Dec 27, 2021
Ed. Note: Thanks to you-know-what, the last time we published Best New Openings of the Year lists – for Thailand and anywhere in Asia – was 2019. So, throughout this series, you’re likely to encounter hotels, restaurants and bars that launched in 2020, included both to make up for missing them last year and as a hat-tip for persisting through the pandemic. Wishing all you wanderlusters happy holidays and best of luck getting back on the road and in the air to visit these places soon. – Jeninne
COVID WASN’T KIND TO THIS tourism-dependent economy, yet somehow the past year and a half brought plenty of hospitality bright spots to consumers hungry for new luxury, creative flavors and a change of scenery. And so, you’ll notice this Thailand list is a fair bit longer than every other Best New Openings in 2021.
Why? Larger and more geographically diverse than island-bound powerhouses Singapore and Hong Kong, and without having endured as strict provincial travel restrictions as its other Southeast Asia neighbors, Thailand beefed up its domestic tourism industry while biding its time for the return of international visitors craving the beaches and bustle, spicy food and smiling service for which the country is beloved.
Here is our list of the best new openings in Thailand of 2021—and the second half of 2020 for good measure. You’re welcome.
BEST NEW HOTELS IN THAILAND
The debut of the cooler, greener, younger sibling of Thailand’s oldest hotel chain, Dusit Thani, is just another reason Bangkok’s Chinatown is the spot to be. Four-star Asai pins itself as a platform for experience in a neighborhood that pulsates with action. Here, rooms are comfortable and affordable, but the real draw is its airy atrium and badass neighborhood-style restaurant and bar, which has hosted guest chefs like Andy Ricker of Pok Pok and held parties by the Wonderfruit Festival team.
Opened September 2020; asaihotels.com
Banyan Tree Krabi
The first high-end, five-star property to open in Krabi in a decade, Banyan Tree Krabi is blessed with stunning views of islands and limestone cliffs dotted across Phang Nga Bay. The bells and whistles—72 pool suites and villas, treepod dining experience, state-of-the-art spa facilities and spectacular service—are, of course, to be expected. However, it’s Banyan Tree Krabi’s combination of luxury comfort and nature that truly make the place so magical: The four-hectare site sits in front of Naga Crest Hill and spans national and marine parks that act as a sweet escape from the city.
Opened October 2020. banyantree.com/en/thailand/krabi
As the boutique, haute-lifestyle brand’s first foray into Thailand, this luxe newcomer made quite the entrance when it opened last year. In fact, readers ranked the hotel No. 4 on our World’s Best Hotel 2021 list. With the most private pools in any Bangkok hotel, including on balconies and in the gardens of villas right on the Chao Phraya, it’s easy to understand why. Yet, for one of the top (and priciest) hotels in the city, the property is decidedly low-key: no grand lobby entrance, no overly-opulent design, service that is white-glove-status without feeling stiff—even the delish fine-diner, Cote (see below) is chill. And have we mentioned champagne on arrival?
Opened October 2020. capellahotels.com/en/capella-bangkok
Centara Reserve Samui
Centara is seriously upping its game with Centara Reserve Samui, the first property to launch under the brand’s new collection of high-end hotels. Guests can expect an unprecedented level of luxury: 24-hour check-in and checkout for ultimate convenience; 13 room types; six dining venues; a gin bar where they infuse 35 different flavors in-house; Salt Society, a sophisticated beach club with the most exciting brunch you’ll find on the island; and over-the-top services, like a resident photographer to help snap content for your Gram and a personal butler to cater to your every whim.
Opened December 1, 2021. centarahotelsresorts.com/centarareserve/crs
Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River
Bangkok waited for years with bated breath for this riverside gem, and its opening left no disappointment. Sure, it is technically a hotel, but we’re also dubbing it as a social hub because, with six dining and drinking outlets helmed by some of the industry’s best, a gallery curated by MOCA Bangkok and a tree-lined promenade along the river, it’s a destination for vacationers and daycationers alike. Big breezy courtyards, a dreamy riverfront pool, and buzzing restaurants set the scene for this oasis in the city’s old town. Just wait until their cure-all-your-ills wellness center debuts.
Opened December 2020. fourseasons.com/bangkok
Hyatt Regency Koh Samui
Hyatt Regency Koh Samui was designed with the new generation of travelers in mind. The hotel group’s first property on Thailand’s southern island boasts an eclectic contemporary look (think geometric shapes and vibrant colors); a semi-private beach; four pools, which cascade into each other down the property’s hillside; 600 protected Yang Na and coconut trees; deep soak bath tubs; a pet-friendly policy; and the “Gallery of Eight,” eight Instagram-worthy spots around the resort that make for the perfect shot.
