*** UPDATE – THE CATBIRD SEAT IS NOW CLOSED AS OF JUNE 2012. RIP ***
Trying to start any business on Soi Thong Lor requires a leap of faith. You’re staking your claim in the most competitive, high-rent market in Bangkok for bars, clubs and restaurants. Yet sometimes a bar and restaurant can be propelled by the sheer force of will and personality of its proprietor. Such is the case with The Catbird Seat, the new New York-style venue on the top floor of the Grass Building.
The owner of Catbird Seat, Raymond, has a history running popular nightlife restaurants, steering the provocative Le Maison in Shanghai, a cabaret across the street from the Communist Museum. He has strong feelings about design.
“We use green lights because the color adds confidence,” he said. “Ever since you were a kid, a green light means you can pass at the stop light, it is the color of nature and grass. It’s a comforting feeling.” We like to think of the color green symbolizing dirty cash, the incredible Hulk and the emerald crown that we sometimes wear while roaming the streets of Bangkok at 3am.
He also wants to focus on attracting female customers, as they like to order a lot of drinks and desserts late into the night.
“Once people come in, they feel comfortable, maybe have a few drinks and some appetizers to relax. Then once it hits 10 pm we start to push the music. Boom, boom, boom, boom! Soon you’re having a good time and spend most of the night here.”
Of course every bar owner would like to open the next Oskar, but Raymond’s idiosyncratic vision of The Catbird Seat will only fly so far as Thong Lor’s famously fickle consumers carry it. Just look at the morons queuing up to eat at Chocolate Ville, but then again Wine I Love You’s success was never based on wine nor food.
The problem, as KohSpot sees it, is Thong Lor’s restaurant and bar scene thrives on the “see and be seen” concept, such as with Penny’s Balcony or Seenspace. But The Catbird Seat sits on the top floor in the back of the Grass Building, meaning the only people you’re seeing are the other patrons. That doesn’t mean the atmosphere is unpleasant, and The Catbird Seat does have a nice view of Bangkok and some back sois. And To Die For makes the “hidden in plain sight” theme work on Thong Lor, so there’s hope yet.
The food’s delicious, with an emphasis on tapas and Italian mains, while the bartender knows the difference between a Sazerac and a Sidecar, even if service is still smoothing out the wrinkles. The Catbird Seat’s been able to break even the first few months, even without advertising, as the venue seems like a natural for private parties.
“I’m convinced there is no future for expensive restaurants anymore,” said Raymond. “We will concentrate on volume.” As such, most of its mains run from 350 to 900 baht.
The Catbird Seat’s success will ultimately hinge on how successfully it is able to merge relaxed dining and drinking with a bouncy lounge vibe. You know, boom, boom, boom, boom!
Location: 264/1 Suhkumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor), top floor of the grass building, the driveway that leads past Fat Gut’z
Mass transit: BTS Thong Lor
Hours: Noon-2:30 pm, 6-10:30 pm daily for food, 7 pm to late for drinks and dessert