The Manohra Cruise is a special evening boat dinner where you can indulge in scrumptious dishes while watching the beautiful Bangkok scenery pass-by. 9 courses for Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for Manohra silver menu are served on this two and a half hour cruise along the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River. During the 2 hour cruise you will be passing by 21 hot touristy spots of the city including the famous East Asiatic Company, Assumption Cathedral, Portuguese Embassy, the unmistakable Santa Cruz Church, the Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), the majestic Grand Palace and the famous Wat Po (the temple of the reclining Buddha). These introductions to the scenic spots are what really make this trip so magical and romantic. You actually get to experience the sounds, the smells, the ambience, and the lovely atmosphere of Bangkok’s past and present in this cruise.
This cruise might assist to better understand Bangkok’s and indeed Thailand’s history and the growth of its amazing capital Bangkok, city of angels. The Chaophraya River itself has a long history associated with the city, its royal family and with the great temples that adore the shores of this fascinating river. The river system stretches more than a hundred thousand square kilometres within a region representing 35 percent of Thailand’s total land area. 265 kilometres long, the Chaophraya River is also known by the locals’ as the “Maenam” river. “Maenam” stands for “mother of waters”, while the word “Nam” stands for water. Therefore, no visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the legendary “River of Kings”. What better way to do it in than just eat luxurious Thai food and just admire the views (or each other if you are on a romantic getaway) on board a well restored 50-year old rice barges, known as the “Manohra” and the “Manohra Moon”. The cruise is both a great culinary experience and while comfortably seated on board, a perfect opportunity to learn more about the Chaophraya River, its wildlife and its various landscapes.
The first of the barges were introduced in the summer of 1992 for lunch or dining cruises. Due to popular demand, a second barge was introduced in year-2000 for the dining experience. Further more in 2005, another ship was introduced called the “Manohra Star” which can seat up to 70 people, along with an open-air main deck that also accommodates a large bar section.
If you prefer then you can also choose to do an overnight cruise where you have your own double bed with an en-suite toilet, and with a waiter to serve you food as and when you need it. There is also a shower as well! The overnight cruise is the ultimate experience in cruising and is highly recommended for honeymooners’ or those who just want to try something new with a twist of luxury- add elegance to this ancient way of travelling.
Passengers meet the crew at the Longtail Bar in front of the Marriott Resort & Spa pier, and are then taken to the Manohra Cruise to set sail on the River of Kings.
Drinks, including a selection of cocktails and fresh exotic juices such as passion fruit with mango and papaya are served just prior to departure. Around 15 minutes into the cruise, the boat passes the 25-year old King Taksin Bridge which is also known as the Sathorn Bridge. Guests are firstly treated to a selection of typical Thai appetisers including “Miang Som” and “Mieng Kham”. Miang Som is a crispy cake filled with prawns and pomelo (P.S.. Pomelo in Thai is known as “Som O”, so this is why the dish is known as Miiang Som).
The square shaped cake is best enjoyed when taken with one full bite because then you can experience its rich adapted sweet and sour taste. This was followed by the “Mieng Kham” that has a selection of traditional condiments along with Thai chapu leaves. If this is your first time to experience a boat dinner in Bangkok then you’ll definitely find it irresistible because not only does it make you absorb the flavour of the mouth-watering Thai dishes but it leaves a memorable picture in your mind of Bangkok from a different angle.
Mind you, there are lot of “party boats” that run along the Chaophraya River in the evening, which is equally stunning in terms of the beauty and the style of the food they offer. However if you prefer the quieter, and more elegant way to enjoy Bangkok’s picturesque views while indulging in luxury food then the Manohra cruise is most certainly catered for you.
The menu includes other authentic Thai dishes as the “Tom Yam Goong” (Traditional spicy prawn soup with lemongrass and lime leaf flavored), and the “Gaeng Garee Gai”. The former is a clear spicy beef consume offered in a true Thai style (and yes, it’s ridiculously spicy!), while the latter is a slowly cooked marinated spring chicken breast drowned in a generous helping of delicious yellow spiced curry. I always find that Thai food is a neat fusion of Chinese and Indian cookery because it’s got the spicy food, as well as the sweetness and sour taste of Chinese cookery as well.