Opened July 2021. hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/thailand/hyatt-regency-koh-samui
Kimpton Kitalay Samui
Built on what was once a chief fisherman’s home, Kimpton Kitalay Samui pays homage to the sea, the village and local crafts. Many of the resort’s 138 rooms, suites and villas—starting at 58 square meters all the way to 628 square meters—come with their own private pool and views of the ocean. Open plan layouts, large terraces and lagoon pools off the various hotel buildings blend indoors and outdoors, allowing guests to truly connect with the island. Couple- and family-friendly, the resort has everything you need to enjoy a perfect vacation—from a variety of on-property restaurants to a large Kids Club and sea-facing pool.
Opened December 20, 2021. ihg.com/kimptonhotels/hotels/us/en/koh-samui/usmkm
Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok
The brand’s first property in Southeast Asia has quickly become our favorite hangout. And we’re not alone—all of Bangkok seems to be obsessed. Ever heard of a lobby cafe so popular you have to make bookings? Yeah, it’s that awesome. But for good reason; the design is simultaneously modern and homey with simply fabulous furniture, the restaurants boast ultra-satisfying menus (read: peanut-butter-and-jelly week and jumbo hot dog menu), the staff feels like old friends, the location is conveniently central, they’re the pet-friendliest place in the city, and they were just certified LEED Silver thanks to their comprehensive sustainability program.
Opened October 2020. kimptonmaalaibangkok.com
Loy Pela Voyages by Anantara
Old-world charm meets modern-day amenities. Experience the kingdom’s scenery and history with a cruise up the Chao Phraya River. Loy Pela’s teak rice barges have been meticulously restored to fit the needs of today’s discerning guests. Each vessel, such as the dreamy Loy River Song, comes with a butler, private chef and resident tour guide to help make the stay comfortable. Guests can choose from a one- or three-night itinerary, or rent out the entire boat for a bespoke program that includes stops in Bang Krachao and the kingdom’s former capital, Ayutthaya.
Opened August 2020. loypelavoyages.com
Rakxa ushers in a new age of luxury wellness centers in Thailand. Located in Bang Krachao, a lush jungle-clad island across the river from the city, Rakxa takes on a holistic approach to health with its all-encompassing programs that cover physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. The group has teamed up leading specialists and fitness instructors to provide the best personalized care. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of offerings that combine technology with tradition; it’s your chance to try some of the most innovative treatments that aren’t available elsewhere in the region. The stunning riverside accommodation doesn’t hurt either.
Opened December 2020. rakxawellness.com
Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel
You couldn’t get more “inner-city” than Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel’s address that’s right in the middle of Bangkok’s bustling commercial and business district. As part of the hotel’s mission to blend business and pleasure, guests are offered the best of both worlds: a peaceful sanctuary in an easily accessible location. Leafy grounds and nearby Lumpini Park add calm, while the extremely comprehensive Sindhorn Wellness—a holistic wellness destination with an impressive array of medicine- and spa-based programs—lets you nurture your body and mind. The hotel has 246 spacious rooms and suites with impressive on-site dining options as well as plenty of the city’s best lifestyle establishments nearby in the Sindhorn compound.
Opened August 2020. kempinski.com/en/bangkok/sindhorn-hotel
The Standard Hua Hin
Famously hip The Standard’s first foray into Thailand brings cool old-school L.A. vibes to Hua Hin, a laid-back beach town 2½-hours from Bangkok. There’s yellow-and-white candy-striped deck chairs, disco balls in the bathrooms, toned-down 70’s tiling in the lobby, and a bunch of other quirky design elements that stand out against the clean, rounded architecture. It’s by far the coolest property in Hua Hin right now and sure to get cooler as things continue to open up and more events, like pool parties and drag shows, are put on the hotel’s calendar.
Opened December 2021. standardhotels.com/hua-hin/properties/hua-hin
V Villas Phuket
Rising 39 meters above the water, V Villas Phuket offers a unique secluded hilltop location above Ao Yon Bay, with panoramic views of the Andaman Sea. With only 19 pool villas—following the concept at its Hua Hin flagship—guests can expect total privacy. The rest are icing on top: generous bedrooms with Hermès amenities, 24-hour butler service, world-class gastronomy at Yon | Ocean House and a spectacular rooftop bar 55 meters above sea level.
