If you are coming to Bangkok on business, chances are you will choose your hotel based on where your office is located, in large part due to the Thai capital’s legendary traffic. However, if you are going to be entertaining guests or coming on leisure, then the choices that make sense are varied in a way that’s quite different than many other cities.
In the city there are a number of new luxury hotels – Park Hyatt, Waldorf Astoria, the first Orient-Express was just announced, Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton have plans. First timers and leisure guests typically want to stay on the Chao Phraya River, which offers some of the top luxury choices as well as a pleasurable viewing experience with its local boat traffic, since it serves as a water highway for locals. The Siam is a small luxury experience under 50 rooms while at the opposite end the Shangri-la represents luxury in a large scale hotel, The Peninsula just on the other side of the river is somewhere in between. The Mandarin Oriental is the city’s grand dame and Capella plans to open a luxury hotel on the river as well.
Two blocks behind the Shangri-la and looking down on the river from its all-suite accommodations on the 51st through 59th floors of State Tower is Tower Club at lebua. If you aren’t familiar with lebua, it could be because the group has just six hotels in the world, two in State Tower, a lodge in New Zealand and two more boutique heritage hotels in India.
That said, I can pretty much assure you have seen pictures of and from lebua’s Bangkok version. The Sky Bar is iconic and its adjacent al fresco restaurant Sirocco launched the trend or perhaps craze to turn skyscraper rooftops into bars and dining experiences after it opened in 2003. The New York Times called Sky Bar, “the most stunning rooftop bar you will ever see.” It was also featured in The Hangover movie series, and it is plastered all over Instagram, as are pictures from Breeze restaurant on the 52nd floor with its sky bridge entrance, and now lebua No 3, a trio of bars on that same level.
Of the two all-suite hotels in State Tower it operates, Tower Club is the more upscale offering, with elevated furnishings and amenities, and access to a private lounge that serves a buffet and a la carte breakfast, light lunch and supper with complimentary alcoholic drinks until 6 pm (details below). Room sizes are the same, and the smallest suites are 750 sq. ft., a reflection that the building was originally supposed to be condominiums, which is a key factor in whether you will like it and come back again and again. The best rooms in my opinion however are the 2-and-3 bedroom suites, all of which offer both river and city views.
One pet peeve I have is luxury hotels that offer very limited 24 hours menus. Here lebua deserves particular praise as you can order anything you want at 3 am, from lobster to curry or a club sandwich, actually the entire menu. If you arriving from the Americas or Europe, I think you will appreciate.
The Tower Club offers a residential design approach. Flooring is a combination of light woods, carpet and marble, and bathrooms are oversize, each with walk-in showers and separate tubs. There are kitchens with large refrigerators, espresso makers, microwaves and bars, so if you prefer the idea of being in your own apartment to a hotel suite, you will feel at home, even though there are all the services you expect from a full-service luxury hotel. Even the living room areas have plenty of space, so one person can be watching TV while you are working at the dining table, desk or other seating area.
You also won’t find high-tech boxes and iPads next to your bed. You turn the lights on and off with switches, you pull the drapes back yourself and if you want to change the air-conditioning setting, you turn a dial. There are TV controllers of course, but my point is that management is not trying to compete with Ian Flemming to see who can design the best gadgets. As somebody with a cranky back, I find the beds among the most comfortable I have slept on.
The three biggest selling points is room size value for money, having the extra bedrooms, amazing skyscraper views and its signature food and beverage offerings that span the 52nd and 64th through 67th floors. Sirocco and Breeze provide al stunning al fresco dining experiences while Mezzaluna, its top restaurant (2 Michelin stars – the most of an Bangkok restaurant) is indoor seating on the 67th floor.
Recent awards include World Travel Awards 2018 – Asia’s Leading Luxury All Suite Hotel 2018; Fodor 208 Best Award “The Best Hotel Rooms in Bangkok”, “Rooms with View” and “Best Hotel Rooftop Bars in Bangkok; World Travel Awards 2017 – World’s Leading Luxury Suites Hotel 2017; and World Travel Awards 2017 – Thailand’s Leading Luxury All Suite Hotel 2017. The hotel gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from Trip Advisor. 87% of reviews are Excellent/Very Good while 5% are Poor/Terrible, with most complaints about the prices at the rooftop restaurants and bars, something that in my experience keeps it from getting overcrowded, which I like.
One nice thing about Bankgok if you are used to traveling to places like New York, London and Paris is that the luxury hotels here are a truly an incredible bargain. Checking rates for a mid-week stay in June, the 2-bedroom Signature Suites, which are 1,900 sq. ft. are $434 per night, the slightly larger 2-bedroom Luxury Suites at 2,040 sq. ft. are $467, the 2,320 sq. ft. 3-bedroom suites are $546, and the Hangover Suite, named for version two of the movie shot at the hotel, is $945 per night. If you are traveling with somebody, take advantage of the rates and book a two or three bedroom suite. The hotel will convert one of the bedrooms to a spa suite, so you can take massages in-room. If you are coming long-haul having the extra bedroom can be helpful if you are on different sleep patterns or need to do middle of the night calls or work.
