BANGKOK, Dec 27 — Tired of ho-hum Eggs Benedict or boring ol’ French toast? If you’ve had brunch in one café, you’ve had it everywhere. Or have you?
Up north in the Thai capital, four Bangkok cafés are transforming the basic concept of brunch in different and exciting ways. Aussie, Swedish, British and Thai flavours and ingredients meet and marry... and our taste buds are the winners.
Begin your brunch odyssey at Roast EmQuartier in the spanking new shopping mall (the EmQuartier part of its moniker). Easier to find than the first Roast outlet in Thong Lor, this café is conveniently connected to the Phrom Pong BTS station.
Retaining much of the original’s easy charm, Roast EmQuartier is suffused with natural sunlight through large windows. Wood is the main feature here, courtesy of custom-made tables, chairs and coffee bar by Bangkok-based furniture artisan If I Were A Carpenter. Owner Varatt Vichit Vadakan is the 2014 Thai Barista Champion, so rest assured their coffee is truly remarkable.
Ease into your lazy weekend with some creamy tomato soup made from oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic. The more adventurous can snack on grilled sardines and young watercress layered on slices of house-made Polish baguette; a style of bruschetta called zapiekanka.
No brunch is complete without eggs; you can’t go wrong with Roast’s robust rendition of that Mexican classic, Huevos Rancheros. Eggs baked with chorizo, tomatoes, peppers and a spicy chilli sauce beg for some toasted tortilla to mop up all that gooey goodness.
Pasta lovers will enjoy the Lamb Ragu Gnocchi — the gnocchi is made fresh — that is topped with a decadent fried duck egg, or the aromatic Truffle Alfredo where house-made tagliatelle is dressed in cream, fried bacon, mushrooms and truffle oil.
Those with a sweet tooth are not left out: the Cranberry Brioche French Toast is fluffy and not overly rich, while the Banana Pancakes are more indulgent thanks to copious amounts of butterscotch sauce and peanut butter ice-cream.
For a brunch that is less Aussie and more European, head to Rocket Coffeebar at Sathorn Soi 12. This tiny café has only 27 seats which may explain the long lines. Its popularity may also be due to its open kitchen concept, where a low counter bar and an island kitchen setting allow the diners to see their brunch being created right before their eyes.
Founded by three Swedes (Ben-David Sorum, Dannie Sorum and Thomas Anostam) and an American (Jared O’Brien), Rocket Coffeebar has a strong Nordic influence. Scandinavian delicacies like gravlax on dark rye and Swedish meatballs make a welcome appearance on the menu.
Yet some of the most popular dishes are those that are just a little “fusion” in execution. Sandwiches rule supreme at Rocket Coffeebar: from the Chic ‘N’ Toast (an open-faced sandwich of mustard-smeared shredded chicken garnished with coriander leaves and an entire cluster of vine-ripened tomatoes, served with a perfect soft-boiled egg) to the pulled pork sandwich that is taken to the next level with the inclusion of some tart pickled beetroot.
Don’t forget to enjoy the coffee here. Filter coffee aficionados will cheer for the freshly-brewed single origin pour-over while those seeking something cooler can try their Rocket Fuel, a cold brew coffee made from a blend of Thai, Indonesian, Brazilian and Guatemalan beans.
Fancy charcuterie for brunch? British-inspired Smith at Sukhumvit 49 will provide, with their Fergus Henderson-derived slogan of “Nose To Tail, From Farm To Table: Nothing Is Wasted.” Locating it may be your first hurdle though; look out for a corrugated steel façade adorned with graffiti of — what else? — hanging cuts of meat and links of sausages.
The brainchild of celebrity chef Ian Kittichai (of Issaya fame), Hyde & Seek chef Peter Pitakwong and Flow mixologist Chanond Purananda, Smith exudes an ambience that wouldn’t be out of place in a blacksmith’s forge: cue a profusion of exposed metal, concrete and dim lighting.
Of course, you don’t have to dine on ox tongue and pig’s trotters for brunch; these hearty staples are better left for the evening. Instead, carnivores will celebrate the Black Label Burger, which features a thick Australian wagyu beef patty sandwiched between squid ink buns.
The Smith Benedict is a nice twist on the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict by adding crispy slabs of marinated pork belly, sweet young beans and a Hollandaise sauce laced with subtle hints of yuzu.
Finally, let’s not forget we are in Bangkok, after all. What could be better than brunch with a distinctively Thai flavour? Taper, the newly-opened sister outlet of award-winning restaurant Le Du, fits the bill.
Le Du chef Thitid Tassanakajohn has roped in his former Culinary Institute of America (CIA) classmate, chef Tatchapol Choomduang, to infuse brunch favourites with a taste of their homeland.
The star attraction here is the World Famous Congee, where the classic Thai congee is recreated with the sort of flair you expect from a CIA graduate. The brown rice congee is puréed and served with a 63°C sous-vide egg, a generous slice of bacon, pan-fried mushrooms and fried ginger. I’m not sure if it’s world famous yet, but this has my vote for the best brunch dish in Bangkok.
Less “deconstructed” but still deftly executed is the salted egg carbonara, where fresh pasta is sauced with salted egg yolk. Grilled squid and chilli add bite and heat.
Your inner child will come out and play when presented with Taper’s Thai Tea Toast. A thickly cut slice of pain de mie is jazzed up with scoops of Thai tea ice cream, honey butter, coconut cream and seasonal fruits. Forget about French toast, this is the ultimate toast for brunch fanatics!
1st floor, The Helix Quartier, EmQuartier, 651 Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Open daily 10am-10 pm
147 Soi Sathon 12, Bangkok, Thailand
Open daily 7am-9pm
1/8 Sukhumvit 49, Bangkok, Thailand
Tue-Sat 5pm-12am; Sun 11am-12am; Mon closed
44/11 Thonglor Soi 13, Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
Open Tue-Sun 9am-4pm; Mon closed