'Tween-Times tidbits

We dissect the growing brunching culture and offer our selection of the best brunch venues in town

If you had suggested a breakfast date five years ago, your friends would probably have looked at you like you'd just suggested they shave their heads. Going out for brunch, let alone breakfast, is hardly part of the Thai lifestyle, with its roots in Western culture. Nevertheless, breakfast and all-day-dining venues have been deluging Bangkok, attracting hordes of trend-followers _ if not the genuinely famished _ with their naked lightbulb decor and staples of egg-based dishes.

Rewind to 2008 and you'll recall that Minibar Royale was probably one of the few fashionably decked out places that served breakfast-style comfort food, before Dean and Deluca arrived in 2010 to spread their message of gourmet groceries and New York-culture brunches, bringing once-obscure dishes and dining preferences into the mainstream. Without a doubt, it can only be expected that Bangkok's breakfast scene will multiply _ as any concept that becomes a success is usually caught on by others who hope to board this success train.

Granted, the breakfast scene has been around since our parents' time _ but it existed on the opposite ends of the price spectrum: less than 50 baht for a round of congee at the market, and a grand for a hotel brunch buffet. "Not everyone wants to make a great event out of grabbing brunch, where you spend three hours with the extended family overeating at a grand buffet," said Thomas Anostam, one of the four founders of the new and popular brunch venue, Rocket Coffeebar. "At all-day dining cafes, you can simply pick a few things you want to eat that are actually enjoyable with a cup of cafe latte."

On closer inspection, it becomes quite apparent that one of the reasons these breakfast places are popping up is because a mere cup of coffee is no longer enough. In a sense, breakfast cafes have developed out of coffee cafes, where the dishes are not only served to fill stomachs alongside some great brews, but also to boost business. "We've seen the boom in coffee shops and how that lead to selling bread, then with some bakery items and now with some serious breakfast dishes," said Suwicharn Camanathamkomol, the fourth-generation to run the old-school Kopi HiaTaiKee. "We understand why menus need to be expanded to create sustainability because depending on coffee sales alone cannot break even costs anymore."

How we enjoy our breakfast has evolved over the years to reflect the changing lifestyles of consumers. People today are very much aware of the importance of a hearty breakfast and its health implications, while Thais of yesteryear saw this meal as a mere bite to grab before dashing off to work. This also brings about more jargon from the health-conscious, where words such as "organic" and "healthy" lend a trendy appeal to these brunch hubs.

The plethora of available nooks can be dizzying (and not so great), so we offer readers our selection of delectably divine brunch spots that are well worth a visit, not only for their grub, but for friendly service and radiant atmosphere to really kick-start your day.

ROCKET COFFEEBAR

- Rocket is one of the blaring red dots on the social radar and it's easy to see why they are shooting towards the gates of breakfast heaven with (photogenic) food selections and products just as chi-chi as the white-washed woodwork, slick decor and groovy tunes. This shoebox of a coffee bar aims to be that intimate neighbourhood fixture, the go-to place anyone can drop by for a meal at any time of the day and point at anything on the menu with their eyes closed and can be sure it will complement their hot latte. After all, nothing can save the day quite like coffee; imagine how unstoppable that brew becomes when paired with complementing meals!

Inspired by the coffee culture of Stockholm, the all-day cafe-hopping of Sydney and the dedication to locally grown ingredients like in San Francisco, Rocket Coffeebar transitions effortlessly throughout the day to serve wholesome breakfasts all the way to classic wines and night desserts.

Rocket's Benedict (185 baht) tastes as good as it looks. The hollandaise sauce is not too overpowering and the fried chorizo bits really add a crunchy kick to this generic egg-centric dish. For a fresh zing that really jabs the senses, pick gravlax on Danish rye (175 baht), which is house-cured Norwegian salmon, pickled beets, horseradish and a very tangy lemon and dill dressing sitting on dense rye bread. We also liked cold rock melon soup (175 baht), as it created a different take on the parma ham-melon tradition with prosciutto crudo floating in a chilled, sweet melon soup. Wash it all down with Green smoothie (185 baht), a blend of spinach, spirulina, coconut, pineapple, mango and chia seeds. It may look scary, but it's definitely refreshing and hardly smells green.

SIMPLE

- Your inner sloth should enjoy this rustic and brick-clad little cafe, for a more laidback and less energetic hideaway that serves fuss-free European dishes. The mood is something like dropping by a friend's house for a meal, with lots of expats proving that although uncomplicated, the tastes at Simple are very much authentic. It's all very simple like the namesake and practically going back to basics, with chef and founder Natcha Chatlaong emphasising how extra care and attention is given to the local products and suppliers that have been sourced. Serving an eclectic array of Western goodness, the menu is an incarnation of Natcha's own visits to countries such as the Britain and Italy _ a mixture of cuisines from all over Europe.

