Join the tortoise shells, typewriters and brass chandeliers at Cabochon Hotel, a little Bangkok bolthole with a yen for the Twenties. Along with its eclectic interiors, Cabochon’s charms include a menu that canters from Chiang Mai to Laotian cuisine, romantic rooms with the softest Belgian linens, and a little-laneway location, away from the clamour of the city. Bring your bathers: there's also a rooftop pool.
Noon; check-in is 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £142.25 (THB5,800), including tax at 17.7 per cent.
Rates usually include Continental buffet breakfast (and some à la carte options, too), soft-drink minibar, phone calls and WiFi.
The hotel has a little boutique selling vintage clothes, bags, shoes, hats and belts, hung on Victorian bedsteads. The spoils-stuffed space spills into the common areas, continuing Cabochon's penchant for the antiquated.
The hotel closes its doors for the Songkran festivities (Thai New Year) every April, from the 11th to the 16th.
At the hotel
Little elevated garden; vintage boutique; well-stocked library; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, radio, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
On balmy Bangkok nights, you'll want a Balcony Suite, so that you can open up the French doors, let in the tropical breeze and survey the courtyard and its flourishing palm trees. If you're happy to sacrifice balconies for more inside space, opt for a Corner Suite, which have slightly larger bedrooms.
Stretching across the top-floor roof space, the pool overlooks the grey-green city sprawl, including the nearby skytain. Help yourself to bottled water and towels.
A vintage Box Brownie, to snap your surroundings; a fan for humid city nights. Don't weigh down your suitcase with tomes; the library has an excellent selection (along with well-thumbed retro editions of Classic Cars magazine).
Smokers hoping to puff away to their lungs’ content should ask for a room with a balcony attached.
This is a grown-up hotel decorated with grown-up things, but children are welcome. Cots (free for under-twos) can be added to suites; there's room for an extra bed (THB1,750 a night) in the Corner Suites. Little Smiths are welcome in the restaurant.
Anywhere: you’ll be preoccupied with the menu and what’s on your plate, not what’s next to you. If you're here with friends, book one of the private dining salons: the Thai Yeh and Lao Yeh rooms can seat six to eight and eight to 10 diners respectively.
Gatsby with a twist. Relaxed threads with a few eccentricities: bow tie; fob watch; colourful socks; froth of lace (perhaps not all at once). Look to the little boutique if you need inspiration.
So you think you know Thai food? At Cabochon's Thai Lao Yeh restaurant, you can discover Chiang Mai, E-San, and Laotian cuisine: a menu with more than 100 choices will be your mute guide. Dishes are inspired by street food (lunch in particular; dinner is elegant à la carte), but the setting is far from the pavement: the Chinese styling and Indochine French accents include café tables and round-backed wooden chairs; walls feature 100-year-old timber from a Thai village.
Perch on a red-velvet Shanghainese sofa and sip a Star Ruby (vodka, lemon juice, purple mangosteen and rosella extract), amid the cheetah skulls, ostrich legs, typewriters and old newspaper prints at the Joy Luck Club, the hotel’s little bar, lounge and library. This characterful little drinking den is tucked away down the left corridoor (when pottering around this hotel, expect to feel a little like Alice in her Wonderland).
Drinks are served in the bar until 1am. Breakfast is available until 10am; lunch is served between 11.30am until 2pm; dinner is dished up between 6pm and 11pm.
Order in-room treats from the restaurant menu between 7am and 10.30pm; from 10.30pm until 11.30pm, you can order finger food. Outside of Thai Lao Yeh’s opening hours, a leaner selection is available.
Here you get the best of both worlds: the buzz of Bangkok, easily accessed from a quiet, tucked-away laneway off Sukhumvit, in the city centre.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (www.bangkokairportonline.com) is 30km away. You can catch cabs from the airport, but it’s faster to hop on the super-speedy Bangkok Airport Train (www.bangkokairporttrain.com) for a traffic-free route into town (www.bangkokairportonline.com).
Take the BTS Skytrain (www.bts.co.th) and get off at Phromphong Station, an easy walk from the hotel (or a three-minute drive).
Just the thought of driving around Bangkok makes us blanch: the traffic jams are infamous (luckily, the city’s public transport is excellent).
Worth getting out of bed for
Early birds should stroll down to Lumpini Park just as the sun's rising. In this lush, leafy retreat, you'll be greeted by locals practicing yoga and t'ai chi, joggers running rings around the perimeter, graceful ballroom dancers and aerobics displays en masse. Style seekers are also in for a treat, as you're an easy walk from Bangkok's bustling shopping hub. Siam Paragon, Siam Centerand MBK are ready and waiting for your custom. For a culture hit, explore elegant Erawan Shrine, the Grand Palace and a raft of other riverside temples, all just a short ride away on the BTS Skytrain.