Opened September 2021. vvillasphuket.com
BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN THAILAND
Courtesy of Aksorn (2)
Much like the building it’s in, Aksorn, Thailand-based Australian chef David Thompson’s latest venture, has a story to tell. Known as Central: The Original Store, the building on Charoenkrung is the Central group’s first retail store that was built in the 1950s—now revamped to pay homage to the family’s heritage. Aksorn takes over the fifth floor of the historic building, serving long-forgotten family recipes from a selection of old cookbooks. Though the menu is ever-changing, diners can expect a memorable meal with a wholesome story behind it.
Opened September 2020. aksornbkk.com
Assume the delightfully crispy Palmier fries are happening, and then treat the rest of the menu at this stylish riverside French brasserie as a to-do list (seafood tower, sardine tartines, beef tartare, roast chicken for sharing) and get to work. The beautifully designed restaurant begs to be lingered in, so take your time and dive into a few bottles of (surprisingly affordable) wines and most definitely order dessert(s).
Opened December 2020. fourseasons.com/bangkok/dining/restaurants/brasserie-palmier
Cadence by Dan Barker
Michelin-starred Cadence is a culmination of Chef Dan Bark’s personal cuisines and dining experiences. Combining Western and Asian influence in his 15-course menu, Bark and the team from his previous restaurant Upstairs at Mikkeller have thoughtfully orchestrated a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience to give guests a glimpse into his multifaceted world.
Opened June 2020. cadence-danbark.com
Courtesy of Cetara (2)
Named after a traditional fishing village on the Amalfi Coast, Cetara, by the team behind Giglio Trattoria (see below), is seafood heaven. The menu includes authentic southern Italian dishes like the impetta di Cozze mussels and Carnaroli rice with blue lobster—all made using ancient marine traditions and cooking techniques. The manager gives excellent wine recs, so leave that in his hands while you OD on crab and calamari. The bright, airy and relaxed Mediterranean interior is an attraction of its own, especially for leisurely sunny-day brunches.
Opened October 2021. .facebook.com/cetarabangkok
An uber-luxe dining room overlooking the Chao Phraya River inside Bangkok’s best hotel (per the T+L World’s Best Awards 2021) is the perfect location for a restaurant from three-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco, whose Mirazur in the South of France was No. 1 on the World’s 50 Best list 2019. Côte picks up the theme of Riviera dining with a gorgeous seafood-strong menu executed with brilliance by Davide Garavaglia, formerly the chef de cuisine at Mirazur—and just picked up a Michelin star of its own in the 2022 Guide. Wines are brought to you by the passionate, playful somm Jay Bottorff, who spent the past couple of years pre-opening accumulating a heavy-on-naturals cellar with an astonishing number of grower-vintner champagnes.
Opened October 2020. capellahotels.com/en/capella-bangkok/dining
And here we were thinking tapas were already sexy, and chef Willy Trullàs Moreno saunters into Bangkok with his tapas tasting-menu extravaganza where the only choice you have to make is whether you want a lot of courses or a whole lot of courses. The new Bangkok outpost of his OG El Willy on the Bund is just as fun, perhaps even more so as the space is more intimate, and without the views of Shanghai to distract you, you can focus on the open kitchen, the piggy and lobster decor all over the walls (the restaurant was designed by his brother Max), and of course the food. Tuna tostadas and razor clams for days.
Opened November 2021. instagram.com/elwillybangkok
Giglio Trattoria Fiorentina
Courtesy of Giglio Trattoria Fiorentina (2)
This was the hottest new addition of 2020 to the always-popping Sathorn Soi 12. Giglio Trattoria Fiorentina by Chef Manuelo Pintore (of Rocket Coffee Bar and Cetara) and Paolo Vitaletti (you know him from Peppina, Appia and Cetara) is a warm homey restaurant with as good a vibe as the food it serves — that would be simple, good-for-the-soul Tuscan food. Take your pick among the delicious grilled meats (if anyone can make #dryagedporn a thing it’s these guys?), traditional focaccia sandwiches, and handcrafted pastas (the pici al ragu di salsiccia is to die for).
Opened April 2020. https://giglio-trattoria-fiorentina.business.site
Courtesy of HERE BKK (2)
Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019, Garima Arora has taken over a traditional Thai home in Thonglor and converted it into the space for her award-winning restaurant Gaa (ranked No. 46 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020 list) and a new modern Indian all-day eatery and bar, HERE. The creative menu at HERE, which includes familiar Indian dishes and small bites with a twist, makes it an exciting place to return to again and again. T+L Tip: Locals in the know go for breakfast!
