It seems Bangkok’s long-time love affair with all things Gasby-esque extravagance has finally died a death and we’ve never been more pleased to see the back of something.
By Gaby Doman | BK Editor LifestyleAsia.com
Driving on the trend are a new generation of bars and services that hark back to a more relaxed bygone era where style is classic, low-key and less, well, vulgar. Whether you’re sipping aperitifs at Vesper, enjoying single malts and fine cigars at Whisgars, shopping for made-to-order punched leather shoes at Don’s footwear in Mahanakhon Cube and, now a wave of barbershops that are bringing back the service and social element of getting a shave and a trim.
Black Amber is one of them. The venue manages to be both classic in style and so very cool at the same time. From the female barber to the tattoed reception staff, the laid back offer of BYO whisky and cigars (or drink theirs in return for a tip), the fact women are welcomed to hang out (despite the fact they can’t get a haircut) and the pride in the barber craft, this venue attracts everyone from rock stars to government officials. “They come here because we have something in common,” says founder of Black Amber, Chavin Nantaterm. “They all like the craft, the whisky, the cigars, the conversation, the hangout.”
The likes of Truefitt and Hill in Central Embassy may be attracting those who trust the name and the heritage behind the brand, but Black Amber is doing brisk service, too – -the place has been packed out in the eight months since it opened. The edge it has, says Nantaterm, is the social aspect. “We are authentic,” he says. “We are people who live in this area. This is not a brand that’s come from offshore, and we can do anything they offer. The big difference is we have real connections to our customer. Because of our clubhouse, barbers and customers are friends now. After they have a haircut, they drink at the bar and at the same tables together.”
Related: Tastemakers: Ashley Sutton
The social club, which had its soft opening last week, is just across the road, tucked away, unmarked, in a converted massage parlour. This all adds to the substantial charm of the place, of course. On stepping inside the social club, you’re struck by the black and white chequered floor, the macabre decor of an ostrich skeleton, taxidermy, monkey skeletons and other oddities collected underneath a spectacular chandelier in the waiting room area. It’s no surprise that, before Black Amber, Nantaterm was a personal assistant and co-designer to Ashley Sutton as well as manager at Iron Fairies. Most of the pieces at Black Amber’s Social Club are from his personal collection.
Above the lobby area, the venue is also home to a tailors, Toast Bespoke, a vintage shop, Mirror Mask Vintage and, in the next couple of months, will also house a men’s accessories store and a ‘very conceptual’ cafe.
But it’s the dimly lit bar, behind an iron gate and a black-out curtain that really entices you in. Nantaterm says that, within a few months he expects the bar will have the biggest collection of whisky in Bangkok. Now, the collection of whisky includes Bowmore 12 years, Hakushu 10 years, Monkey Shoulder and Johnnie Walker Black Label, as well as a few rums and cognacs, too. There is a collection of absinthe on display — relics of when Nantaterm ran The Circus Bangkok Absinthe bar — which, he says, aren’t for sale but, if customers are particularly interested can try them.
The low-lit bar, which lingers with the scent of cigars, is a quiet spot and, Nantaterm hopes it will stay that way. “We have plans to expand eventually because every community needs something like this, but we need to be focused on this first one because it’s only been eight months. It’s been very successful and people are talking about it, but I don’t want to lose the identity or service”. Keeping it low-key may be his biggest challenge. With its speakeasy feel, eclectic decor, impressive array of specialty spirits and live jazz music, we suspect he’ll have trouble keeping it on the DL for long.
Black Amber, Thonglor, Between Soi 5 and 7, Bangkok, www.facebook.com/blackamberbarber