Anna Restaurant & Art Gallery has a lovely vibe that makes it the kind of place you want to bring your friends and family in for a pleasurable meal.
By Percy Roxas
It is not uncommon for restaurants to try to re-invent themselves, especially in a city like Bangkok where trends and fickle tastes change faster than one changes clothes or cars. We have nothing against that. In fact, there are some restaurants that, no matter the physical changes they undergo, have remained in our list of favorites simply because they were able to retain the quintessential quality that made us like them in the first place. One of these is Anna Restaurant & Art Gallery.
Anna Restaurant & Gallery, located on one of Silom’s many charming little arteries (sois) — is the third reincarnation of a place called Anna’s Café, which at its peak made Soi Saladaeng very popular among avid modern-Thai food lovers.
The second one, which opened at the corner of Narathiwat Ratchakakarin and Ratchadapshisek roads, was called Anna & Charlie’s Café, and made waves because of a very interesting guy nicknamed “Charlie San Francisco,” who’s life story is the very stuff of legends.
While Charlie is now out of the picture because of bad health, his spirit of “honest food and honest service” lives on. But the new Anna restaurant is not just out to recoup its old glory, with Charlie or otherwise. It plans to grow its reputation beyond that — at its present venue.
But some comparisons are hard to avoid, at least for now. For one Anna still serves both authentic Thai cuisine and outstanding Western dishes still including the old favorites although with many new additions; the menu has grown to 100 from the usual 24. More importantly perhaps, the personal touch and winning ways that have made the first two restaurants a favorite haunt of many have not been lost.
Also like the two previous restaurants, this one is nestled in a house although this one is twice bigger and more historic than both. As well, this one displays the same creativity and flair for fine food – albeit more European food this time — served in tasteful surroundings by genuinely friendly staff as the two prior Anna restaurants were also known for. In fact, this Anna is truly bigger than the previous two Anna’s in many ways.
Set in a 2-rai area, the beautiful colonial white mansion that houses the Anna of today is so big it has to be divided into many special rooms, each with different ambiance, apparently designed for different types of guests. There are private rooms, for every conceivable occasion or function now, apparently as the restaurant tries to attract the lucrative corporate and expat segment in the Silom-Sathorn area. But there are rooms for families and groups too; and there is a bar on the way to the main dining area.
The main dining area of the right wing reminds us of the vintage Anna: spacious, welcoming, unpretentious – with lots of natural light (during daytime) and an overall warm lovely vibe – the kind of place you want to bring your family, friends and colleagues for a great Thai or Western meal.
Among the signature dishes to try at this restaurant is the spaghetti with pink sauce, which I tried hurriedly during a lunch visit (actually not in the proper menu yet). Now I have always been partial to pastas and after the black ink spaghetti that has been sort of a staple for me in Bangkok, I must admit I really enjoyed this one. Made with smoked Norwegian salmon, it is simply enjoyable – in an uncomplicated and easy way – if you’re there only for a short lunch break.
If you’re in for a full meal, some of the most recommended dishes include Lamb Napoleon (lamb stuffed with shrimp and mushroom fillings, Bt350); and Kurobuta pork chop (grilled Kurobuta pork chop with pineapple sauce, Bt250). Rib-eye steak is Bt650 and The President’s Salmon (baked salmon stuffed with crabmeat, shrimps and cheese) is Bt320.
These are my own choices, of course, and they are just among the few highlights of their new comprehensive menu. And yes, there’s a plan to open a sushi bar – now very popular in Bangkok – soon. Many plans are afoot to further improve Anna, business-wise and otherwise, according to our friends at the restaurant.
Obviously, Anna needs to do more aggressive marketing to again tempt back Anna’s former loyal crowd as well as many of the city’s new discerning foodies, who are being lured away by newer, sleeker, trendier dining places around the city. The art gallery section upstairs – closed for the most part during our visit and being planned for another kind of business by the owners, we heard, should be revived at least. Creating more enticing special offers and promotional discounts on food and drinks could boost up guest visits as well as blowing its own horn more loudly in both the mainstream and social media like Facebook.
For the restaurant has so much going for it: the warm friendly ambiance and the lovely palatial setting; the service (the staff seems attentive and always ready to assist although many foreign guests think they should strive to learn how to speak English more); the relatively inexpensive prices (an average meal for two seldom go beyond Bt1,000, depending on whether you pair your meal with wine of course), the big parking space, not to mention the great tasting Thai and Western food, a testament to the innate creativity and skills of many Thai chefs, Anna’s chefs in particular, today.
Indeed we hope that this restaurant will again reach the level of stature that the previous well-loved Anna restaurants have enjoyed before. We have enjoyed Anna then, we did enjoy it now, and we hope to continue enjoying for much, much longer.
Anna Restaurant & Art Gallery
27 Soi Pipat, North Sathorn Road,