If you’ve ever told someone not to go on an organised cruise of the Chao Praya river in Bangkok; first, we know what you mean, and second, meet the river cruise (complete with gourmet Thai fare and bubbles) that will definitely change your mind. A venture by the hospitality group behind the wildly popular Supanniga Eating Room and Supanniga Home Boutique Hideaway, Supanniga Cruise eschews the loud music and modern vessel for rustic wood and a proper bar.
Seating 40 comfortably, the Supanniga Cruise sails twice a day, at 4.45pm for the Evening Cruise (one hour, from B990 per person) and at 6.15pm for the Dinner Champagne Taittinger Cruise (2 hours 15 minutes, B3250 per person). As we boarded, it was hard not to be impressed by the two-level cruiser that was constructed with the sides open, so no matter where you’re seated, you’re guaranteed unobstructed views during the entire journey. The interiors are dressed in hues of subdued gold, earthy saffron, and warm wood; and the team on board is equally hospitable, escorting us to our table without delay from the gangway.
By the time we glided upriver, away from the River City dock with a flute of Taittinger in hand, the start of dusk provides a lovely backdrop for landmarks along the watery pulse of Bangkok. A helpful booklet that shows the route of the cruiser and details for the different historical and heritage buildings – including The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, The Church of Santa Cruz, and even Bangkok Fire Station – along the way is provided. The slower pace of the cruiser also means that you can savour the view and the food in a more relaxing setting, though you can expect minor interruptions from the loud EDM music from larger, more boorish vessels (alas, this can’t be helped).
Sister restaurant Supanniga Eating Room is known for its authentic, home-style Thai cooking with prime quality ingredients, so it’s no surprise that the owners have decided to feature the restaurant’s signatures for this scenic dining experience.
The amuse bouche of Mieng Platu Kapi Koh Chang, shrimp paste sauce and fried Thai mackerel wrapped in a chaplu leaf (wild pepper leaf), packs a salty punch that wakes your palate for the rest of the six-course dinner.
The appetiser platter featured a trio of petite starters, including the traditional Thai snack of Mahor. Meaning ‘galloping horse’, the sweet (almost to the point of caramelization) and nutty combination of minced pork stir fried with garlic and peanuts was divine with the tangy fresh orange wheel.
The Kratong Tong – spicy minced chicken in a crispy cup – looked simple but was no less flavourful. The Sreng Wa Pu Pladuk Foo was something new to us. Though we felt the Surat Thani crab meat lacked the usual natural sweetness, the texture of the catfish was almost like crispy fish floss and that went exceedingly well with the Thai herb and citrus dressing.
Tom yum might be the soup standard by which many judge a Thai restaurant but we were glad that Supanniga decided to serve the Tom Kha Pla Krapong Mapraow-On instead. Sporting a healthy portion of sea bass and young coconut meat, the milky coconut soup was light on the palate, and easily one of the best I’ve had. At this point, having finished our champagne, our attention was turned to their drinks menu. Besides a small section of red and white wines, there are also five Thai-inspired cocktails by award-wining cocktail bar (and restaurant) Vesper. The Supanniga G&T (B320) with jasmine-infused Kristall Thai gin might be a touch too aromatic for some, but it was a tall, enjoyable drink that went with dinner.
The five sharing mains are presented all at once – with rice to go along, of course – like in all Thai restaurants. Standouts of this course are definitely the “Son in Law” Eggs, where the yolks of the fried medium-boiled eggs served with three-flavour sauce and fried shallots have a wonderful semi-cured texture, the Moo Cha Muang, tender pork stewed with Thai herbs and cha muang leaves, and the Yum Pla Salid.
The latter harkens to the earlier appetiser with its fried fish and dressing pairing, though the kitchen execution has left more flesh on the fish this time. The Choo Chi Goong – jumbo prawn sautéed with Thai sweet and spicy curry – was good but not memorable, and we felt that the Pu Jah could use with more seasoning to bring out the flavours of the crabmeat and pork.
As we sank back into the comfortable banquette with stomachs protesting from the overload, dessert arrived: the familiar Mango Sticky Rice. There was nothing too special about Supanniga Cruise’s recipe, but we give them bonus points for putting the effort into decoration. Mango slices arranged into a rose? Maybe slightly corny but it’s the best-looking mango sticky rice I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. When the dessert plates are cleared towards the end of the voyage, petit fours of traditional Thai snacks like sweetened golden egg yolk threads and organic tea arrive to gradually ease you back to reality.
When you get jolted back into tourist central, the stark contrast will probably underscore the different, and somewhat magical, world that Supanniga has weaved on its cruiser. English fluency fluctuates amongst the staff on board, but that’s all the more charming, since you’re not patronising a tourist trap. Even if it is, so be it; it’s still the classiest Chao Praya River cruise in Bangkok.
Supanniga Cruise sails twice daily from River City at 4.45pm for the Evening Cruise and 6.15pm for the Dinner Cruise. Book online or call +66 2 714 7608.