The most sustainable Bangkok restaurants range from farm-to-table eatery Haoma, serving vegetable-driven cuisine created from just-picked greens grown in their garden to casual nose-to-tail joint 100 Mahaseth, offering Isaan-style food that makes use of every bit of the animal.
We just spent ten days in Bangkok working on a story for DestinAsian magazine, similar in format to our piece on Siem Reap’s best restaurants, covering the Thai capital’s most compelling restaurants right now. A few of those, Haoma, 100 Mahaseth and 80/20, also happen to be some of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants.
If you’ve been reading Grantourismo since we launched in 2010 with our yearlong ‘slow, local and experiential’ trip around the world, you’ll know we did so with a mission to inspire people to travel more slowly and sustainably, more locally and more experientially, and to give back in some way to the places they travel.
While local travel and experiential travel have taken off in the years since, and travellers are increasingly ‘doing good’ when they travel – even if that just means making better choices about where to stay, what to buy and what to do and not do – I’m not sure travelling sustainably is as high a priority for travellers as it should be, especially when it comes to deciding where to eat.
That’s why I was so excited when I was invited earlier this year to be Southeast Asia editor for Truth Love and Clean Cutlery, a new global restaurants book on the world’s ‘good’ restaurants, being published in November and distributed by Thames & Hudson, with a companion website launching soon. I’ll share more details and a link when the site goes live.
What I loved about the initiative is that I got to select restaurants on the basis of how ‘good’ they are, using detailed criteria such as how the restaurants treat customers and staff, how ethical they are, how much they give back to their community, and, most importantly, how sustainable they are and what they’re doing to be more friendly to our environment. The idea, which aligns with our own mission here, is to showcase restaurants ‘doing it right’.
My hope is that it inspires diners to consider more than whether a restaurant’s food is delicious, its service great, its design stylish, etc, when deciding where to eat. But also to think about where the food came from, how it was produced, the environmental impact of getting it from the farm to your plate, how much was wasted in the process, and where the scraps are going.
These issues are more important than ever. As we’ve seen from the recent extreme weather – the droughts, heat-waves, floods, and wildfires everywhere from Australia to the Arctic Circle, from Greece and Japan to North America – global warming is very real. If any good can come from such tragedy I hope that these climate-driven disasters force people to think differently. Because every little thing we do makes a small difference – even something as simple as deciding where to eat.
The eateries below are all serving up incredibly delicious food but they are also some of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants right now and dining at them will make a difference.
Most Sustainable Bangkok Restaurants – From Farm-to-Table to Nose-to-Tail
A meal at Haoma, one of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants, begins with a tour of the organic restaurant garden by owner-chef Deepanker Khosla or one of his team, all whom are responsible for tending the flourishing planter boxers and vertical gardens. Secreted away in a residential backstreet, the stunning restaurant is located in Khosla’s former home and everything from an iron grill to old timber has been repurposed in the remodelled interior. The tour is a highlight, providing an introduction to the impressive aquaponics system which harvests and recycles water from the restaurant, directing it to the garden and small fish farm, along with a tasting of some of the almost-40 edible plants, herbs, leaves, flowers, and vegetables grown on site. Never have we tasted greens with such intense flavours that evolve on the palate and leave a lingering after-taste. Khosla is on a mission to make Haoma a zero-waste, carbon-neutral, plastic-free restaurant. What the chef isn’t growing from Haoma, he’s sourcing from local organic farmers, fishermen, and breeders. Any organic kitchen waste is transformed into fish food. As for the food served to diners, expect a tasting menu of beautiful, modern, produce-driven cuisine, along with organic and biodynamic wines, and drinks concocted with ingredients from the garden.
231/3 Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Bangkok. BTS Phrom Phong.
Check in: The opulent Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park should only be ten minutes by taxi but can take up to an hour if traffic is gridlocked when you’d be better off walking the 1.5 kms if it’s not raining. The charming Cabochon Hotel is a 15-minute cab ride but longer in congestion when the 25-minute walk is advisable.
We first wrote about Bo.lan soon after it opened in 2010 and kick-started what we called the ‘Bangkok restaurant revolution’. In those days what most excited us after the uncompromising Thai food was the fact that Bo.lan and the new breed of restaurants that followed – Nahm, Soul Food, Gaggan, La Table de Tee, and Sra Bua – were each offering something very different to what the city had seen before. What set Bo.lan apart from the others was its quest to become one of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants – owner-chefs Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava and Dylan Jones were pioneers, the first to work closely with free-range organic farmers and small-scale fishing communities to obtain Thai produce direct from the source. The couple started Bangkok’s first Slow Food branch, established a farmers market in their car park, and sold organic products from a small shop at the restaurant. They grow some produce in their restaurant garden, use recycled paper for their menus, and make soap and cleaning products from used cooking oil. Their goal has long been to achieve a zero carbon footprint, which Dylan revealed is a tremendous challenge in Bangkok. Earlier year they held the RE Food Forum, a conference on sustainability in the restaurant industry. 24 Sukhumvit Soi 53, Thong Lor, Bangkok, Thailand. BTS Thong Lor Exit 1.
