Category Archives: Around Bangkok

Toby’s coffee and brunch in Thong Lo, Bangkok

DO NOT walk from the BTS – that’s a rookie mistake.

On Google maps the distance looked way too short for a motorbike taxi, so a thirty-minute walk later we arrived hot and moist. We got to see how pretty Soi 38 is though: there were very few cars or in fact even people, there were fenced private properties with nice gardens, and stunning new developments. Before our destination there were actually a few more coffee places that looked very promising.

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It was a nice Saturday afternoon and we were about to meet a friend who texted us:”I’m there. Waiting for a table”. Whaaat? It’s either a coincidence or the place is THAT good, we thought. Toby’s has been featured on BK Magazine; I don’t know the criteria to be picked for their site, but it is a real boost for businesses in Bangkok. As many others, we wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.Toby's Bangkok

We ordered the “Smashed Avocado”, which was delicious! It was a lightly toasted sourdough bread with some gently seasoned avocado and a poached egg on top. Roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh tender leaf salad were also gorgeous – all the flavours and textures were perfectly paired as you can guess. The sad part was that I only had one bite as Auste “Hulk” Treciakauskaite ate the whole plate. It’s supposed to come with chorizo, but they were happy enough to cater for vegetarians, and it was still good.

Toby's Bangkok

The crafty lattes were silky smooth, and my guess is that they used proper full-fat milk as they were very creamy, without any of the coffee bitterness you get from many other places. Auste loves them, and I prefer the more roasty ones. The cake display was very tempting, as always is, but every item seemed to be different: bacon donuts, flourless chocolate cake, and the one I tried I forgot the name of. But it was like a chocolate chip sticky toffee caramel nutty datey “walk the plank” (is that it’s name??) pudding thing. It was sweet, but not overwhelming, and it had everything you can ask for in a dessert (except peanut butter!). Price-wise it was on the high end, but it’s Thong Lo.

Toby's Bangkok

The exterior was very pleasing to the eye. It looked like a modern Norwegian terrace with red brick walls, brown wooden tiles reflecting the setting sun, and the tall grass moving to the gentle sea breeze. There was no sea though, just a humid downtown BKK waft. The interior was just what you’d expect from such place: high ceiling with hanging lamps, white walls with tiny plant inceptions, brand new wooden furniture and cosy seats with pillows.

All in all, we had a typical IG-friendly experience, but for me the most different part was the outdoor area giving a definite non-BKK feel.

Toby's Bangkok

Bella Rocca Emquartier: high quality, vegetarian-friendly restaurant

We were working at home since early morning on Saturday, and with the evening slowly approaching I couldn’t bare having stayed indoors all day. Auste on the other hand didn’t mind, but I convinced her to go to town and checkout the Kinokunya bookshop in Emquartier. It’s been a while since we owned, or actually even read proper books. By the way the bookshop is huge, with thousands upon thousands of English publications of all genres, including hundreds of magazines. Most books cost 400-700 baht, which is really good for over-taxed imports!

We weren’t supposed to eat, but let’s just say somebody (the missus) didn’t eat her fruit before leaving home… (Sorry luv!) We took a stroll up to the Vertical Food Street, just one level above the pretty gardens. Some years ago we used to feel a bit awkward looking at the menus at restaurant entrances and walking away. Nowadays we just flip through the pages scanning for anything vegetarian, and go to the next one. It’s hard work when you’re hungry. We had already had an Asian meal and coffee that day, so we wanted something different.

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The food street goes in a spiral, so we scanned literally every non-Asian menu and ended up right at the top. Total possible eateries: 4. Our choice was very much influenced by the number of vegetarian options on the menu, not even considering “possible” ones where we would ask for certain ingredients to be replaced.

Our experience:

The atmosphere was definitely sophisticated, with a modern-vintage décor. The spacious layout with a spiral staircase, large glass carboys strapped in wooden frames, and wooden wine racks with hundreds of bottles on display. High-ceiling with dimmed lights resembled of an outdoor space which allowed to experience an element of privacy.

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We were seated right under a bright light which made it impractical to take photos of the gorgeous food, but it didn’t affect the eating experience. The wine menu was perhaps 5 pages long, with around 9 wines available by the glass. We went for Shiraz and Chianti, both of which were full-bodied, came in big beautiful glasses, and cost around 250-280 each. Bottled wines were at around the 1,200-1,900 mark. Bottled water was only 30 baht!The menu had lots of dishes to choose from, like pastas, pizzas, ravioli and risottos which all ranged from 280 to 480 baht. Main courses (all non-veg) ranged from 480 to 2,000+ so it definitely covers variety of budgets. You can download the menu from their website here (opens in new tab). The prices indicated do not include a 10 % service charge and a 7 % govt. tax, which will be applied to your bill, as advised on the menu.

