So Then We Opened A Restaurant
It had some ugly design elements but we got rid of them, however, there are aspects of the original place that are still the same. For instance, we kept the pebble-mix on the exterior.
The owner was planning to live in the building so it had undergone 18 months of renovations before he did. But then he decided to rent it out. And then we set up the restaurant and we’ve been renovating it ever since.
The upstairs floors were bedrooms and we opened them right up, so this poor building has been through so much trauma / tender loving care. It’s the building that never stops getting renovated.
Chef A’s friends, who had owned restaurants before in Belgium and Thailand, were considering investing but they didn’t think he was as committed as they wanted him to be but they said to me, “Darren, if you guys are crazy enough to do this, these are our guidelines…” and we began negotiating.
I then concentrated on the landlord, as we needed to be hardnosed due to the recession. But over time he’s had a nice increase in the rent. He’s still our landlord and he loves the improvements we’ve done to the building in the last 16 years or so.
We did the absolute basics when we first moved in. I remember one of the first things that Chef A said was that we can turn the upstairs area into an apartment and live up there and turn the garage into a courtyard restaurant and look down on that. I said why would you take the best space for your apartment?
Our investors agreed with Chef A. They couldn’t see people walking upstairs to the dining room. But I’d been in Japan for two years where anything that is worth going to is in a basement or four floors up.
So it made complete and absolute sense to me that the wonderful upstairs L-shaped space should be the dining room. There was no hesitation. Of course people will walk up, I thought.
Back then there was always a need for more good restaurants in Bangkok, so maybe people wouldn’t take the risk to walk up the stairs the first time, but they kept hearing about us so they’d return a second time and head upstairs.
And that was good, as it meant we didn’t have a mad rush when we first opened, which is what happens to restaurants these days, so we had time to get prepared. Not having a car park was a negative. More so than being on a second floor.
But the BTS opened a few years later and that changed everything.
In the old days, because the traffic was so horrendous and the roads were the only way you could get around, you couldn’t plan on doing two things in Bangkok. It might take all day to do one thing, you just didn’t know.
The BTS made it possible to do things and get things done in this city and it was great for us.
So then we opened a restaurant… and it was scary.