Check in: The plush 137 Pillars Suites and Residences is just 15 minutes from Bo.lan by taxi if the driver zigzags through the backstreets, but far longer if he takes the main roads when you’re better off walking the 25 minutes. Salil Hotel Thonglor 1 offers snug budget to mid-range lodgings (depending on the season) just around the corner.
Owner-chef Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn’s Le Du is not only one of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants it’s a pioneer of contemporary Thai cuisine created with 100% local ingredients. Le Du is a synomym for the Thai word for ‘season’ and seasonal Thai produce is the inspiration for chef Ton’s ever-changing tasting menus. The chef works closely with Thai fishermen and small farmers and producers, regularly getting out to the countryside, villages and islands to meet his suppliers, consulting and supporting them, and ensuring animals are ethically treated. Check his Instagram account today and you’ll see chef Ton visiting his free-range poultry farmer and holding the happy chickens he uses at the restaurant. The chef uses organic rice grown on his own farm, only sustainable seafood, and ensures as much of whole animals are used as possible to reduce food waste. Of the dozen dishes on a menu, chef Ton aims for a maximum of two red meat dishes, preferring to concentrate on vegetables and seafood, as part of his efforts to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint. He’s also endeavouring to ensure Le Du is as environmentally friendly as the restaurant can possibly be, by replacing plastic straws with bamboo and paper and reducing energy consumed in the restaurant by minimising use of the air conditioning. 399/3 Silom Soi 7, Silom, Bangkok, Thailand. BTS Chong Nonsi Exit 4.
Check in: Sathorn Road’s five-star luxury hotels The Sukhothai, the Como Metropolitan and Banyan Tree are a 15-20 minute stroll from Le Du, while The Pullman Bangkok Hotel G is an easy 10-minute amble.
Chef Chalee Kader may offer a meat-heavy menu of hearty specialties from Thailand’s northeastern Isaan and northern Lanna regions, but the fact that he uses 100% local ingredients, every part of the animal, and nothing goes to waste makes 100 Mahaseth one of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants. Located in the Thai capital’s increasingly hip Old Town, not far from the arty neighbourhood emerging on and around Bangkok’s oldest street Charoen Krung Road, 100 Mahaseth has a vintage vibe created from the retro soundtrack from the north as much as the food on the plates. While the chef considers his thick, green cassia leaf curry made with braised ox tail, buffalo hide, salted mackerel, and hairy eggplants 100 Mahaseth’s signature dish – and it’s wonderful – when we dined last week, he also brought us out bowls of his personal favourite to try, an earthy offal broth that must have contained every part of the cow. A favourite of ours was the tripe that he had transformed into crunchy crisps that resembled the seaweed crackers of Laos. Kader and his team work closely with farmers and growers of the north, using produce that isn’t easy to source, and his passion and respect for the ingredients shows. Not even a stem goes to waste – it’s turned into fuel for the grill. Nor a piece of bark – it infuses the house-made moonshine. 100 Mahaseth Rd, Khwaeng Si Phraya, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand.
Check in: Just a 15-minute walk from 100 Mahaseth, The Pullman Bangkok Hotel G on Silom Road is well located for grazing on street food in Bangkok’s Old Town of Bangrak and has enormous rooms, many with sweeping city views from the floor to ceiling windows.
Just a short walk away, on increasingly cool old Charoen Krung Road, 80/20 is another of the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants. (Hurry and book a table for one of their upcoming ‘Last Farewell’ dinners before they close for renovation for two months, including a 6 Hands Dinner with chef Deepanker Khosla from Haoma, above). Chef Napol ‘Joe’ Jantraget and his pastry chef wife Saki Hoshino ensure that 80% of their produce is from Thailand, as the restaurant name suggests, although their dream is to use even more. And they’re not sure what they’ll name the restaurant when they do! What the couple can’t grow on their farm, they’re sourcing from organic suppliers and a farmer’s market in Khon Kaen in Thailand’s Isaan region, while their sustainable seafood comes from independent local fishermen. What the chefs are really passionate about is preservation and fermentation – you’ll quickly spot the shelves of glass jars in the corner of the dining space that will move to a special fermentation room – and many of the dishes feature fermented elements. While 80/20’s cuisine is Thai in flavour, the chefs are using techniques from across the globe to create a distinctly contemporary style of cuisine. The remodelled restaurant will also boast a lab for experimentation. 1052-54 Charoen Krung Rd, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand.
Check in: If budget allows, the riverside Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is a 15-minute amble along Charoen Krung Road. If it doesn’t, the charming mid-range Oriental Heritage Residence is a 7-minute stroll away.
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Do you live in or have you eaten your way through Bangkok recently? What do you think are the most sustainable Bangkok restaurants? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.