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Right after we ordered our food, the waiters delivered complimentary bread with tomatoes, and tomato sauce. It was so fresh and moreish, it even felt like a healthy snack. The potato gratin wasn’t available, so we were offered potato skins, which were basically oven-baked wedges. Auste enjoyed them, but for me they lacked just a tiny bit of taste.

The dishes came at the same time, and they both were delightful. The spinach and ricotta ravioli in truffle cream sauce were just as we imagined – creamy, yet not too heavy, with melting-in-the-mouth truffle goodness. Very tasty. The pizza Margherita was of a decent size, with tons of mozzarella and an appetising tomato sauce covering a slightly charred crust. There was a lot of cheese, but it didn’t overtake the flavour of the gorgeous thin-base.

Overall we had a very good experience with everything: interior, staff, and prices. Simply fresh, tasty and high-quality food. We loved it and we can’t wait to go there again!

Day trip to Ko Kret

It’s Saturday and we’re both not working. That doesn’t happen very often, so we planned a day trip to Ko Kret – a man-made island in the Chaophraya river. We didn’t want to get on any organised boat trips (as we like exploring places at our own pace) nor did we want to hire a longtail boat (since that’s a bit of a rip-off), so we looked into the options for getting there by public transport. Wiki travel has a good detailed article about ways to get into the island.

Beautiful ceiling in one of the temples on the island
Beautiful ceiling in one of the temples on the island

We left home around 6:30am, got the BTS to Saphan Taksin and around 7:30 we were already on the Chaophraya Express, heading for Nonthaburi. An hour later our 15-baht trip ended and we had to say goodbye to the nice breeze coming from the river. Wiki site read there’s supposedly a bus going to Pak Kret, so we decided to give it a shot. We simply followed the main road walking away from the river and just a few minutes later we saw a bus stop – with our bus no 32 approaching!

Now, I’m not a big fan of GPS and prefer old-school maps whenever possible, but finding a good detailed map in Thailand is quite a challenge and Google maps doesn’t show half the street names… And yet with a combination of tracking our whereabouts on Google maps with my barely working phone and looking at street names around us we managed to get off exactly where we needed to. A short walk to Wat Sanam Nuea and we saw a ferry approaching the shore – it seemed that we had perfect timing with transport:)

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It was 9:30am and we were finally on Koh Kret. We glanced at the map of the island and it looked pretty tiny, so we decided not to get the bicycles and just walk instead. We looked around the first temple, fed the giant fish at the pier and took the footpath circling the island. We walked into a lovely market with stall after stall selling food, drinks, plants and souvenirs on both sides of the footpath. There were also plenty of Thai restaurants with tables on the riverside – offering plenty of meat and seafood dishes. We were looking for a coffee shop as we wanted to sit down at one of those lovely riverside tables, but there were only restaurants. We were getting hungry, so in the end we stopped for a chicken green curry (the curry sauce minus the chicken). For most non-vegetarians it’s difficult to believe that sometimes there’s literally nothing to eat. To our joy they gave us a full plate of veggies as a side dish – the typical mix of beansprouts, pickled and fresh cabbage, and green beans. If only they sold this as a dish on its own – we would buy it!

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We then continued along the footpath. After a while we started thinking that the whole island is a never ending market, but then it suddenly ended. No more noise and rush, just a few peaceful houses along the path and sooo much greenery. And of course, the heat. We didn’t notice it that much before as the market was all under a roof, but just a few minutes without shade and we started sweating. If you’ve ever been to a greenhouse on a hot sunny day – you know the feeling.

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We were still hoping to find a coffee shop. Soon we realised that the island was bigger than we thought. Bicycles and motorcycle taxis were passing us from time to time and there was nothing but the jungle and a few old houses around us. I started joking that we will probably reach Chitbeer (a micro-brewery on the other side of the island) before we find any coffee shops. We were getting hungry and tired, and the heat was getting unbearable.

And then we found a shade in an area covered in trees, large enough to keep the temperature down a bit. And a bench. And a stand selling cold drinks. And we had some sandwiches with us. Perfect!

When we started walking again, we found an information board with the map of the island and it turned out we had walked half of the way already! So the island wasn’t that large after all. It was lunchtime and we still hadn’t found any coffee shops. But we did find a friendly iced tea vendor with two cute little girls, which he tried to encourage to talk in English (unsuccessfully though, as the little ones were too shy to say anything to us, they just said bye:) ).

We kept walking and we soon reached the corner of the island with another pier and another temple. What we didn’t know was that Chitbeer was just round the corner waiting for us… and so our 4-hour search for breakfast coffee turned into afternoon beers instead.

