Samsen is the casual kind of place that entices passer-by to pause and stop in for a quick bite. On Stone Nullah Lane situated right beside the Blue House (a government-designated Grade 1 heritage site), the modest 35-seat shophouse is reminiscent of classic Thailand street shops with vintage touches fit for diners looking to enjoy authentic Thai street noodles.
Samsen incorporates its design by Charlie & Rose seamlessly into the Wan Chai heritage area, bringing a unique Thai element to the neighbourhood. “The overall creative direction and look and feel of Samsen is relatable to nostalgic vintage Thailand, with a distressed, street and aged look. We want people to capture that feeling from the moment they walk up to the bright coral gate and rattan blinds at Samsen,” says Ben McCarthy, Principal at Charlie & Rose. Along with the gate are custom-made solid wooden doors, raw concrete walls and large potted plants all coming together to conjure images of an old Thailand that was strongly impacted by the colourful aesthetic found in Thai and Chinese communities.
“Adam and I picked this location for Samsen as it lends itself perfectly to our concept. When we think about this particular location in Wan Chai, we think about heritage, neighbourhood and tradition meeting modernity. When diners step into Samsen, we want them to feel like they could relate to dining in the streets of Thailand from the laidback interior, vintage decorations and the authentic Thai food. The creative direction of Samsen revolves around the Thai-Chinese theme as our food closely relates to the history and origin of what became today’s Thai noodles,” says Samsen co-owner Bella Kong.
The restaurant’s design inspiration takes on key elements from the street dining scene of Bangkok with a nod to the ubiquitous vintage Thai-Chinese shophouses dotted around the city. With a strong emphasis on the distressed, street side look, the details lend an air of authenticity to the space only improved by the vintage toys, figurines, posters and furniture found in Thai markets subtly displayed throughout the interior. Samsen logo and graphics (designed by Garageworks Industries) integrates tightly to the overall theme of Samsen and utilizes original Chinese Calligraphy by renowned Chinese Calligrapher in its logo design. It’s these above touches throughout Samsen’s concept execution that deliver its unique authenticity and personality.
Looking in, visitors will notice an open kitchen with bright lighting where the kitchen staff work nestled behind a 5-seat bar counter. Leafy green plants hanging from the high ceilings, colourfully-painted wood cupboards on the unfinished and exposed concrete walls, and meticulously torn Thai vintage graphics by Garageworks Industries applied seemingly random throughout the shophouse complete the distinctly street feel to the interior. The low wooden stools, wood trimming on the colourful granite table and centrepiece bulky wooden staircase give a warm but raw and welcoming invite for curious passer-by.
At Samsen, it’s all about authenticity, quality and passion. Aside from most ingredients being flown fresh daily from Thailand, Samsen uses colourful crockeries including condiment holders sourced directly from Bangkok. Owners of Samsen (Adam Cliff and Bella Kong) went so far as to finding original signs and decorations used by shop owners in Thailand to adorn the unfinished walls.
In Thailand with many of the stalls serving food in a tight row, the shop keepers will claim a colour to paint their chopsticks so at the end of the night each shopkeeper can identify their utensils. Staying true to the Thai street stall spirit, Chef Adam meticulously hand painted Samsen chopsticks with a green paint at the ends because at Samsen it’s all in the details.