The favourite dish arrived just at the right time. As we passed the beautiful royal barges housed at the boat and shed museum located near the Somdej Phra Pin Klao Bridge, we were treated to a scrumptious dish of “Goong Sauce Makam”. A fabulously presented dish that contained a roasted tiger prawn (largest prawns’ I have ever seen- I thought it was a lobster!) surrounded by a munificent helping of tamarind sauce. Exceedingly delicious when taken with either red or white rice (“Khao Song See”). You may want to try both the brown and white rice just to compare the two varieties. Thailand is famous the world over for its delicious rice.
The concluding main dish of the evening came in the name of “Pla Krapong Rad Prik”, which is a seared sea-bass fillet accompanied by a sweet chilli dressing.
For dessert there was the traditional Thai dessert of Khao Niew Mamaung(mango with Thai sticky rice). Generous amounts of freshly cut mango slices are accompanied by a brash of tempting sticky white rice topped with soya seeds’. It’s perhaps one of the healthiest desserts one can imagine to have. The Manohra cruise Thai set menu has 9 courses for the Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for the Manohra silver menu. The Manohra Gold Menu is priced at Baht 1,990 per person and the Manohra Silver Menu is priced at Baht 1,400 per person (Prices are subject to 10% service charge and applicable government tax)
Marriott Resort and Spa Bangkok: Copyright Navjot Singh
Ideally located near the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River, the gorgeous Marriott Resort and Spa is the perfect place to while away those tired arms and legs during a vacation. It provides the ultimate in luxury starting from the highest quality of food provided right the way through to the smile from any one of the staff members that greet you upon your arrival. They know very well that you may have come from half way around the world and what it means to you to have a nice hot relaxing shower or a good night sleep after a long haul flight. After all, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression on the customer service and the hotel’s quality in the customer’s eyes’.
By all means it is perhaps not easy to locate however when you arrive at the resort it provides a feeling of sheer joy and relaxation. Effectively it can be described as an oasis within the city. The Marriott Spa and resort with 319 rooms and 94 suites is considered to be the only true resort located within the vicinity of Bangkok’s CBD area. The nearest metro (Sky train) is Silom (about 12 KM away), and is easily accessible by the free boat shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes from the resort to the sky train pier (takes around 5 minutes to get there).
The resort is located on the rather busy (though not so much for tourists), Charoennakorn road. If one was to take a walk on this road, they would not imagine or believe that such a luxury resort and Spa hotel as the Marriott is located here. Though it is hard to believe, but nevertheless, once you are firmly inside the hotel you’ll be greeted with an atmosphere of sheer tranquillity and an aromatic ambiance. I found myself thinking how hard it is to believe that only around 100 meters away from the hotel’s foyer is the loud hustle and bustle of everyday Bangkok. The hotel does not posses such a high rise as some of the newer hotels in the city. Though it has to be said quite rightly it should be a low rise building because it is, after all, a resort and not a full on glass house in the middle of the CBD. While the beautiful swimming pool is active during the daytime with avid swimmers and sun bathers, during the evening it turns into a place where you can just relax and while away your free time. It’s good to be lazy once in a while- and why not? After all you are on holiday!
Like the vast majority of the hotels’ in Bangkok (and indeed in Thailand as well), you’ll not need to go far to find a painting, statue or even a wallpaper dedicated to the Thai Elephant. Indeed, a beautiful painting of the Thai Elephant was the first thing that greeted me when I entered my room. Because this hotel is a resort and meant to resemble something like a colonial outpost in the middle of Bangkok, the floors have no carpets but are laid with strong posh mahogany. The furniture is also all wooden rather than being of a contemporary design. Each room comes with a balcony from where you can get fabulous views of the rest of the resort and the river in the background. In room tea is provided by the Sri Lankan company Dilmah. Visitors can choose the city view (perhaps’ you like to look at lovely buildings in Bangkok), Chaopraya river view (highly recommended!) or the resort view.
The splendid Suan Luang suite is located on the 7th floor in a lovely position that allows the guests to enjoy a full 2 sided balcony from where stunning views of the river can be captured to the heart’s content. There are some fabulous touches to the suite that include original costumes from the film “The King and I”, and also a partial sculpture from a Cambodian temple. You have to see it to believe it.
