The 1930s Shanghai ‘speak easy’ — Maggie Choo’s — comes to 21st century Bangkok and blends in perfectly.
By John Howe.
I take a step forward and push my way through heavy green curtains of the Maggie Choo´s Bar, just to find myself staring down a dark staircase. Walking slowly, I cast my eyes around the unfamiliar territory and feel other eyes checking me out.
I enter a dark room dimly lit by red lamps. My eyes take their time to adjust to the darkness, and gradually reveal more and more. There are couples who sit at tables eating and drinking, while talking in hushed voices. I navigate to the bar counter, climb on the high stool and order Nelson´s “Touch Punch” — and a punch they deliver: red wine, gin, grand marnier, sangria, and a whole load of fruit. The crimson liquid fills my mouth with a hint of of blueberry and lime. The strong shot of gin warms my core. I lift my glass and take another slug.
Somebody is looking at me. It is the resplendent Queen Empress Victoria in her India Crown, looking down at me from the wall. She seems to be in deep stage of contemplation about the scene here.
I see more couples lounging and chatting on comfortable Chesterfield sofas and chairs. An enigmatic smile graces the ladies lips, and men´s eyes can not hide the longing for a passionate embrace at the end of the night. For some of us, that will be at the time of first sun-rays through closed curtains. A sly and wry leer appears on my face, but disappears quickly.
I call the bartender and order an “Empress of India,” in honor of the old gal. The drink is a combination of vodka, lime and soda mix and the glass is adorned by delicate white dragon fruit. I sip the intoxicating concoction lazily, while wondering around the room.
Heavy iron doors, which remind of historical ship´s bulkheads reveal more intimate spaces. Small rooms offer a shade for lovers who wish to share their secrets in private, enjoy a few cocktails and spend a night like no other. I return to the bar, browse the extensive cocktail menu again and order a Hay Market Hector; a drink in honor to the Victorian Hay Market in London, where “the ladies of the night” and their pimps used to wait for their lusty customers. It consists of white rum, pomegranate, molasses, mint and lime, and almost rocks me off my chair.
In my wandering absence I´m surprised by a bevy of beautiful ladies in traditional body-hugging Chinese satin dresses. They have taken positions on the swings, over the grand piano or the bar counter. Pouting and rocking back and forth, these muses intoxicate the atmosphere with a dreamy allure. In the corner, a band plays mellow jazzy tunes and a crooner sings in smooth, velvety voice and lulls the clientele into the suitable mood.
In conclusion, Maggie Choo´s transports you back to the 1930s Shanghai: a hot pot of cultures and famous for the extremely Bohemian bars. If you wish to recreate those heady Oriental times, then head down to Maggie Choo´s and indulge your fantasies. You will want to return.
Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom, 320 Silom Rd,
Open Tues-Sun 4 p.m. onwards