular steal.

Paris Bangkok, 120 Saladaeng 1/1; +66 (0)2 233 1990; www.parisbangkok.com

Le Pré Grill 

bangkok restaurant-Bangkok food- french foodLe Pré Grill has led a nomadic existence since it opened in 2004, and its current location at the top of Narathiwat doesn’t necessarily do justice to its cuisine.

Chef-owner Jai Lafon lived in France for 17 years, and learned that some things are best not messed around with. For example, his by-the-book duck confit, crisp on the outside and tender within; he won’t reveal where he gets such fat duck legs in Thailand.

He suggests a St.-Émilion to accompany it, followed by soothing blanc manger with a tart berry coulis.

Le Pré Grill, 2 Narathiwat Road; +66 (0)2 266 5899; www.lepregrill.com

Le Bouchon

But the daddy of all authentic French restaurants has to be Le Bouchon, a tiny, dark bistro deep within the modern Gomorrah that is Patpong.

“Cooking is like music,” rumbles Lyons-born owner Serge Martiniani, who has been working in restaurants for 50 years. “There are many different styles. Here, we play jazz.”

And as if to prove his improvisatory point, he wanders off to prepare a customer’s steak tartare, like Miles Davis investigating a tasty riff. On his return, he proposes goose-liver ravioli to begin, followed by beef cheeks in red wine, with a nice bottle or two of Médoc. Then apple tart with ice cream.

In keeping with its location, Le Bouchon is deliciously unhealthy.

Le Bouchon, 37/17 Patpong 2; +66 (0)2 234 9109

 

Tim Footman has written for The Guardian, Mojo, Prospect, Thailand Tatler and the Bangkok Post. He is the author of "The Noughties 2000-2009: A Decade that Changed the World."
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