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Oh, but the beers…! Thai beers that have TASTE – we didn’t know such a thing existed! We tried 6 different types and 4 of them were gorgeous. And even the two that we didn’t like that much tasted way better than the watery Chang we had to get used to while living here. It was a shame to leave as you can’t buy any of their beers to take home, but we simply couldn’t drink anymore, so it was time to head home.

Ironically, next door to Chitbeer there was the most perfect coffee shop we could ask for. Lovely atmosphere, ridiculously low prices and really good coffee from locally grown beans. And even though coffee right after having a beer adventure is the last thing you could think of, we stopped for coffee. Watching the owners roasting the coffee beans on a little stove while we were sipping our lattes from the pretty clay pots (I guess made in the pottery village nearby) was the perfect way to end our day. They also do DIY sets where you get to roast the beans, then grind them and make some coffee for yourself. We’ve got to try it next time (yes, there will be next time, we just have to come back for the beer again:) ).

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What’s strange is that while the whole island reminds of a small Thai village, there’s this modern hip corner with Chitbeer and the coffee shop that makes you feel as if you’re in the centre of Bangkok.

What a lovely place for a day out. We were a bit tired though (the heat and the beer…) so on the way back we traded the bus/boat combo for the 25 baht aircon van to Mo Chit BTS.

Casa Lapin x49 café at Thong Lo, Bangkok

BK Asia-city describes Casa Lapin x49 as “a gorgeous and thoughtful place well worth a visit, from the chic daybed out front to the lofty ceiling inside.” However we’re indecisive whether we’ll come back there again. Maybe we just had a less fortunate experience compared to other places we’ve been to.

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Even though it’s relatively close to Thong Lo BTS (Soi 49, opposite Samitivej Hospital), it’s too hot to walk in the heat. We took motorcycle taxis from the end of the street: I paid 20 baht, and Auste paid 30, but just because the driver drove past the hospital and had to drive back.

The coffee shop, which is also a bar/brunch spot, is actually easy to find, and sits on a quiet little alley off the main road. There are lots of potted plants outside the entrance, which feels like entering a cosy garden at your aunt’s or something. If it wasn’t for the plants, it wouldn’t be as lovely, as both the interior and exterior are mainly concrete and wood, with hanging warehouse-style lamps, and dominant dark colours.

Casa Lapin cafe tong lo

It was pretty dim inside, which made us sleepy, and everyone else around us seemed sleepy too. Usually we don’t mind the music too much, but it was just a weird sound-noise mixtape, and after a while it started to get irritating. The sleepy customers, dark colours with dim lighting, and monotonous music in the background created a strange hangover ambience. 

They do serve beer, as well as food – I saw someone having a meaty dish with eggs, which reminded me of British cuisine. The cake selection was rather poor, and they weren’t special in any way (it was the first time I was struggling to finish a piece of cake!). We had an apple tart, which was a tad dry, and a carrot cake, which was very sweet with an artificial aftertaste. They also had a chocolate cake and a cheesecake. They were like 120-140 baht each. Coffee was 90-100 each, which isn’t bad at all for Thong Lo.

Casa Lapin cafe tong lo

The coffee was good, including its presentation. We didn’t want to get too caffeinated, so we went for single-shot drinks (you can choose one shot, two shots, or iced). The caramel macchiato was very nice, however it would have been better enjoyed without having the cake, as it was sweet enough on its own.

After 30 minutes the music kind of got on our nerves and we moved to outside seating. Interestingly, as soon as we did, the music changed to some chilled-out deep house tunes and felt much easier on our ears. To be fair, the outside seats are much cosier with plenty of light and plants. However, the fan outside was loud AND there was a strong glue smell in the air, as if some furniture was being fixed next door. To top it off, some tired Thai couple sat down next to us and started smoking, so the little lounge area outdoor was soon filled with smoke.

Casa Lapin cafe bangkok

Our verdict:

The coffee is good and the outside lounge is cosy however, the interior inside, even though modern and tasteful, reminds more of a bar than a cafe. The cakes were definitely unimpressive (not sure about the cheesecake and chocolate cake though, they could be amazing, you never know). As for food there were no veggie options, so we didn’t try anything. I guess it’s a nice spot to hang out after a rough night, maybe have a beer or a fry-up and chat to friends. That’s not what we go to coffee shops for though… We were both unable to neither relax, nor do any work on our laptops. We felt like we wanted to leave as soon as we finished the cakes, and we did…

There are plenty of coffee places in the same area, like Rocket coffee bar, Starbucks, Blue Cup Coffee, including numerous interesting-looking ones right next to “Grease”.