BANGKOK RESTAURANT

1881 by Water Library

Comforting bistro dishes in steampunk decor. 

3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Water Library’s gastro bar at this breezy, partly open-air mall is inspired by a 19th-century steam power plant. The kitchen is all about comforting dishes, ranging from a classic burger to tiger prawn pasta.  Look out for con-sulting Swiss chef Urs Lustenbergerh’s more personal dishes, too: the spicy “Siam chicken praline” or the “dou-ble duck salad” with black olive crumble, poached onsen duck egg, and smoked duck breast.

It’s in a mall, it belongs to Water Library’s growing portfolio of restaurants, but you’d be mistaken to write this off as some kind of over-priced Greyhound. This is as chef-driven a bistro as can be. Beyond the kitchen, both the service (sharply dressed, smiling, attentive and with a clear understanding of the menu) and elaborate décor are further proof that 1881 has all the legitimacy of a standalone restaurant. In fact, every time we’ve eaten here, Swiss Chef Urs Lustenberger was on deck to check on the diners, who have little to complain about.

The simple brasserie menu is definitely executed by a competent professional, with ideal cooking times, artistic presentations and edgy tweaks. Too bad the modern flourishes sometimes impede on the dishes’ comforting qualities, rather than updating them in any meaningful way. The hachis parmentier (B440), perhaps the epitome of childhood food for the French, is here turned into a kind of lasagna with mashed potatoes instead of pasta—it actually tastes much better than it sounds but it’s still a tad unsettling.

The salmon tartare (B380) is even more contemporary, thanks to a lemony foam. We’d have preferred something with more kick: some chili or wasabi perhaps? And too bad they kept the raw egg yolk, which works great with beef, but makes for a pretty slimy combination with raw fish.

Thankfully, not every dish tries to reinvent the wheel or emulate Water Library Thonglor, 1881’s very, very high-end sister. The flank steak with big chunky fries (B790) is a tasty brasserie favorite that’s done just right. We’d also recommend the chorizo salad (B370), where the spicy oil of the sausage combines with the ricotta cheese to make a rich, savory sauce coating the crisp greens. The roasted mini tomatoes add the perfect amount of acidity to balance it all.

On the creative side of things, you should also order the “lemon tart” (B290), a very handsome combination of lemon cream, raspberry sorbet, cookie crumble and a lemony Madeleine. Throw in a solid cocktail list ticking all the right boxes (classics, barrel-aged, etc.) and a handsome industrial décor that combines leather, brassed metal and the obligatory bare bulbs, and you’ve got one really solid restaurant.

Venue Details
Address: 1881 by Water Library, Groove@CentralWorld, Rama 1 Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Phone: 061-825-7348, 095-072-7777
Website: www.waterlibrary.com/1881/en/
Area: Siam
Cuisine: Western
Price Range: BBBB
Open since: February, 2014
Opening hours: daily 11am-midnight
Reservation recommended, Parking available
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