Shaken and stirred is how the Swedish General Manager of bar Nest (and also F&B Manager of the hotel Le Fenix Sukhumvit), Johan Davidsson describes the effect caused to the Bangkok event and bar scene when he and his young Swedish fellows at ‘Nubbe of Sweden’ (now Flow) entered Thailand some five years ago.
Coming over from a stint in Australia, their niche was to serve cocktails with a touch of elegance, putting a real effort into it and dressing up in tuxedos. They arouse attention to say the least as so called mixologists, a profession which has increasingly gained recognition also within Southeast Asia.
“People thought it was cool; In Thailand they had never before seen three young guys doing this style with audacious bar outfits and just rocking the place,” Johan recalls.
Bartenders in their twenties from abroad serving great cocktail concoctions was just the kind of element of surprise the local market was then needed. On a relatively conservative Thai scene their service got highly appreciated. The Swedes had brought in something new and just happened to be at the right time and place. And they caught media’s attention.
“I don’t think they would have accepted this almost entertainment style of bartender service from a Thai. But when introduced from outside it got accepted.”
And they did much more than the usual bartender stuff. Johan gets a chance to explain the difference.
“I would say a bartender is a person doing what he’s supposed to do, whereas a mixologist is somebody taking it to the next level by spending more time and effort, having more passion for it and making sure to work in venues where you can do it that way.”
In a nightclub environment being a mixologist does normally not work very well; it should preferably be a calmer place, where guests can savour, where you have the correct type of glassware etc., he explains.
“What this is about is to mix things, a little of this and that, and conceive a balance of the cocktail – which an ordinary bartender does not think much about. So, this is the very professional version of a bartender.”
Soi 11’s entertainment venues
Thousands of served drinks later, and with several other assignments and jobs in his portfolio, the still young Swede is now running the show at Nest in downtown Bangkok – a city he loves for its vibrant entertainment and nightlife scene. And the scene has evolved with more bars also seriously serving cocktails these days plus a much larger catalogue of liquor available on the market.
Situated on the rooftop of Le Fenix this hotel claims to be ‘a hotel where to drink up the action in the heart of Bangkok’s nightclub scene’, on Sukhmuvit soi 11.
Johan gladly elaborates on the topic and this street which hosts some prestige venues attracting many foreign visitors where Nest is part of what he calls “The Bermuda Triangle of Bangkok”.
In addition to Nest the nightclubs Q Bar and Bed Supperclub are the other venues in this triangle, he suggests.
“We don’t want to be associated with trying to copy them but instead representing something new here on soi11. Not a nightclub, not a lady bar, we want to be more sophisticated and casual in fact, where guests can get music and feel that it’s vibrant but at the same time being able to have a conversation without a too loud sound system.”
Nest is the ideal place where to warm up for a late night session and then continue to the other venues. Though increasingly guests also tend to stay longer, Johan has registered.
“Bed is trendy, with a bit more upscale guests – Thai Hi-so mixed with foreigners and chancers, Thai girls, and everything else under the sun. Then we have Q Bar with a different offering; less prude, more casual, a bit heavier music and more clearly targeting foreigners. Q Bar is also better at attracting Thai girls and foreign guys,” Johan describes the neighbours, to which hotel guests at Le Fenix enjoy free entrance.
Upon the topic of the importance of tourists for the area he replies:
“I think all bars and clubs here are dependent on each other, so we collaborate closely. There is no competition about the crowd. The more places we have here the better it becomes; should Bed or Q bar disappear, it would be very bad for the visitors to Soi 11. But now we have Nest and there will be more new hotels here with new bars.”
The Nest manager hopes the street can establish a bit more of a profile, more of an entertainment complex, which the Soi 11 Association is attempting to achieve with theme nights etc.
Al Fresco Attraction
He speaks with enthusiasm about this nightlife version of a ‘Bermuda Triangle’, where Nest contributes with its combination of a modern boutique hotel and a combined outdoor bar and dining venue.
“I don’t think Nest has any negative affect on the hotel; it probably looks very attractive when guests find out what we have on offer. Our hotel guests also have free entrance to Q Bar and Bed, so we have a lot of returning guests. It couldn’t be better actually. We have really funny and active guests,” he adds.
Most of the guest clientele are Asians between 25 and 35 years old but during high season also more Europeans and Americans come. Quite many local Swedes also frequent the property.
The fact that Nest is entirely al fresco also has a special effect on the guests.
In high season [winter] the locals come here because they feel they must be outdoors, in the same way as we feel we want to be outdoors in Scandinavia during the summer. So they think of Nest when they feel the strong urge to be outdoors. So you get a strong push here during the winter period, especially for Thais, when it is cooler in Bangkok. So it’s somewhat of a clash of cultures for us Scandinavians.”
For anyone curious to know, there is food at Nest too. There’s a very talented Chef, says Johan, who used to work at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok for many years and also at Jim Thompson house and whose passion is Asian fusion food.’
Thus one can expect and eclectic and interesting menu.
“Anything from Japanese tofu to chicken wings and steak burgers. The peak time for this venue is from 8 pm to midnight, when guest come to get those first nice drinks or a bottle of wine. And they end up staying for more drinks and then move on to the nightclubs. Then they mainly eat tapas or something light.”