If you want to retrace the footsteps of the guys from the Hangover movie, you can choose this suite, however, it is identical to the Three Bedroom Tower Club lebua Suite in layout encompassing 2,863 sq. ft, with four balconies, two king bedrooms, one twin bedroom, two full baths and a guest bath, plus large living room and dining area. The differences are the furnishings, artwork as a tribute to the movie, and free daily re-stocking of the minibar plus as many Hangovertinis as you can you can imbibe.
Three Bedroom Tower Club lebua Suite (7)
There are seven three-bedroom Tower Club lebua suites, each 2,863 sq. ft, with four balconies, two king bedrooms, one twin bedroom, two full baths and a guest bath, plus large living room and dining area. Views are predominantly of the city.
Two Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suite (11 Spa Suites)
There are 11 Two-Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suites, each a spacious 1,894 sq. ft with four private balconies, including one from each bedroom. Each suite has two full baths, although the second only has a walk-in shower, no tub. They are spacious with two separate living room areas, a kitchen, bar and dining area with a table for four. Fresh fruit comes daily, and if you are a repeat guest you will find your favorite beverages stocked into the fridge. Furniture is comfortable. If you are not going to use both bedrooms, I suggest asking to have the second bedroom converted to a spa suite for in-room treatments.
Two Bedroom Tower Club Signature Suite (8 in category)
There are eight Two-Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suites, each just under 2,100 sq. ft, with four private balconies, including one from each bedroom. Like the Luxury version, each suite has two full baths, although the second only has a walk-in shower, no tub. There is a similar spacious flow with two separate living room areas, a kitchen, bar and dining area with a table for four. Fresh fruit comes daily.
Restaurants & Bars
You can argue successfully that the restaurants and bars that span the 52nd, and 64th through 67th floors drive the hotel business. While the suites are nice, good value and service is excellent and attentive, the main show is the dining and drinking, particularly Sirocco, Sky Bar and Breeze, which are each al fresco and offer dramatic entries and stunning views. Coming in March will be Chef’s Table at lebua featuring Vincent Thierry who led the 3 star Michelin kitchens at Caprice at the Four Seasons Hong Kong and at George V in Paris before that. Further plans call for two more restaurants helmed by Michelin chefs to open in late 2019.
Two star Michelin restaurant Mezzaluna helmed by chef Ryochi Kawasaki is the top of the food chain at State Tower in terms of fine dining attracting visiting CEOs and dignitaries, including members of the Royal Family. It is one floor up from when you get off the elevators to access the Dome, and it provides spectacular views, but from all indoor seating.
Michelin writes, “Perched on the 65th floor of the lebua Hotel, Mezzaluna offers sky-high and breathtaking views. Toast to the high life at Sky Bar before settling in for a gastronomic journey. The accomplished chef and his team deliver European delights with Japanese precision in seven-course set menu, along with some surprises. The flavours are balanced and sophisticated, and the food is creative and technically precise. A wine list of substantial proportions and prices accompanies.”
Below is the most recent tasting menu (A vegetarian option is also available), including wine pairings:
After taking the elevator to the 64th floor you are greeted by a bevy of hosts and hostesses with the Thai greeting, “Sawasdee,” essentially a friendly hello. After a short walk around a curved wall you step outside onto a large balcony, where to the left is a Champagne Perrier-Jouet bar. From there you can look down onto the restaurant forward left and Sky Bar at the end, nearly 900 feet above the sidewalk below.
You then descend down a wide staircase in what has become an Instagram moment akin to standing in front of Big Ben or the leaning tower at Pisa. Sirocco offers Mediterranean fare which is now being overseen by a new chef arrived from The Ritz in Paris. You dine with the glittering lights of Bangkok below you and a hip and sexy bar scene at Sky Bar nearby.
There is a constant flow of flashing lights as fellow diners and bar goers take pictures to remember the evening, although while that behavior might detract from the dining experience, here it is part of the fun. Part of the restaurants success was being able to offer fine dining with a view. Previous to its 2003 opening, skyscraper dining was mainly inside with bad food.
The restaurant has received numerous awards from Thailand Tatler, where it received a perfect 10 score to Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It also made Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in Asia as well as gaining notoriety from The Telegraph for “world’s most expensive deserts.” Which brings me to the point that you do pay for the experience. Expect to spend $200 per person, including drinks.
Perched on the 51st and 52nd floors of Tower Club at lebua, Breeze offers indoor and outdoor seating, but the experience begins when you walk from the bar across the outdoor dining area on a multi-color lit bridge and then descend one floor via one of two palatial staircases. Taste Asian flavors such as Charcoal Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Chinese Chives, Wok-fried Maine Lobster with Curry Leaves in Spicy Yellow Bean Sauce, Wok-fried Andaman Tiger Prawns with Okra and Coconut in Tamarind Sauce, and his Signature Jasmine Tea Smoked Wagyu Beef Ribs. There is a 3,000 bottle wine cellar, and like Sirocco, Breeze has shelves of awards and notations, including Hospitality Asia’s Restaurant of the Year, Hot Tables from Conde Nast Traveler, and USA Today, which listed it as one of the top 10 “most cutting-edge restaurants.”