Nothing beats the feeling of just sitting down by the poolside in the late evening or at night-time and chatting to your friends or family while sipping a lovely drink. It would be so pleasant that even the full moon in the sky would shy away behind the passing clouds- that enchanting cool breeze from the river’s swishing currents’ is a welcoming refreshment after a long hot day in Bangkok. The only sound that will perhaps interrupt your talk is that of a cricket in the background or a boat passing by in the river behind you.
The resort has to be proud in many of its feats that include the period furniture in the rooms, the spacious foyer with the signature club lounge on the first floor and of course the amazing swimming pool area. However the main highlight of the hotel has to be the huge dining room known as the “market”, which usually comes alive in the morning when breakfast is served. With over 5 live kitchens and an area that projects nothing but sheer culinary delight in every possible way.
The staff all speaks good levels of English. While having your breakfast you can get a decent idea of the type of people that stay at this fascinating resort. The vast majority of the guests are from Europe, North America and Australia, and would ideally fall into either the “Honeymooners” or “Luxury globe trotters” bracket. The “market” also transforms into a multi-ethnic buffet and provides a widely popular a la carte menu with scrumptious dishes from award winning chefs.
The Spa itself (known as the Mandara Spa), is around a 2 minute walk from the foyer of the hotel, and is a hidden gem. Even before you set foot inside the Spa itself, the garden path that leads you to the Spa’s entrance is surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil atmosphere that gives the impression of a remote rural area and not that one of a city. Yet that’s the beauty of this wonderful resort- despite being in a loud and brash city, the resort is very much quite and peaceful. Bangkok is by all means not a tranquil city. If anything in actual fact it is metropolis that never sleeps- even if you do. With over 44 different types of treatments available you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice. Highly recommended is the “Honey and Milk bath” (950 Baht for 30 minutes) and the “Mandara Signature Massage” (4,400 Baht for 60 minutes).
There is something for everybody when it comes to the subject of food. Authentic Italian (Brio restaurant) and Japanese (Benihana restaurant) cuisine is provided. Both of these restaurants usually come alive during lunchtime and dinnertime- though both are even more lively and (romantic as well) in the evening. The joy of having a signature “Bangkok Sling” drink comes into practice when one is dining at the lovely “Loy Nam Bar” which is a poolside bar and restaurant that, as with all other restaurants and bars’, comes alive in the evening. If you want to round off a perfect stay at the Marriott Spa and Resort than highly recommended that you go on a Manohra Cruise with your loved ones’ on a truly magical dining experience that you will never forget.
Doubles start from: 4,500 Baht with the City View Room or from 5,300 Baht for the Chaopraya River View.
The Reflexions Restaurant: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
One of the key hallmarks of a top five star hotel is its ability to make available a truly five star gastronomical extravaganza located within its premises. This means that guests have no need to venture into the hustle and bustle of the city centre, especially in the after hours when they are tired and just want to relax and while away their evening in the quiet surroundings of their hotel. Here the menu has an international feel, as one may expect from a French Modern restaurant that is located right in the heart of a metropolis in Asia, with the chef having the pick of the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
I happened to be chatting with a good friend of mine, veteran Boeing 747-400 Chief Test Pilot, Captain S. Rajan, in the lobby of the Le Meridien Hotel in Bangkok over a glass of fine Red Wine. We were both attending the renowned IT&CMA and CTW (Corporate Travel World) event for the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and exhibitions). It was there that Captain Rajan bumped into Monsieur Simon Cote, the Food and Beverage Manager at the Plaza Athenne Bangkok at the Royal Meridien. Monsieur Cote presented the showcase eatery at the Le Meridien, the Reflexions restaurant that offers contemporary European cuisine located at the 3rd floor of this fine gem of a hotel.
From my experience as a travel writer, the difference between an average quality restaurant and an outstanding quality restaurant is that the outstanding quality restaurant provides an experience that leaves a lasting good impression on the customer’s mind.
After all, in life, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression.
Sometimes, you get a restaurant that has the quality food but the environment is gloomy, or perhaps the background music goes totally against the ethos of the cuisine, or even worse if the colors’ of the walls are totally unmatchable to the environment- or a combination of all of these factors. Though a bit quiet during the weekdays, the Reflexions has a neat blend of soothing background music, lovely ambiance, and a smooth creation of colors’ that do not put you off your food.
