Among my fondest childhood memories are those of eating. Of sitting on a sunny beach biting into a soft, pillowy rustic bread leaking bright orange oil from the Goan version of chorizo it was stuffed
with. Biting into a luscious sun-warmed cashew apple, its astringent juice tickling the back of your throat. Licking the cake bowl squeaky clean after the batter was spooned into the baking trays… the list is endless. Food memories are milestones in time, rooting us to a place, telling a story, and making us hungry all over again.
At The Allium Bangkok, Chef Roxanne Lange’s newest menu speaks to her food memories, some from her childhood, others more recent. Travels and nature also inform her inspirations. There is the small colourful salad rooted in her grandparents’ insistence on eating salads and vegetables. It’s simple, made from a variety of organic Chiang Mai tomatoes. Some have been sundried, others become a gazpacho ice cream, a few converted into minuscule meringues. There are even small sheets of dehydrated tomato skin, and a little bubble filled with a spicy tomato soup. The flavours are punchy and the textures contrasting, all in a good way.
The Thai mud crab and cucumber tell another tale, this time of crabbing expeditions as a young girl. A forkful of cucumber spaghetti replaces the line used to catch the crustaceans, that are sourced from Surat Thani. Sour cream and sunflower seeds add a counterpoint to the sweetness of the meat, and the light cucumber broth the service staff pours over it ties it all together.
From her travels to Japan, Roxanne combines two food memories to bring scallops and pumpkin into one beautiful plate. The sear on the shellfish from Hokkaido is perfect. It is topped with pumpkin done in many ways – a gel, a powder, and even a confit, and then spiked with curry powder. Connecting the two memories is a vibrant dashi broth.
For those not in the know, The Allium Bangkok is the new incarnation of what was once The Reflexions at The Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok. It gets its name from the genus of flowering plant that encompasses many species, including the onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leak, and chives; all elements found in classical French cooking.
Cool white and royal red dominate the colour scheme of the dining room. On one end a floor-to-ceiling glass wall overlooks the herb garden on the deck outside. A marble-topped long bar with high stools props up the other end. Funky light fixtures add a warm glow to the intimate ambience, and antique saloon chairs provide easy seating at the tables. It’s cosmopolitan chic with a hint of ritzy Parisian living room. An open kitchen allows a view of the chefs at work. For those looking for a dining experience that is a tad more up-close and personal, the slab of polished wood that is the chef’s table is a good option.
Dutch national Roxanne Lange is no stranger to Bangkok. She trained at culinary school in Rotterdam and gained experience working for well-known Michelin restaurants all over Europe before coming here. Bangkok gourmands might remember her from a stint as chef de cuisine at compatriot Henk Savelberg’s Michelin-starred restaurant in the city. The youngest female chef de cuisine at Marriott International, she uses experiences from her own background and travels to prepare singular modern interpretations of French cuisine using only the finest of European ingredients and locally grown organic produce, in combination with the botanicals grown in the restaurant’s herb garden.
The cocktail menu has a significant focus on bespoke concoctions made with botanicals from the in-house herb garden. The sommelier pairs wines from the 200-label collection, which has a strong focus on Old World wines from France and Italy as well as a large selection of natural, biodynamic and organic wines.
Chef Roxanne’s menus change seasonally and are inspired by simplicity and quality. The largest aptly titled ‘Memoirs of Home’ is 11-courses long, but is also available in seven- and nine-course versions, or à la carte. A variety of plant-based multi-course menus cater to those who prefer their meals meat-free.
Three palate teasers inspired by nature, sea and land set the tone for the evening. The first a crunchy miniature garden of broccoli florets, edamame, sugar snap peas, herbs and a pesto sauce. Then banana prawns in a zesty cocktail sauce come encased in an edible seashell recalls her mother’s Christmas creation. Finally, there’s a cone filled with chicken liver mousse, bits of
beetroot and balsamic caviar beads, and a tiny toasted brioche topped with piccalilli, slivers of pork cheek ham, and bacon powder.
A naturally sweet La Speciale Jolie Mauger oyster with tiny mounds of Oscietra caviar and a sour cream terrine playing in tune with the sweet-sour notes of lemon and apple juice signals the start of the main event. The evening continues like a well- rehearsed production, the service staff entertaining with anecdotes about the dishes, explaining the provenance of ingredients, and the cooking techniques used.
There’s a hunk of creamy red snapper sitting in a frothy classic beurre blanc. It’s ornamented with microgreens, bell pepper purée, teeny cubes of chorizo, and wafers of sunchoke for crunch. For me, this is the star of the evening among many stars.
What’s a contemporary European menu without duck liver? Here it comes from the Moulard duck, a highly prized hybrid of Muscovy and Pekin ducks – the “Wagyu beef of duck”. Lightly scorched for a burnished crust and to heighten its silken richness it’s married to apple – caramelised, and in gel and sheet form. A crumble of almonds and sesame seeds add bite.
For the mains, a clutch of crunchy local asparagus spears adorned with potato puree, bits of lamb neck and garlic accompany an oven-baked rack of baby Spanish Pyrenees Iberico lamb. It’s fork tender and enhanced by a robust jus of lamb and red wine.
To wind down after that gratifying assault on the senses, Roxanne throws her support behind local artisanal food producers. A selection of organic goat cheeses and pieces of green grapes, both from Chiang Mai, are sandwiched between a pile of brioche crackers. A carpaccio of red grapes on top and a pour of a grape juice reduction complete the pretty picture of this delectable dish. The tangy Thai lime panna cotta with coconut milk foam and a ring of slightly grilled pineapple is an airy, quirky execution of the piña colada. It works well to prepare us for the first dessert: calamansi from the restaurant’s garden paired with Madagascan vanilla ice cream and a white chocolate cream roll.
The final sweet note on her menu recalls another childhood memory: a warm glass of milk and honey that her mother would give her during the winters. Keeping Bangkok’s soaring temperatures in mind, Roxanne has transformed it into a delightful dessert of a milk and honey ice cream topped with hazelnut crumble. It’s a soothing prelude to bed at the end of an outstanding meal.