Destination Phuket: Bill Bensley-Designed Coolies Club Restaurant and Bar Opens in Charming Old Phuket Town

Bill Bentley-designed Coolies Club
Bill Bensley designed Coolies Club

Your next visit to Phuket’s Old Town in Thailand is not complete until you visit this new restaurant and bar. Coolies Club has opened on Soi Romanee. The Bill Bensley-designed restaurant and bar is set within a traditional Sino-Portuguese shophouse on Soi Romanee, a street that was once home to the red-light district of Phuket where tin miners would patronise brothels, gambling houses, and opium dens.

Romanee means ‘pleasure’ in Thai. The name also speaks to the famous Romanian mamasan who formerly worked on Soi Romanee.

The street today is home to Instagrammable spots with vibrant colours, colonial architecture, cafes and beautifully stalled shopfronts. The Aung Ku Cafe at the beginning of Soi Romanee is frequently bustling with visitors eager to snap photos of its charming rose-adorned walls. However, if you wait until nighttime when the cafe is closed, you can capture an unobstructed shot without any crowds.

Coolies Club is the sister venue of The Slate Phuket that was recently listed #6 on Travel & Leisure’s 2024 Best Beach + Island Resorts in Thailand awards. Krystal Prakaikaew Na-Ranong is the owner of The Slate Phuket Hotel and Coolies Club.

Her great-grandfather came from China in 1912, searching for fortune in Southeast Asia, and started working as a miner in Phuket. Phuket was one of the top three tin exporters in the world from the 16th to th 20th centuries. He was given land parcels and mining rights by his employer for his hard work and loyalty. The foreign labourers then were known as ‘Coolies’. The Club is named in honour of Krystal’s great grandfather and other hard workers who played a role in Phuket’s foundation.

Krystal’s father, Wichit Na-Ranong has been instrumental in building the island’s reputation as an international destination. Hailed as the Father of Phuket Tourism, Wichit invested in Phuket’s infrastructure and growth. Krystal continues her father’s passion by constantly innovating the hospitality scene in Phuket and with the opening of a signature club on the iconic Soi Romanee.

“We have created a special place that embodies the melting pot of cultures for which Phuket is so famous. It is a reminder of the island’s Joie de vivre back in the 19th century, when sailors, gypsies and laborers flocked here from around the world. Having lived in our family shophouse in this area, I wanted to create a modern pleasure palace that speaks to the high-end bars and gambling dens where tin miners would entertain themselves after a hard day’s work, while also bringing the concept into the modern day and honouring my great grandfather’s legacy.”

Krystal Prakaikaew Na-Ranong, Owner of The Slate Phuket Hotel and Coolies Club

The club sports bold colours, artworks and vintage furnishings allowing guests to experience Phuket’s tin mining past and the exuberance and bohemian ambience of former pleasure district. The Club features typical Chinese Baroque architecture, with ornate wooden doors, intricate Chinese fretwork and striking façade in white, turquoise and anitque red. Bill Bensley created a moody, sexy interior with antique furnishings synonmous with the area’s famous opium dens.

On the ground floor, guests can indulge in four unique house-crafted cocktails: the Miner’s Whisper, Mama’s Twist, Spicy Maria, and Courtesan’s Kiss. Accompany these with a selection of bar bites and sharing plates. Discover the intriguing stories behind each cocktail and enjoy your time here.

Classics and Gin & Tonics are also on the menu starting at THB350. If you’re in the mood for shots, try the Tequila & Mezcal Shots available from THB320. For a digestif, savour Phuket’s own Chalong Bay Rum at THB280. Additionally, a variety of other spirits and wines are offered.

The food menu is divided into sections: ‘The Start of the Affair’ for starters, ‘Next Stage of the Seduction’ for mains, ‘A Little on the Side’ for sides, ‘Oh the Intoxication’ for charcoal-grilled meats and seafood, and ‘Get Your Just Desserts’ for desserts. Main courses range from THB380 to THB1,500. Honouring traditional tin miner cooking methods, the chef incorporates smoking over an open fire for many dishes.

The music transitions throughout the night, beginning with Ye Shanghai-esque old classics and gradually increasing in tempo. As you savour a few drinks, delicious food, and great company, you might find yourself joining other guests on the dance floor.

The upper floor features two private bedrooms, where Opium Den dining experiences will be offered. Themed events can be expected in the future where local artists, DJs, performers and musicians entertain guests.

Coolies Club

Address 11 Thalang Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Opening Hours Daily 2pm – 10.30pm. Closed on Monday.

Tel +66634546966
Instagram Coolies Club

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Middle aged curious individual trying to find a balance in keeping healthy and finding joy keeping fit. Because trying new food and drink is part of the work.

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