Opened November 2020. herebkk.com
The first location for the famed restaurant by chef Andreas Caminada outside his homeland of Switzerland is an elegant jewel box inside The St. Regis Bangkok. As presented by chef David Hartwig, the staunchly European fare fuses with Thailand’s family-style eating culture and has been a hit since opening, already scoring a Michelin star. Shared dishes intend to bring eaters together, and we can think of few things better to bond over than caviar tartlettes and luscious slow-baked dark chocolate-rum custsoufflé.
Opened October 2020. ignivbangkok.com
Le Normandie by Alain Roux
Mandarin Oriental’s continually starred Le Normandie has been the backdrop of many anniversaries, birthdays, proposals and other celebrations throughout the years. Now, world-acclaimed chef Alain Roux of England’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, The Waterside Inn, is at the helm of the restaurant’s grand reopening. Roux himself had made several trips to Bangkok with his father, the late Michel Roux, in the past as guest chefs of Le Normadie’s kitchen, so the new partnership has been highly anticipated. Quality ingredients, simple flavors, flawlessly presented. Current talk of the town: the dry-aged duck from Challans hand-carved at your table and as juicy as a prime rib.
Reopened December 1, 2021. mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
Dim lights. Breezy, contemporary design. Floor-to-ceiling back bar complete with library-style rolling ladder. Crispy artichoke. Lobster linguine. Apéritifs. And an all-female bar team. Ms.Jigger is the modern Italian restaurant that’s as perfect for a quick, cold Negroni as it is for camping out all night with a truffle pizza and the cocktail cart.
Opened October 2020; kimptonmaalaibangkok.com/bangkok-restaurants/ms-jigger
Nusara and Lahnyai Nusara
Courtesy of Nusara (2)
The pandemic saw apparent miracle-maker chef Thitid Tassanakajohn, better known as Chef Ton, open two new restaurants. The first, Nusara, is a 10-seat private room in a historic Old Town shophouse named after his late grandmother that elevates his family recipes by bringing into play his mastered techniques and beautiful presentation. It landed at No. 20 on Asia’s 50 Best in less than a year. Naturally, a spin-off was in order: the brand-new Lahnyai Nusara is a bit more modern in flavors and location, inside a renovated manse filled with similarly high-minded F&B.
Nusara opened in June 2020. Lahnyai Nusara opened in November 2021. facebook.com/nusarabkk
There are few places we’d rather soak up Chao Phraya river views than this airy restaurant at Four Seasons Bangkok. That’s partly because the stylish Lake Como-inspired terraces and natural light-infused dining rooms are a total vibe and make us feel like some power-lunching media mogul, but mostly because chef Andrea Accordi’s menu of hand-pulled pastas and other Italian favorites are some of the best in the city.
Opened December 2020. fourseasons.com/bangkok/dining/restaurants/riva-del-fiume-ristorante
All of Bangkok shed a tear when Joe Napol and Saki Hoshino left their darling—and T+L fave—80/20 last year. So when the husband-and-wife duo announced their new concept, a casual spot serving intensely flavorful Thai dishes and spins on International comfort foods, we were first in line to visit. From a banging kraprow burger to a nose-clearing nam prik starter to a country fair-style funnel cake topped with Saki’s homemade ice cream, come hungry—and thirsty! The dishes are primed for drinking.
Opened October 2021; facebook.com/samlor.bkk
Locals will agree that Bangkok does not need another Italian restaurant. However, Via Emilia is a rare exception. The restaurant sits on Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra road and serves up authentic, carb-heavy regional cuisine from Emilia-Romagna. The menu covers a lot of Italian favorites—a something-for-everyone kind of place—but the dishes (namely the parma e burrata pizza and lasagna Bolognese) are some of the best iterations of the classics we’ve ever had.
Opened February 2021. facebook.com/viaemiliabangkok
One of the most active chefs in the Thai culinary scene in recent years, Chalee Kader expands his empire with the opening of Wanayook in the Victory Monument neighborhood. The all-day restaurant pays tribute to the nostalgic flavors of Thailand’s khao khaeng culture (rice and curry stalls) with a 10-course tasting menu that highlights regional Thai cuisines and local ingredients — from southern-style bailiang and eggs to Kader’s take on the ever-classic nam prik kapi.
