I’m not staying at the Shangri-La Hotel but I’d heard so much about it that I wanted to visit, which I did Saturday night. Many years ago my sister-in-law was a buyer for a major clothing retailer and often took trips to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. On one of these trips, my wife went with her and they stayed at the Shangri-La, which she described as the most elegant hotel she’d ever stayed in.
But that was years ago. These days it’s still very fashionable for a certain clientele—families, package tours, the Chinese. Part of the attraction is its location—right on the Chao Phraya River and just a 15 minute boatride to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
We dined at the NEXT2 Cafe, the hotel’s celebrated buffet restaurant that curls along the banks of the river. It was a warm evening but there was a slight breeze over the river to cool off the humid night. I’m not a big fan of buffet fare—the sad looking noodles, the uninspired salad bar, the always-crowded roast beef station where a bored chef in a toque ringed with perspiration slices off the smallest chips possible from a haunch of beef that has been sitting under hot lights for hours.
But the chef at the Shangri-La, Lokendra Pal Singh, who was born in New Delhi, specializes in more exotic fare: tandoor dishes, eggplant and cherry tomato massala, Kashmire lamb rogan josh, and a most wonderful stuffed garlic cheese naan. I think I could have just noshed on the naan bread and sipped their signature River Kway cocktail while watching the boat traffic go by and been perfectly happy. Which is pretty much what I did.