Enjoy flawless Thai food at Bo.lan, which serves some of the city’s zingiest, most flavour-packed portions. Put your trust in the chefs and order Bo.lan Balance: a five-course compendium of the key Thai classics, including salad, stir-fry and curry. Rain Hill Plaza at Soi 47 Sukhumvit Road, decorated with manicured trees and styled with eco-consciousness, has a bunch of independent restaurants worth stepping into. We particularly like Marugame Seimen, a noodle house on the second floor that specialises in udon and draws winding queues. Stay classic with tofu, spring onion and ginger noodles, or opt for the punchy seafood udon. For barbecued meat cooked the American way, visit Shuffle Rustic Cuisine and Bar (in the same complex), a shrine to ribs and fries that’s styled with industrial good looks. Head to Sukhumvit soi 45, sit out on the little lawn or courtyard at Quince and have a breather from Thai food with European dishes, including toothsome pork belly with polenta.
The Iron Fairies at 394 Sukhumvit Soi 55, Thonglor, is like a bar dreamed up by Terry Pratchett: it’s a blacksmith’s workshop, a gallery, an antique store and a restaurant. A friendly Aussie blacksmith who writes children’s books about fairies (and then moulds his creations out of iron) owns the bar, which has spiral staircases, dark interiors and tables made from converted barrels. Please go.
Reaching the rooftop pool is all we can think about. The Bangkok heat is feeling more intense than normal thanks to the after-effects of one too many cocktails until the wee hours the night before. Suffice it to say, Mrs Smith isn’t too impressed with nearly missing our 8am flight from Hong Kong due to the fun.
TLC tops our wish list when we rock up at Cabochon Hotel on a Friday morning, and luckily the staff spots our sorry state straight away. We’re plied with a baby coconut (two to slake Mr Smith’s rehydration requirements) and a cool towel to refresh us in the beautifully curated library. Mrs Smith is quickly distracted by the French language book collection – bonjour le Cabochon!
Seductively styled in white and grey, our well-appointed Balcony Suite sports a separate lounge and bedroom, with chic colonial furnishings. The generous dining table could seat eight comfortably and the interior details are astounding. Every table, shelf and even the little lift – designed to look like the inside of a luggage trunk and decorated with a pretty orchid – is adorned with knick-knacks that add to the elegant heritage mood. The only slightly off-putting touch is the collection of taxidermised turtles (I’m sorry to report that they are real).
The heat of the day is upon us so we opt to have some lunch and relax in our room. The high ceilings, big open spaces and carefully chosen decor make for a serene spot to compose ourselves for a few hours. Although perhaps a blessing in disguise, WiFi is hit and miss, but we manage to power through with only the odd bit of access. Venturing out to the pool later we realise how spot-on the Cabochon is for a couple’s weekend trip.
From the simple but luxurious rooftop pool, we agree the location of the hotel, and its intimate scale – just eight boutique rooms – are a big plus in our book. Overlooking modern buildings and a green canopy of trees surrounding the streets below, the Cabochon is a little bubble in a busy city. It feels like you’re staying in a private stately home rather than a hotel, with no stone unturned in the dedication to period style. Vintage cars parked out front are a nice touch. In fact, we stumble onto a fashion magazine photo shoot happening on the main veranda when we arrive.
Cuisine is one of the realms where the Cabochon really impresses us. Thai Lao Yeh, the hotel restaurant, boasts a gorgeous dining room, and seems popular with local Sukumvit residents. As something of a self-described Thai green curry connoisseur, Mrs Smith has been told Thai Lao Yeh’s version is one of the best in the city. Her rating is ‘one of the top five’, but she’s tough to please. We dine with an instructor from Le Cordon Bleu School in Bangkok on the Saturday night and she is very impressed with the produce quality and well-executed techniques. As with everywhere in Thailand, the wine list is overpriced due to taxes, but we do enjoy a bottle of the house white that’s worth the price, perfectly paired with the heat of the food.
Impeccable and accommodating service is consistent throughout our stay, both in the restaurant and when we order room service. We miss breakfast both mornings, as we’re in need of a lie-in, but the staff is happy to deliver Continental treats to our suite. Our only minor gripe is the quality of the coffee, which is awful, but the rest of the delicious breakfast spread makes up for it.
Street food aside, we don’t eat outside the hotel, but we do see a number of new modern upmarket restaurants nearby that are clearly very popular. Quince, one of the most recommended, is just a few doors down from the Cabochon.
The Sukhumvit neighbourhood in Klongton Nua is close to some of Bangkok’s more unique bars and cafés. It clearly caters to a crowd looking for something other than the stereotypical Bangkok bar, where trying to outdo each other with sophisticated cocktails and decor seems to be a bit of a local competition. We love being able to explore the alleys and laneways without ever having to worry about the notorious traffic.
Thoroughly rejuvenated, we check out on Sunday afternoon feeling like we’ve had a week away rather than just a weekend. Before we left Hong Kong, friends couldn’t understand why we’d opt to go to a big city such as Bangkok for a relaxing weekend getaway, but to our delight the Cabochon totally revives us with its subtle charms.