For a hearty and filling breakfast, try fritata and slow roasted tomato (180 baht), which should get you to stay put until late afternoon. Hardly overcooked, the luscious omelette is pleasantly seasoned and the juiciness of the slow-roasted tomato oozes richly against your tongue to counter the throngs of cheese. Homemade granola with yogurt and seasonal fruits (160 baht) is a honey-sweetened breakfast that feels super healthy, with ample yogurt served alongside the apple slices. Our favourite juice is beetroot and pineapple (80 baht), a two-toned drink that really reminds you that fresh and all-natural with no sweeteners can taste good too.

Open Tues-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat-Sun 7am-8pm. Soi Sawatdi, Sukhumvit Soi 31. Call 02-662-2510.

Open daily 7am-8pm. Phan Fah Bridge, Phra Sumen Road. Call 02-629-0646.

KOPI HIATAIKEE

- For all the farang brunches that are all the rage, a retro-looking open air cafe has been serving breakfast, miraculously, to all age groups. Starting out more than 60 years ago as a coffee shop that served little more than a morning set of soft-boiled eggs, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee, Kopi HiaTaiKee today is managed by the fourth generation of the family and was one of the first places to offer kai krata (egg in a pan) in Bangkok. Although it's not the kind of place you can bum around all day because the turnover rate is high, it's self-service and there's no air-con, it's still a charming dining venue that's clearly got the goods to have survived this long.

Suwicharn revealed that robust breakfast dishes were only added to the menu 20 years ago and, ironically, people today are aware of the greater significance of breakfast but have little time to eat, while people of the past ate little but had much more time on their hands. But never mind that, because when weekends roll around it truly is a hub of family get-togethers with three generations showing up to enjoy family time with a menu has something from picky grannies to insufferable kindergartners. The boran coffee shop ambiance is very much intact with the round tables, Chinese stools and coloured lamps, but sadly, the culture of sitting there with a cup of coffee exchanging world views with strangers has eroded along with the passing generations. Good thing Thai-Chinese favourites such as kai krata (75 baht) can still warm your insides with its standard topping of minced pork and Thai sausage. Served with a buttered baguette, the homey taste of everything is satisfyingly filling. The staple must-try is roti with condensed milk (55 baht), a crispy yet airy treat that's been a long-time local fave. A signature drink that's a definite don't-miss is Chafe (65 baht), a mixture of Ceylon tea and coffee. Packed with a rich tea aroma and a full-bodied taste, it's a twist on your usual caffeine fix to really start your mornings with a smile.

SWEET BRUNCH

This cafe is the city's mainstay for French and dainty sweets, but now they offer brunchy delicacies every weekend as well. Expect all the creamy and eggy breakfast dishes to have a saccharine kick, as Let Them Eat Cake stays true to its patisserie roots. Known to dedicate to delivering more than one texture for your tongue to relish, an advantage of having brunch at a bakery is the dough in the pastries here is in a class of its own. It's like the sweet signatures are given a savoury frat twin, such as St Honore au Foie Gras (360 baht), which is loaded with a smooth foie gras cream and berry sauce, while Eclaires de Salade aux Crabes (235 baht) gets a cool stuffing of crab and green apples. For something heavier with eggs or salmon, go for Les Oeufs Napoleon III (290 baht) or Millefeuille a la Mousse aux Saumonset et Les Oeufs Brouilles (280 baht); otherwise, there's also salads on the menu. Then, wash all those rich flavours down with prosecco or a sweet flute of moscato (200 baht per glass), a bubbly close to this mincingly recherche meal indeed.

Brunch is served every Sat-Sun from 11am-6pm at Let Them Eat Cake, Mille-Malle, ground floor, Sukhumvit Soi 20. Call 02-663-4667.

PARTY BRUNCH

Hotel brunches are pretty generic, but the one here revels in turning into a Saturday day-club. Party from noon all the way till five with The Saturday Gild _ laser lights, dance floor and interval opera troupes included _ while enjoying your Moet and Tuscan-style brunch. The menu is an array of tapas from Medici and our original favourites, whether risotto or brownies, are divided into small serving portions that you can easily eat and carry around with you as you shimmy across the floor. A popular concept in other party destinations such as Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, the entertainment is the real deal with international DJs spinning funky tunes. It's the ultimate cure for hangovers: you can party during the day on Saturday and wake up all fresh the next day, say goodbye to half-dead brains and completely wasted Sundays. Held on the first Saturday of every month, it's a shindig worth looking into if your yuppie friends have a tight schedule and want a party and brunch all rolled up into one.

The next Saturday Gild takes place on Dec 7. The brunch set is priced 1,500 baht, inclusive of brunch, a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne and free flow of booze from 11.30am-5pm. Medici Kitchen & Bar, Hotel Muse, Langsuan Road. Call 02-630-4000.

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Parisa Pichitmarn
Position: Life Writer