Pads Thai on the cheap

MICHAEL GEBICKI
Last updated 09:04 03/01/2014
Bangkok

SURPRISINGLY AFFORDABLE: Poolside at the Metropolitan by Como.

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Bangkok does hotels the way Switzerland does nice wristwear. These are some of the world's finest hotels, at keen prices.

For well under $200 you can spend the night in a hotel that would cost twice as much in most other Asian capitals - in a city that offers endless diversions by way of shopping, food and spa treatments.

Even in this distinguished company, the Metropolitan by Como occupies a place all its own. From the sculptural floral arrangements in the lobby to the precise, uncluttered geometry and tonal arrangements of chocolate and white, the style is minimalist chic. Staff uniforms are by Comme des Garcons, with footwear by Calvin Klein.

The standard city rooms are airy, light and white, with clever lighting and oversize bathrooms, but upgrade yourself to one of the metropolitan rooms. Measuring more than 50 square metres, with a king bed, huge windows and super-size, limestone-clad bathrooms, these are rooms where couples need to shout to hold a conversation. At an advance purchase price of about $155 - $30 more than the basic city room - they're an absolute steal.

The Metropolitan comes with wi-fi throughout, daily yoga classes, a gym, a 25-metre pool and a plush spa. Coming from the same stable as the esteemed Como Shambhala in Ubud, the spa treatments elevate you to somewhere adjacent to heaven.

But it is in the food department that the Metropolitan shines brightest. You're in the presence of gastronomic royalty. This is the home turf of Nahm, the acclaimed restaurant where Australian chef David Thompson has wrought a small revolution in Thai cuisine.

In-house residence does not guarantee you a table. To dine at Nahm - rated No 32 on the 2013 S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna list of the world's top restaurants - you must book weeks in advance.

One workaround is to book the cuisine package. It's worth it. Nahm's mirror-finish black granite floor with timber inserts and the cross-hatch shoji screens suggest a gastronomic temple, reinforced by the raw-brick central pillars that reference the stupas of Ayutthaya, the former Thai capital.

This is about as far from standard-serve pad thai as you can possibly get. The food that Thompson orchestrates is Thai as you've never tasted it before, a calibrated blend of sweet, sour and spice culled from recipes that come from old-school works of Thai cuisine.

However, I have a beef. Our kanom jeen noodles, made in a process that takes three days to complete, come with several curry dishes. These are accompanied by bowls of herbs and condiments and bits of banana plant and we are offered dining suggestions by the maitre d'. The soft boiled egg should be mixed with the chicken curry - which leads to some awful jokes - and the lemon basil munched with the prawn dish. He's right, it adds a new suite of flavours to the curry dishes, but I'm feeling suddenly dismasted in this unfamiliar culinary sea. Food that requires instructions risks falling into the too-hard basket.

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Finally, location. Even some of the grandest hotels in Bangkok usher you straight on to that swirling maelstrom that is street life in the Thai capital. The Metropolitan is located at the end of a palmy drive, at the back of a generous courtyard where serenity reigns.

A calm, cool refuge in Bangkok - now that's certainly worth shouting about.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION comohotels.com

WHAT Metropolitan by Como, Bangkok. 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok.

HOW MUCH Rooms from THB3600 ($133) plus taxes.

TOP MARKS The food and beverage outlets, and especially the gorgeous food in Glow, champion of raw food and low-temperature cooking. Try the juices and don't miss the wonderful cold porridge made from finely ground coconut with almonds served with banana, coconut shreds and strawberries.

BLACK MARK Access to the pool is a complicated path through Glow restaurant and the spa. Not a good look when you're dripping.

- FFX Aus

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