When thinking of a Thai restaurant that has it all – delicious dishes, quality cooking, uniquely picturesque ambience, and a one-of-a-kind history and cultural heritage – only one name springs to mind. And that’s Chakrabongse Dining, a breathtakingly beautiful venue gracefully adorning the banks of the Chao Phraya River for over 110 years.
We talked to Mom Rajawongse Narisa Chakrabongse, a Thai publisher, author, and environmental activist, as well as the lady behind the success of this former royal residence turned boutique hotel and riverside restaurant. She is the only daughter of Thailand’s Prince Chula Chakrabongse and his English wife Elizabeth Hunter. Her paternal grandfather was Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath, who in turn was the son of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) of Siam.
A time-honoured royal residence
“Chakrabongse House was built in 1908 as a riverside villa for my grandfather, HRH Prince Chakrabongse, the son of King Chulalongkorn. The Paruskavan Palace near the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall was granted to him by His Majesty the King to be his royal residence and was confiscated after the Siamese Revolution of 1932. However, the Chakrabongse House was bought with personal funds, so it remained in the family. My father, Prince Chula Chakrabongse, owned this place.”
This house was designed by the late Italian architect Mario Tamagno, who was commissioned to design numerous distinguished structures in Bangkok. He based its style on European seaside villas between the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Chakrabongse Villas boast beautifully stunning views of the flowing Chao Phraya River and of Wat Arun. After Prince Chula passed, the villas’ ownership transferred to his daughter, Mom Rajawongse Narisa Chakrabongse. Some twenty years ago, she decided to renovate, build additional suites, and turn it into a nice cosy boutique hotel.
“In the beginning, food service was only available for staying guests, who must have told their friends and families how much they liked our food. Guests started to pour in and requested dinner served in our riverside pavilion. That’s how we started Chakrabongse Dining.”
A unique dining experience by the River of Kings
“My father passed away when I was only seven. Eight years later, my mother also passed away. I was an orphaned child with scant housekeeping skills. Fortunately, we had Mr. Pisadan Chula-saevok, who used to work for my father. He loved Thai food and knew how to eat well. His wife, Mrs. Prayong, was an exceptional cook. They taught me the art of Thai cuisine.”
When Chakrabongse Dining first opened its door, many authentic Thai recipes came from Mr. Pisadan and his wife. Later, Mom Rajawongse Narisa added her personal preferences to the menu to reflect her healthy lifestyle and love for the environment.
“Our menu consists of both traditional and contemporary recipes. Having an extensive offering would require stocking a lot of raw materials which may end up as quite an unfortunate amount of food waste. Instead, we offer a set menu that changes occasionally and ask guests to reserve their seats in advance. This way, we can figure the amount of ingredients needed per day and generate very little food waste, if any.
“These days, more and more people are turning to vegetarian food, for health reasons and due to changing attitudes towards preserving our environment. I am also an environmental activist. We all know that reducing meat consumption means reducing our carbon footprint. This is why we also have an all-vegetarian menu. We do not serve pork, as I have a daughter-in-law who is Muslim. However, we feature other types of meat to preserve the essence of a Thai meal – to have a variety of ingredients so that the meal is beautifully balanced.”
One of Chakrabongse Dining’s most cherished dishes is gaeng pu bai chaplu, or coconut curry with lump crabmeat and betel leaves. Only premium-quality, jumbo-sized lump crabmeat is selected to ensure it will not break apart when cooked in the luscious curry, an impressive harmony between the coconut milk and curry paste. Another highly praised delicacy is the beef masman curry, Chakrabongse Villas style. This recipe features marbled, tender beef hump, perfectly complemented by the full-flavoured, aromatic curry.
Mom Rajawongse Narisa’s favourite recommendation is a healthy choice. She’s personally fond of Chakrabongse Dining's crispy fish with herbs served with spicy green chilli sauce, which is a lovely accompaniment even though we think the fish is already perfect on its own. The spicy grilled mushrooms and herbs salad with fresh betel leaves is also a must-order.
Along with those delectable recipes, Chakrabongse Dining also offers many other classic Thai dishes, ranging from khanom chin nam prik (fresh rice vermicelli with peanut curry and fried vegetables), yam tua pu kai tom (spicy winged bean salad with boiled eggs), chu chi goong mae nam (grilled river prawns in coconut curry sauce), and many more.
Due to limited seating, guests are encouraged to make reservations in advance to enjoy Chakrabongse Villas’ authentic Thai cuisine. The venue is also perfect for private parties, for which you can choose a cocktail reception or a sit-down dinner. The team at Chakrabongse Dining is ready to help deliver some of the most memorable dining experiences, complete with singular surroundings and breathtaking river views.
“Our cuisine is so diverse. We have everything from the simple street food to highly sophisticated royal cuisine.”
“Thai food is already world-famous. Our cuisine is so diverse. We have everything from the simple street food to highly sophisticated royal cuisine. I believe having a meal here is unique and unforgettable. The food is carefully crafted and served in the most remarkable atmosphere.
“We are blessed that Chakrabongse Villas is situated in this very beautiful location. I am very grateful for this exquisite heirloom property. And to my dear guests, watching the sun set over Wat Arun from here is a unique experience, so please arrive a little before it gets completely dark. I truly think that the venue is great for private parties. Our team can design the evening the way you want it.”
Preserving the traditional essence of Thai cuisine
Similar to other national cuisines, Thai food has evolved through numerous influences. We asked Mom Rajawongse Narisa about her thoughts on this and the cooking philosophy of Chakrabongse Dining.
“To me, one obvious change in Thai cuisine is that our food seems to be sweeter compared to the past. It’s true that some traditional recipes are dominantly sugary. But when I was young, Thai food was not this sweet. I think it’s the new trend, which is not at all healthy. Here at Chakrabongse Dining, the chef and I agree that we are not going down that road. Our cooking will offer authentic flavours.”
The lady is health-conscious and would like to see her guests in good shape as well. As a result, you’ll find a number of healthy selections featuring organic vegetables grown on her own farm in Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima. The farm will also be renovated and turned into a boutique hotel in the near future.
Last year, Chakrabongse Dining received the MICHELIN Plate in the 2021 edition of MICHELIN Guide Thailand. Mom Rajawongse Narisa reveals, “I am delighted and proud.”
She shares, “Growing up in England, I was fortunate to visit France quite often. We would always have the Red Guide with us to explore where to eat. Personally, I prefer One MICHELIN Starred restaurants as they are usually not too luxurious. The MICHELIN Stars guarantee the establishment’s quality. The fact that Chakrabongse Dining is featured in the guide makes us really proud. And as I said, the word MICHELIN serves as the restaurant’s quality assurance. Being awarded the MICHELIN Plate brings in more guests and recognitions. It definitely encourages us to keep on working and preserving the high culinary standard we’ve always had.”
Chakrabongse Dining is open every day except Monday. The location can cater for up to twenty diners. Advance booking is highly recommended. Reserve your seats at 089-810-0498, 086-987-0493, or 080-045-7778. For more info, visit https://chakrabongsevillas.com/dining.
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