I rarely write restaurant reviews but I wanted to give a huge shout out for a place that has become my favourite Bangkok eaterie after just four visits - Steel Roses Restaurant on Sri Nakarin Road.
This is really a review for those of you who live on the east side of the city - in the Samut Prakarn / Sri Nakarin / Bearing / Onnud areas - an area that's largely devoid of mid-range restaurants with the class and ambience that Steel Roses provides.
Most of all I would love you to support a local restaurant instead of reading about another great place in Soi Thonglor or Soi Ekkami. Let's show them that we have our culinary gems on the east side as well.
I haven't researched the restaurant's history but apparently it used to be known under another name and has only recently relocated to its present site on Sri Nakarin Road.
The restaurant was the brainchild of Khun Kanlaya Srithammarach (or 'Nok' to use her nickname) She wanted somewhere where she could combine the three great loves of her life; food, books and poetry. And Steel Roses is the result.
The moment you enter the restaurant, you instinctively feel that you're in for a memorable dining experience. There are plenty of comfortable sofas and chairs and the interior brings to mind Dr Who's tardis. What looks a relatively medium-sized restaurant from the outside, turns out to be huge on the inside.
The restaurant's interior is dominated by an ornate indoor gazebo, under which sits a piano and assorted nic-nacs and flower arrangements. It certainly lends the restaurant a nice touch of class.
Just off the main dining area is a separate 'library-cum-bookstore' and the room offers customers an opportunity to browse and a pleasant distraction at the end or beginning of a meal.
There had to be a place reserved for books somewhere - as well as the resident 'library cat', who can usually be found curled up in a corner or under a coffee table.
Not only does the library have an excellent selection of interesting titles at reasonable prices but is often used as a venue for writer's workshops led by well-known Thai authors.
On the second occasion I dined at the restaurant, there was a talk being given in the library by a Thai monk and an audience of about a dozen listeners. These discussions, meetings and workshops are clearly an important revenue stream for the business.
No one's in a hurry at Steel Roses and customers are very well looked after by the manager Khun Aroonwat Srithammarach (Moo) who just happens to also be the owner's son, as well as possibly the politest and most gentle man you've ever met in Thailand.
In his early twenties and looking a little bit like a roadie for a heavy metal band, Moo speaks decent English and is only too happy to talk diners through any special promotions and offers for that particular day. On my last visit, the restaurant was offering 30% off a pork chop and salad.
You can take as long as you like with the menu. There are no over-zealous waiters standing there with pen poised as you hurriedly try to order food. Khun Moo gives each table a small brass bell. Simply give it a ring when you are ready to order. I think that's a lovely touch. But then again, you only have to look around you to see that Steel Roses pays massive attention to the small and important details.
OK so what about the menu? You'd probably describe it as fusion. There's a list of the regular Thai favourites (prices ranging from 80 - 120 baht a dish) but I don't go to Steel Roses for Thai food. No sir! I can rarely get past that delicious plate of fish and chips (220 baht) or one of the sizzlin steak and pork chop with salad offerings (260 baht up) There is also a good selection of pasta dishes on the menu. My wife loves the creamy spaghetti carbonara.
To wash down your food, there is a good selection of beers (including the wheaty Hoegaarden) and a range of fruit smoothies, milk shakes and fresh coffees.
If I had to level one criticism at Steel Roses, it would be the relatively small dessert selection - and only because I'm a serious dessert lover! You have a choice of creme brulee (which my wife loves but is not my own personal favourite) a cheese pie or something similar, scones and jam (not always available) and the ubiquitous scoop or two of quality ice cream (which is beautifully presented in a tall glass I might add)
On my last visit to Steel Roses, I chatted at length with Khun Moo the manager and asked him why the restaurant wasn't packed to the rafters with hungry foreigners with plenty of disposable income. There are so many of them in that area, one only has to walk around the nearby Big C and Foodland supermarkets to see them filling their trolleys with expensive foodstuffs.
Moo admitted that local foreigners was a section of the community he was eager to attract. But he didn't really know how. His marketing efforts so far seemed to have been limited to handing out brochures and flyers to local 'moobarns'. Even with my extremely limited internet marketing expertise, I can see that the restaurant desperately needs a website to go with its Facebook page. And by the way, the Steel Roses Facebook page has plenty of photos to whet your appetite.
In my opinion, Steel Roses has two large hurdles to overcome if it's going to attract foreign diners in any great number. Firstly, the exterior of the restaurant doesn't do the inside any justice at all. I had driven past the place many times before my first visit, and always thought it was one of those 'country and western' pubs that only really came alive in the evening.
Secondly, the restaurant is awkward to get to. It's not difficult to find - just awkward to get to. It's situated on the main Si Nakarin Road near the junction of Si Nakarin and Soi La Salle (Sukhumwit 105)
What makes the location awkward is that there is a hulking great flyover directly in front of the restaurant. Whether you approach from the direction of Seacon Square or Soi La Salle, once you get on to that elevated flyover instead of staying on the low road, you'll go speeding past the restaurant for quite some distance.
So stay on the low road at ground level, stick to the left-hand side and you can't go wrong. Here is a screengrab from Google Maps that I think might be quite useful. This shows the approach to Steel Roses from the direction of Soi La Salle. You can see the restaurant coming into view on the left and the elevated flyover on the right.
I wish you good luck in finding Steel Roses because it's so worth the effort. The food and atmosphere are excellent. The service is polite and friendly. I just love this place. And as I said earlier in the review, we are so starved of decent, mid-range restaurants in this area.
Long may it flourish and I look forward to hearing about your own dining experiences here.