Opened April 2021. facebook.com/wanayook
Yu Ting Yuan
Courtesy of Four Seasons Bangkok (2)
Good things come to those who wait, so go ahead and make your booking for Yu Ting Yuan now, because you might not get a table for another two months. This was the case from the moment it opened and promises to continue after the restaurant became the only Chinese restaurant in Bangkok with a Michelin star, just awarded in the 2022 Guide. But trust us, the Peking duck and char sui, which are expertly made by two-Michelin-starred chef Qui Xiaogui, who decamped to Bangkok from Guangzhou with his entire team, are more than worth the wait. Plus, a meal in the mod, bespoke-art bedecked dining room overlooking a water garden feels like a treat on its own.
Opened December 2020. fourseasons.com/bangkok/dining/restaurants/yu-ting-yuan
BEST NEW BARS IN THAILAND
In a city filled with rooftop bars, who needs another, right? Wrong. With a loft-like, tropico-pop laid-back air (think: DJ spinning Ibiza house music and waiters wearing pastel linen blazers) and a cheeky drinks menu that comes coded on the cocktail menu by potency, Bar.Yard is the fuss-free, good-vibes-only sky bar you’ve been looking for—right in the center of town, atop the Kimpton Maa-Lai hotel. In fact, it’s the one everyone’s been looking for, so reserve a spot ahead of time.
Opened July 2020; kimptonmaalaibangkok.com/bangkok-restaurants/baryard-rooftop-bar
You’ll fall in love with BKK Social Club before you even sip the cocktails or taste the food, thanks to the insanely glam interiors—deep-green banquettes, chandeliers flowing with ferns, gilt detailing, extra-high ceilings—inspired by the legendary lifestyle of Bueno Aires. But this world-class bar serving cocktails is more than a feast for the eyes. By that, we mean to say that libations here are expertly made by superstar bartender Philip Bischoff. Meaning you’ll be wanting to order a signature drink even if you’re more of a classic type of guy or gal.
Opened December 2020. fourseasons.com/bangkok/dining/lounges/bkk-social-club
House of Heals
The good times don’t stop rolling at House of Heals, even, or perhaps especially, when they’re hilariously poking fun of you, dear audience. Founded by one of Asia’s iconic and Thailand’s most famous drag queens, Pangina Heals, this raucous spot will have you dancing and singing your head off to all the chart-topping pop hits from the last few decades, with drag shows by local stars, quality live music, DJ sets—and Pangina’s outrageously acrobatic dance moves and acerbic wit. They’re currently showing on a pop-up basis, and frequently sell-out, so check their Instagram account for the latest details. Prepared to be wildly entertained… and probably lose your voice.
Opened July 2020. https://www.thehealsbkk.com
Courtesy of Mod Kaew (2)
Things that make this Mod Kaew bar an excellent place to drink: The natural wines are well-crafted and -curated but not precious. (The somms are actually just the funky-wine-lovin’ owners!) The cozy space leans more toward dive bar than wine bar. And the menu features hits from some of Bangkok’s favorite chefs along with original bites, like pan-fried wagyu potstickers, that are exactly what you want to eat after a few bottles of juicy Pét-nat.
Opened March 2021. facebook.com/ModKaewBKK
We’d argue that the concept behind Stella is just as exciting as the cocktails they’re concocting. Stella’s theme is inspired by formidable female characters in Asian history; this is reflected in the extravagant Art Deco interiors (what we imagine Jay Gatsby’s parties looked like—white peacock included) as well as the menu, which incorporates regional spirits and herbs. Sidle up to the bar for an impromptu liquor tasting, or a course of desserts by pastry chef Sylvain Constans as delectable as IG-worthy.
Opened October 2020. capellahotels.com/en/capella-bangkok/dining/stella
Courtesy of Tax Bar (2)
Industry veterans Niks Anuman-Rajadhon and Gun Lee have made their mark in Old Town and Chinatown with a slew of hip bars (Teens of Thailand and Asia Today). With Tax—their latest venture just minutes away from the other two spots by foot—the goal is “to harmonize [their] homemade vinegars and combine [them] with ingredients that have a lot of umami, kakumi and savory notes.” Expect savory straight-to-the-point drinks that arrive free of frills: you won’t get any edible flowers in your glass, but the grungy paint-smeared den makes for a good substitute photo op.
Opened November 2020. facebook.com/taxbarbkk
To read about more the Best New Openings in other countries around the region, see here.