It’s a typically soggy Saturday afternoon in October. Light drizzle in the air is slowly dampening my shirt, as well as my sightseeing spirit, as I trudge along the footpath.
My day’s itinerary takes me alongside the magnificent Big Ben and the conjoined Houses of Parliament; I’ve passed this iconic landmark probably a thousand times on the night bus home after a big night out, but I still always feel the urge to grab a quick photo whenever I’m up close. It’s probably my subconscious reminding me to inform my 323 Instagram followers that I actually have a life.
I cringe as a giggling group of Asian tourists take a selfie next to a red phone box.
The light rain has now become now a heavy downpour, so I take shelter inside the nearest building. Finding a spot at what happens to be quite an elegant-looking restaurant, I order a high tea set. There’s just something so comforting about wrapping your hands around a warm cuppa while you stare philosophically out of the window as the droplets of water roll down the glass.
But this very British setting is not all it seems.
Alongside tea, the restaurant’s menu promotes suki, slices of roasted duck and fried rice. There is air-conditioning, and it’s on full blast. My bill reads 170 baht. No pound sign.
I’m actually at London Street, a new lifestyle-slash-food mall located south of Bang Kapi, Bangkok, not Westminster, London. This 300-million-baht development is basically a small reconstruction of the Houses of Parliament; a cute gimmick for Bangkok’s locals wanting to get a superficial taste of my homeland.
Replicating a famous foreign landmark (and cramming in as many stereotypical props as possible like a red bus, or Thai dudes dressed as royal guards with those funny hats)—is nothing new to Asia, nor Bangkok. This faux-European design trend has been gathering momentum in recent years, with the success of the quirky Asiatique and Terminal 21 malls both teaching us that Bangkokians love to escape Bangkok, without actually having to leave Bangkok.
Not too far from Bangkok’s London Street, another European-themed lifestyle mall, Pickadaily, can be found on On Nut Road. The spacious plot of land here has been styled around a typical Cheshire village, although the vibrancy of colors and central courtyard feels more French Alps or even Bavarian. Like most lifestyle malls in Bangkok, the focus is more on food rather than shopping; Of course, we have all the quintessentially British food here like KFC and MK Restaurant.
It’s not only the malls that have adopted a very non-Asian looking façade. Faux-European designs have been popping up throughout Bangkok’s dining scene—from the good, to the bad, to the downright tacky.
A prime example of the latter is Lad Phrao’s Alpaca View. The farmyard-meets-German beer house concept going on here is weird enough (especially with the actual alpacas living there), but they have thrown in a red phone box from London, a recreation of Paris’s Eiffel Tower and a Dutch windmill all for good measure. How cultural!
Another vast restaurant out in the ’burbs, this time north of Bang Kapi in Kaset-Nawamin, is Chocolate Ville – a household name for many Bangkokians in this area. The same team behind the successful Wine I Love You chain have styled the venue around a European village, which means more faux-features such as a clock tower, railway station, farmyard barns and cute pastel colored shops. The ‘dine in the park’ concept presents visitors with not just dinner, but a whole new attraction in itself.
My quest to enlighten you with Bangkok’s most ridiculously over-the-top restaurant can only end at one place: The Rome. Again, hidden away in the suburbs and out of sight for most, this Italian-themed restaurant takes faux-European design to a whole new level, incorporating a segment of Rome’s famous colosseum alongside Renaissance-style statues, fountains and Scandinavian-looking townhouses. The Rome’s pièce de résistance, however, has to be their sunken dining booths dotted around a bright blue pool, much more reminiscent to W Samui’s signature seating than anything you’ll ever find in Rome. To complicate matters further, the extensive menu at this roadside restaurant promises mostly Thai food. Not a thin crisp pizza in sight.
If you don’t mind the selfie-snapping day-trippers, inflated prices and cheap props, Bangkok’s faux-European restaurant scene might just be for you. Details of each venue featured can be found below:
- London Street, Pattanakarn Road www.londonstreetpattanakarn.com
- Pickadaily Mall, On Nut (between soi 37 and 39) www.pickadailybkk.com
- Alpaca View, Lad Prao Wanghin Rd www.facebook.com/alpacaview
- Chocolate Ville, 351 Khan Na Yao www.chocolateville.net
- The Rome www.facebook.com/The-Rome-restaurant
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