Brunches, particularly those found in posh 5-star hotels, have long been a favorite Bangkok Sunday spot for expats and Thais alike. Even today the prices remain relatively low compared to other Southeast Asian capitals – with the added value of fresher ingredients and better hospitality. Anyone who’s lived for a while in the city will have their favorite location, this one for the fresh seafood, this one for people watching, or this one for the great free flow champagne. With an already established selection of great value hotel buffets in Bangkok, the team at Lookeast magazine wondered if Flow at the Millennium Hilton would make a notable addition.
Flow started off a back runner for some in the office as they prefer city locations to the river. Sure in the Bangkok that exists in ideals and old postcards, the river reigns supreme. Twenty years ago tourists flocked to the waters of the Chao Praya for the best restaurants, shopping, and of course Bangkok’s flagship hotels. Today’s bustling Bangkok has begun to bring tourists inward along the cleaner, more efficient river – the skytrain. For most city dwellers and travellers thoughts of visiting the other side of the river are as rare as a cab when the rains begin to fall.
After a nice, relatively empty skytrain ride to Saphan Taksin station, we waited on the pier for the complimentary ferry to the Millennium Hilton. Quickly we were reminded that life on the river moves at a different pace than the rest of Bangkok as we waited around twenty minutes for the next boat. But the wait was actually enjoyable as we enjoyed watching the various boats go by with their even more widely varied human cargo.
The ride over is smooth, quick, and on much nicer seats than some of the other boats we saw floating by. Pulling in it’s obvious that they’re not going for faux old world style. Bangkok’s Hilton is one of the newer hotels along the river and it shows. Personally I could go without entering modern-built “ancient” Thai building for a few years, so we welcomed the open glass front that is Flow.
Natural light streams into a massive dining area with private tables and large booths arranged for every possible grouping of diners. We’d recommend skipping the river view (spoiler – it’s brown during the day) tables and getting something closer to the food for easier repeat visits for more.
But this isn’t actually where you’ll start you meal. If you arrive around 11 a.m. this walk through the restaurant is more to open your eyes and tease your stomach to a meal you’ll soon sample after a small detour. With the current promotion, diners gather before 12 at the top of the hotel for early morning drinks looking over the river. I said before looking at the river at ground level is worth skipping…seeing it from 32 floors up isn’t. And cliché as it might be, you feel like it’s a proper weekend while sipping a mimosa looking out over a much quieter Bangkok.
After drinks it’s finally time to start the gorging. The spread is large, fresh, and diverse. Platters of food are small and regularly replaced, so every trip around will reveal something you missed the last time around. And more than just a regular buffet, Flow features kiosks from their noted restaurants spaced out throughout the venue. So in addition to creations specific for Flow, there’s are selections from their award winning Thai food from Maya, Yuan’s signature Chinese, and even the table side service we loved so much in our review of Prime steakhouse.
We started with salads and veggies. Heirloom tomato salads, tartars and more were available lightly chilled on ice. There were bites with smoky bursts of grilled corn, sharp vinaigrettes, and everything in between. Honestly I could have, and probably should have, eaten an entire meal just in the veggie section alone. But we had a duty to review it all so we continued on.
Next were sushi and various Japanese offerings. The fish was definitely fresher than what you’ll get at places like Fuji, but sadly some of the knife work betrayed the quality selections.
Then I was off to Prime. The same Caesar salad girl who skilfully created our salad when we visited for ribeyes was on hand making custom mini salads for buffet goers. Also from Prime was a roasted prime rib with Béarnaise, rocket salad with beef Carpaccio, various charcuterie, and a decadent cheesy potato that will coax any lingering Atkin’s adherents over to the starchy side.
After that I started losing track of where all the food was coming from. A beautiful snow fish from a special made to order section stood out as did all of the signature jar encased specials found throughout the zones. There was authentically prepared Indian food, excellent Thai, western favorites and more floating around.
You have to be careful not to overindulge because there are still two slightly hidden highlights to the Flow buffet. First is their lengthy cheese room unlike most you’ll find anywhere in the city. And you have open access. All the hard, smooth, and stinky cheeses you want and as much of it as you and your fellow diners can handle.
And if all that wasn’t enough you still have desserts, which you won’t have noticed as you searched through the different areas. That’s because there’s a whole room where everything is edible and up for grabs. This Willy Wonka for adult palates has chocolates, fudges, cookies, cakes, and chocolate soufflés. In the middle of the room your eyes will draw over to a foggy, mysterious workstation where one staff member will mash your creation together for a lovely waffle cone Sunday finish. I greedily grabbed cookies, chocolates, and more from around the room and had her mix up a gut busting finish to my cheat day.
Throughout this decadent feasting the staff treats everyone with the same professional, attentive, and quick service. It’s my honest opinion that this buffet would be a draw even without the river-view location and possibly even more successful amongst locals, but the journey is a nice treat on occasion. It’s nice to get out of the city, slow down, and enjoy your Sunday… plus traffic is virtually non-existent so you can just a grab a cab home and skip the river back.