Cafe Mozu is located on the same level as the pool, spa and fitness club, and is open from breakfast, lunch and dinner, however, it’s breakfast buffet is worth the visit. Featuring Lebanese, Thai and Indian chefs, you have a United Nations of wakeup options. It is also a good place to grab lunch, but is quiet in the evenings when most of the action is on the rooftop.
lebua No. 3
The newest venue opened November 3 of this year is a trio modern and upscale bars themed around gin, caviar and vodka. Lebua No. 3 is located on 52nd floor with views of the Chao Phraya River and city skyline. To celebrate, Absolut has launched an exclusive bottle Absolut Elyx lebua LIMITED EDITION by harvesting winter wheat from one single estate, and distilled by hand in a vintage copper column still from 1921.
Upon arrival, guests are greeted by an elegantly lit spiral staircase, leading into three indoor and outdoor spaces with distinct themes. The first bar has a glossy black finish with an illuminated bar and a DJ zone, finished with chic black marble. Moving outside there are two external bars with copper and glowing satin-glass finishes. A P4 digital retina-display dance floor, the first of its kind in the world, connects the two spaces, providing an experiential cocktail journey.
To continue this trend of exclusivity when designing lebua No.3, the team took one step further and will release the brand’s first album, curated in partnership with chart-topping international music producer Andrew Murray (who’s worked with the likes of Jenifer Hudson, John Legend, Gary Barlow, Pixie Lott, etc). This private label album is debuted by DJ Taly Shum, the bar’s latest DJ in residence. The track will also be available for download.
When it opened in 2003, Sky Bar’s spectacular views and its grand entrance helped launch the trend to rooftop skyscraper dining and drinking, and help drive the decade long expansion of fine dining as an experience. With awards from everywhere you can think of and even mentions in The New York Times, it’s not unusual to hear that Sky Bar was one reason they wanted to visit Bangkok.
The Flute A Perrier Jouet Bar
The newest addition, The Flute A Perrier Jouet champagne bar, is perfectly placed on the terrace where you step outside into the night atop this Bangkok skyscraper, so you can enjoy a glass of bubbles, or perhaps a bottle before you descend for an aperitif at Sky Bar and then dinner at Sirocco, or perhaps the reverse. Either way, with the nice views it will be hard to resist. You will be in good company in this case. The hotel sells more Blanc des Blancs at $2,000 per bottle than the entire city-state of Singapore.
Alfresco 64 – A Chivas Bar
Selected by The Telegraph as one of “17 Incredible Rooftop Bars for 2017” Alfresco 64 – A Chivas Bar is perched 800 feet in the air on the 64th floor, the highest outdoor whisky bar in the world. The design concept draws inspiration from the sleek lines of a luxury yacht. The bar is divided into three parts with the first section, an indoor area set to resemble an opulent yacht cabin, featuring lacquered rosewood flooring and sunken seating. The bar counter is made of large pieces of wood accentuated with curves and silver metal lines which resemble the lines of a luxury vessel. The front of the bar takes its design cues from a yacht’s bridge and showcase Bangkok’s best views.
The second section is the Heritage Room, created for VVIPs and can be used for a variety of special events ranging from private parties to whisky tastings. The last feature of the bar is the outdoor area. Designed to resemble the prow of a luxury yacht, it juts out over the side of the building. It features comfortable couches and chairs, teak flooring, while a glass railing all along the edge allows for unobstructed views of the Chao Phraya River. In addition to sampling signature blends from Chivas Regal as well as other premium whiskies there is a one-of-a-kind limited edition “Chivas Exclusive lebua blend,” the first time that Chivas Regal has created a blend exclusively for a partner.
Distil is on the 64th Floor and offers indoor and outdoor seating, with daybeds outside overlooking the city and comfortable furniture sets inside. There is a DJ, a bar menu including raw bar, an extensive list of signature drinks, and cigars in a lounge atmosphere where you can enjoy the views without the crowds.
Ocean 52 is the bar when you enter Breeze and from 6 am to 6 pm functions as the private lounge for guests in the Club levels of the hotel. In the evening the indoor seating offers spectacular views and is someplace to come if you want to avoid the crowds that flock to the rooftop.
Spa and Fitness
The gym is excellent for a hotel, with plentiful machines, treadmills and free weights, as well as stretching areas. The spa has four treatment rooms and the focus is Thai treatments. My recommendation is to have the hotel set-up an extra bedroom for in-suite treatments.
Meetings and Events
The State Room on the 67th floor features floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of the river and city with over 7,000 sq. ft. of space, and can be set-up for events up to 250 people or sit-down dinners up to 150. On the lower floors, the hotel hosts conferences up to 800. The Grand Ballroom can be split into four separate ballrooms ranging from 2,600 sq. ft. to 11,000 sq. ft.