This noir jazz bar and restaurant –Wolff’s–has been lovingly shaped by its owner, a former private detective turned crime fiction authorby Thomas Sturrock
For Malcolm Schaverien, the journey from private investigator to author to bar owner and restaurateur has been a colorful one. A long-term Bangkok resident, Schaverien built a business as a private detective – a fixer, if you like – hiring out his services mostly to Westerners struggling to navigate the murky waters of law and order in Thailand. He then drew upon these experiences for his book, Bangkok Rules, written under the pseudonym Harlan Wolff, which follows the adventures of a gumshoe called Carl Engel, based loosely on his own.
And now, his jazz bar and restaurant, Wolff’s (33/30 Sukhumvit Soi 11; 090-926-1777; jazzbarbangkok.com), combines those past lives. His storied background ensures that, on any given night, Wolff’s attracts an eclectic mix or writers, musicians and food lovers, all keen to swap their own stories of goings-on in Bangkok. When the jazz band takes a break, the soundtrack and the bar is a patchwork of in-the-know gossip and innuendo. It’s a delightfully “noir-ish” setting, created by a man whose real life has been painted in those tones.
The beguiling atmosphere aside, Schaverien has also made an impressive fist of compiling a menu that could most aptly be described a modern European with some fine dining ambitions. Alongside an intriguing selection of sandwiches – try a merguez baguette or a portabello piquant – there are some mains far more sophisticated than one might expect in a bar environment.
One of the signature dishes is the volcano chicken, which comes with a spectacularly spicy seasoning and a creamy saucy on a bed of vegetables. It is, of course, one of Schaverien’s personal creations. The scallop and prawn dumplings in sauce is more delicate but no less flavorful, while the soft-shell crab salad is a lighter option that allows the excellent protein to speak for itself.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is also a formidable selection of booze at Wolff’s. You’ll likely find Schaverien nursing vodka at one end of the bar, but he’ll be all too happy to recommend something from the excellent wine list. He’s particularly fond of a Spanish rioja. Equally, there’s a compact but well-executed range of cocktails, including the Tuscan Negroni.
Perhaps it’s no surprise. Wolff’s is a venue put together very much by a “man in the know.” And just maybe, if you get him chatting, he’ll let you in on one of his many fascinating secrets.