Music is an important part of a restaurant’s existence- if you have it too loud, you may create an uncomfortable environment, and equally well if it is too quiet it will seem rather dull. Not only that but also the type of music. The worst case scenario is to have lovely food, and it’s all spoiled by music that’s perhaps suited for something else! Well, of course if the food is what matters more than the décor than that has to be a good thing.
Nevertheless, after spending around three hours to experience the full seven course meal, I can say with confidence that one cannot be disappointed with Reflexions. The fact that the Reflexions are located in the La Meridien, ahead of all the over-sexed gastro- places, is a breath of fresh air in itself. Its not exactly plush high in its prices, yet it presents fabulous food and is not over-rated at all.
I asked the Chef De Cuisine, Monsieur Thibault Chiumenti, to present us with a surprise dinner, and he did not disappoint. The meal commenced with a healthy portion of Tartare de saumon et petits légumes en crudités (Salmon tartar with baby raw sliced végétales). The Salmon blends in well with the crunchiness of the vegetables which is good because the flavor of the fish is not too strong then. The presentation was immaculate- one cannot go wrong when both Monsieur Chiumenti and Monsieur Cote are on show in the house.
The detail to attention is a key to the success of the Reflexions restaurant- and this was perfectly portrayed with the next dish, the Trio de foie gras Terrine avec échalotes confit au vin rouge, poêlé avec mangue et fumé avec une chutney de fruit (Terrine with shallot confit in red wine, pan seared with mango, smoked with exotic fruit chutney). Chef Thibault Chiumenti changes the dishes every two or three months, however visitors can guarantee that they will try some of the best European cuisine that can be found in this part of the world. His dishes are delicate and well balanced.
With a well planned layout that includes an open-plan kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs at work, the gastro result of the Reflexions is one that combines theatre with an interactive atmosphere. This should let the diner be fooled because the food is indeed a trademark as were about to see with the third course- Noix de St - Jacques à la truffe noire, endive au jambon blanc de Paris rôti, petite salade printanière et émulsion d’amande (Pan seared scallops with black truffle, endive wrap with Paris ham, spring salad and almond emulsion). All I can say about this wonderful dish is that it is brilliant, rich, full of flavor and color; and with no end to luxury. You can’t go wrong with a dish that has a perfect blend of design and gastro architecture all in one.
If you ever wanted to try one of the divine créations to grace a restaurant table, the nit has to be the Velouté d’asperges vertes et petit champignons, gnocchi de ricotta et huile de truffe blanche (Green asparagus veloute with baby mushroom,ricotta gnocchi veloute and white truffle oil). The restaurant’s modern style certainly matches the food. This creative and experimental approach to presenting food in a picturesque way must be one of the finest inspirations provided by any chef.
In my opinion the most extraordinary, thought provoking dish to grace the table that night must have been the Filet de daurade royale piqué d’olives rôties, coulis de poivron jaune, légumes au goût provençal et ail confit (Filet of sea bream pick with olives Yellow capsicum coulis, vegetables with Provencal flavor and confit garlic). If you ever wanted to write a book simply based on the color, the flavor, the smell and the gorgeous presentation of a dish, this it has to be this one. It goes without saying that this dish was simply refined and perfected to minute detail. It really was so impressive that I cannot find anything wrong to write about it.
It’s difficult to resist temptations such as the uniquely created Caviar de mangue épicé (Spicy Mango Caviar). The Caviar was presented complete with a rectangular slab of ice so as to keep it fresh and kind to the tongue!
I usually find Lamb meat highly unattractive- not just because of the chewy taste but also its harsh smell- and I usually try to refrain myself from even going anywhere near Lamb meat. However, I was in for a wonderful surprise when Chef Thibault Chiumenti presented the rather colorful Filet d’agneau aux herbes fraichespanier de petits légumes du marché et courgette farci (Fresh herbs coated lamb loin,basket of baby vegetables from the market and stuffed zucchini). He definitely gave the dish a complete “Wow!” factor. The brightly colored lamb, complete with the red tender meat, and the surrounding Green fresh herbs, is worth indulging into. If only I could find lamb meat presented to me like this on every occasion I was to eat this meat, then I think I would not have such a hurtful feeling towards it. I loved this dish. The meat was tender, slightly, and not too bland either. It just simply designed to make you smile every time you take a bite- and that’s what makes a perfect experience at the Reflexions in Bangkok.