We believe that the best travel guides come from the people who live, breathe, work, and play in a city. In this week’s city insider interview, we speak to Jacqueline Sim, a Singapore-born restauranteur whose company Venture Food & Restaurants helms nine F&B outlets and one catering business in the bustling city of Bangkok.

Having lived in the Thai capital for over a decade, the 37-year-old managing director shares her top recommendations for dining, shopping, and accommodation, along with the challenges she’s faced during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacqueline Sim.

An average day in my life looks like this…

I wake up at around 8 a.m. and stay in bed a little to catch up on some work and chatter on social media. I have my cup of coffee, and if time permits, it’s a French press. First stop is usually the office and the rest of the day will see me dealing with operational matters from the outlets. Lunch is either new dishes we’re experimenting with or a quick bite at our khao keang (economical rice) stand which provides inexpensive Thai food to office workers in the Asok area. After that, it’s more meetings with my team, followed by a late night at the office or restaurant or happy hour with friends at one of our bars.

Phuket, Thailand.

My favourite travel destinations include…

Based in Bangkok, I am fortunate to be able to travel domestically to the mountainous northern region such as Chiangmai and Chiangrai, as well as the beaches down south like Phuket and Samui. Recently, I flew to Phuket to visit some of my friends for the weekend. Once it’s safe for international travel, I’d love to go to Japan and also back home to Singapore. Due to the pandemic, I’ve had to shelve my winter plans of visiting Lapland.

The changes I’ve faced during the pandemic….

The F&B industry has been one of the hardest hit during this pandemic and I’ve had to close 90 percent of my outlets, while moving the rest to delivery and takeaway only. Despite the challenges, we’ve seized the opportunity to launch new, delivery-only brands like Powerpuff—Singapore-style curry puffs, as well as Oh Jackie!, an events and catering brand serving authentic Singaporean dishes like mee siam and char kway tiao.

The top trends in Bangkok’s F&B scene are…

Aside from delivery-friendly items, ready-to-cook meals are also starting to garner interest. There’s also been a shift towards sustainably-sourced and local ingredients. In fact, the local terroir is suitable for wonderful produce and there is now greater acknowledgement and appreciation for it. Meanwhile, many still fancy omakase-style meals and chef tables for the unique dining experience.

One thing most people don’t know about living in Bangkok…

The city is really diverse and there are so many different layers to it. Beyond the shopping malls and the night markets, Bangkok is full of intricacies that one can discover only when visiting for a longer period of time.

Credits: Greyhound

My favourite local brands…

Thai labels are creative and I enjoy picking up items in the local markets and malls with no particular regards for brands. That said, I like Greyhound for its minimalist yet contemporary aesthetic and Assava for its classic elegance.   

Credits: #FindTheLockerroom

Where I go for a drink…

My favourite bars are #FindTheLockerroom and #FindThePhotobooth because they are both speakeasy cocktail bars—which means the people who visit have made the effort to locate the secret entrances. Between the two, the former is cozier and more intimate while the latter is an energetic drinking hole that’s great for groups.

For a casual drink, I recommend Score Bar, which is located on the busy stretch of Sukhumvit Soi 11. Its prime spot on the second floor makes it perfect for both people watching and a game of beer pong. Other close favourites include Q&A, Vesper, Backstage Bar, Bar Vagabond, and Asia Today.

Credits: Ping’s Hotpot

The restaurants I love…

Ping’s serves authentic Thai Teochew cuisine, including my favourite comfort food like braised fish maw soup and braised gooseweb noodles, which both originated in Yaowarat Chinatown. For southern Thai cuisine, my go-to place is Krua Kling Pad Sod, while Suppaniga is delightful for its rendition of traditional home-cooked recipes.

Credit: Mustang Blu

The hotels I recommend…

The legendary Mandarin Oriental located on the banks of the Chao Phraya river has over 100 years of history, as well as beautiful architecture, luxurious interiors, and amazing hospitality. A lovely hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, The Siam is another gorgeous hotel with exquisite interiors. Located in the quaint neighbour hood Talad Noi, the Mustang Blu is a boutique hotel housed in a restored 19th-century building that’s both charming and whimsical.

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