Even amongst the bold, bright lights of Chaweng’s main strip, Drink Gallery is one place that stands out. Located half way down the beach road, it attracts many a curious stare and raised eyebrow. People pause as they walk past its long frontage, and it certainly challenges perceptions. For a start, the name alone is a conundrum: it seems to have stepped straight out of film noir territory, and suggests a grainy, endlessly long bar at which tight-lipped loners sit in hats and overcoats, slugging back small glasses of high-octane booze. But it isn’t that at all, it oozes sophistication and conviviality instead.
Drink Gallery is a similarly creative space, too, though there’s no minimalism here. Instead there’s a lot going on, and wherever you look you’ll see that enormous effort has gone into the decor here. But maybe what’s even more noticeable is that there’s plenty more going on here than just drinking. Food’s being served, and there’s that culinary, busy hum that all good restaurants have. But, whatever, an important consideration is price, and given the chic feel of the place, taking a seat here looks like it’s going to set you back armfuls of money. Expensive, then? Surely, it’s got to be!
But once you check out the menu, you realize that both food and drink are really great value for money, with prices that are definitely affordable. Eat here and you see that the food, which comes in satisfyingly large portions, is also exceedingly tasty – there’s no skimping on taste just to enable those great prices. There’s substance to the style as well.
And friendliness, too. You’ll get a warm welcome from the very efficient bar staff, and this is not the kind of place where you need to be formal. It’s all laid-back and fun. People love Drink Gallery, return over and over again, and it always seems fresh, with something new to its vibe or the food each time. You can in fact come back quite often before you’ve even exhausted its many possibilities. For a start, there are three very different areas to sit in, and this is a lot more than choosing whether to sit inside or outside.
First and foremost, there’s a large cube-like structure of steel and glass. It’s air-conditioned and you can sit at the bar, or on comfy seating or at a long, long table if coming as a group. Never mind the menu, your eye will be caught up with checking out this venue. A vast red painting of a young woman, dominates the room, her expression both questioning and enigmatic.
Drink Gallery also has a largish open-air space right outside, and it’s here that you can listen to a DJ or a band every night. It’s low-lit, providing a very intimate feel, ideal if you’re on a romantic holiday. You get a bit distracted from your partner, however, not just because of the excellent food, but also because this space is so ideally geared to people-watching; you’re facing onto the beach road itself, always a mesmerizing stage with a random, seething cast of islanders and holidaymakers.
In a third space, guests seem to be oblivious of most of the street action, even though they’re even closer to it. If they’re distraction-proof, and they really do seem to be, then it’s because they’re totally caught up in the food they’re eating; they’re at a section of Drink Gallery which is simply called Tapas Bar, eating, well, yes, tapas. Each of the Thai-themed tapas dishes (there are now 38 of them, including four desserts as well) are 99 baht net each, and with largish portions, these are some of Chaweng’s best deals. Feast on Gai Hor Bai Toey (chicken wrapped in banana leaves), or See Klong Moo Yang (grilled pork ribs), served in a mesh scoop. Then there’s Satay Ruam, also popular with most guests. Skewers of pork and chicken rest on top of a clay barbecue pot, along with a cucumber relish and of course peanut sauce.
Most of Drink Gallery’s food is actually western, and features an entire range of appetizers, soups, salads, pasta and burgers, all of which represent truly great value for money. And then there are a few more expensive dishes – the cost only being higher because they’re using imported ingredients – such as Tasmanian Salmon at 570 baht net, Braised Australian Lamb Shank at 580 baht net and Seafood Paella at 690 baht net (Drink Gallery’s most expensive dish). No need to worry about overspending, and you’ll be all the more willing to finish off with some truly decadent desserts, such as the Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème, a temptation that’s pretty much irresistible.
But there’s need to even eat anything at all, however, as Drink Gallery has a full range of beers, wines and spirits, along with both traditional and innovative cocktails. Open daily from 4:00 pm till late, some people come just for drinks alone, as this is a very popular watering hole. You’ll find many islanders turning up here to take advantage of the daily happy hours, from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm, which feature a buy-one-get-one-free deal on selected drinks. There’s parking just behind the premises at The Library itself, but many people leave their cars at Central Festival, just up the road.
To step into the world of Drink Gallery is like being part of a film, but it’s one that’s never noir; instead you’ll find it cheerfully beguiling. Coming here, whether for food or drink or both is always an enjoyable experience and like many a guest you’ll be hankering to come back for your next visit.
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7742 2299.