The beginning of year 2010 marked the start of a “new” journey for the three Swedes behind Flow Cocktail in Thailand with the opening of Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar (H&S) in Bangkok, positioning them even more strongly as part of the Thailand bar and dining scene.
Prior to this, the brothers Ben-David (Bennie) and Dannie Sorum plus Mr. Thomas Anostam (who joined them more recently) had already proven themselves on the Asian bar and cocktail stage. They had come to Thailand from bartender jobs in Australia.
Some five years later they were successful beverage and event consultants all over Asia. The timing for their arrival had been perfect as the drinking culture started to evolve substantially in Southeast-Asia and certainly in Thailand. Conjuring up cocktail creations was now synonymous with the growing ‘mixologist’ trend. And in Thailand, as young foreigners, they were certainly something new on the scene.
Thailand’s first national cocktail, Siam Sunrise, and a cocktail book called Tipple Thai based on Thai herbs and fruits are also among their achievements.
After some years of consultancy circumstances lead them on to become restaurateurs.
Gastro bar concept
“One must be ready for opportunities, to jump on the train. And this wasn’t exactly planned; we had only thought of that we should open up our own place sometime in the future,” says Bennie.
They were introduced to a site on Soi Ruamrudee, considered pros and cons – and believed there was great potential. With the by now in-depth knowledge of the scene it dawned upon them that many in Bangkok was indeed yearning for a different take on dining and drinking.
A Thai chef, Ian Kittichai, who has made it big abroad also dared to join forces with them in this bold venture introducing an untried concept here in the form of a London-meets-New-York-meets-Asia Gastro Bar.
As they looked outwards for inspiration, and the consequences for many fine dining outlets due to the recent recession, they opted for a more price-friendly concept, and mixing it with a western bistro – a more noisy and less trendy kind of dining room and of course with a gigantic bar.
This segment was missing on the market aside the usual suspects such as Irish pubs, Italian eateries etc. A hidden better side, says Benny, with a hint at the name.
“We have refined classics in the bar and the kitchen, so come and experience a refined Bangkok!” Thomas invites.
Laidback and playful
And so far it seems the concept was right: since gradually opening they have enjoyed brisk business.
“What surprised us was how quickly it happened; it did not take many months until it filled up completely,” says Bennie.
“We have been very positively welcomed and it’s great to see that people appreciate one’s vision. The idea behind it was really to create a place that oneself was missing,” comments Dannie.
The three Swedes, often seen in action at H&S, are themselves advocates for a come-as-you-are concept, wearing casual t-shirts and jeans.
Dannie explains: “Wearing suites can make a place a bit too stiff and exclusive – which we are definitely not trying to be. We present quality products and a relaxed, playful atmosphere. It’s not a big deal; just come and enjoy!”
The guest clientele appealed by their signature laidback and anything-goes atmosphere is also to their highest satisfaction.
“Compared to many other places here in Bangkok we have an extremely varied and mixed crowd,” says Bennie. Often in Bangkok you know exactly which people will be in this and that restaurant or bar, so there is no excitement.”
H&S attracts anything from high-level corporate Thais and “super hot” ladies to Korean tourists and the guys from the office down the street.
And he points out one specific observation: “The mixing of a bit upper class Thais with a younger crowd is quite unusual to see.”
And word of mouth spreading internationally makes new guests flocking to H&S, giving more of a wow-effect than in the beginning when all their friends came.
“Now, one can enter on a night with full tables and not recognize anyone! And it’s fantastic that on any given Friday people dress up and go to Hyde & Seek to feast,” says Thomas.
Inside, H&S unfurls its timeless, interior with European wooden wall panels and vintage green and grey hues. And with its dark tropical timber bar stools and high tables it could fit well into a classic-styled, Euro-Asian setting.
As for the name, it is well thought-out and comes with many explanations: clearly a wordplay referring to the game Hide & Seek, but also Hyde Park-inspired and meant to reflect a playground for adults to hide in and play.
“You can hide from anyone or anything, while you’re also allowed to seek pleasure in food and beverage or whatever might be hiding,” smiles Thomas.
“It’s simply a place to be in where many things can happen. And that vision has come true with our very diverse audience which is in itself is a pleasure for adults.”
Improving the drinking culture
And as a core part of Flow Cocktail’s activities cocktails play an important role at H&S.
“It’s our passion and we want to improve the whole drinking culture, not only to serve great drinks. It’s an ambition we’ve had since we first arrived to Thailand and something we want to continue here at Hyde & Seek where our customers are curious and want to try out nice cocktails etc. More and more people are well-travelled and visit incredibly good bars where the drinking culture are light years ahead of what it is here and when they return it’s not that they don’t want to experience that again, it’s rather that they cannot find more than a handful of decent places in a town of 10 million, says Dannie.
This new platform also enables them to continue educating the consumers about the cocktail culture, and now more completely at venues where they are in full control, able to utilize all the things learned and experimenting further. And a lot, they reckon, can be done in Bangkok alone.
They will never rest on their laurels, thinking they have found a perfected formula.
“That won’t happen in this business,” says Dannie, “people change constantly and quickly get tired of something so one must stay one step ahead all the time.”
“There are so much one wants to improve and fine-tune. We are very happy having seen a steady stream of guests up to now, which is a large trigger for us knowing that we have still have many aces up our sleeves and haven’t shown our full capacity yet,” thinks Thomas.
“Keep your eyes and ears open for more new places from us in Bangkok. More will come,” ends Bennie.