Jun 18 2012
If you include all the stands slinging coffee streetside, there have to be a million coffee shops in Bangkok. Being the coffee enthusiast (read: addict) that I am, I’ve probably tried half of them. Most sell a standard mix of decent Thai coffee, overly sweet lattes, milky chah yen (Thai iced-tea), a few juices and smoothies, perhaps some baked goods that look better than they taste, and, if the place is elaborate, sandwiches and rice plates. It’s not that my go-to Sukhumvit Road coffee shop, M Coffee, does anything different from the rest, it’s just that they do it all so much better.
Located near Sukhumvit Soi 69, directly below the Phra Khanong BTS (sky train) station, the fully glass-fronted M Coffee stands out among this part of Sukhumvit’s predominantly old school open-air shop fronts. There are a couple of tables outside on an enclosed porch raised slightly above the sidewalk, but most opt for a table or couch in the main air-con dining room.
Although tables are set close together, a mirror running the length of one wall lends the place an illusion of spaciousness, and the atmosphere is bright and cheerful. Tiled and wood floors, light orange walls, and hanging glass lanterns are complimented by a mural featuring silhouettes enjoying steaming cups of joe, a shelf of antique radios, telephones, and toys — my personal favourites are the figurines of all four Beatles — and soft music from the likes of Frank Sinatra and other oldie favourites like the song, “Moon River” from the classic early ’60s flick, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
While not exactly a lounge, the cafe is a pleasant enough place to hang out. One thing, however, that’s not on the menu is WiFi, a hint that they don’t want people sitting around for hours on a laptop with a bottled water while paying customers wait for a table. Not surprising considering the cafe’s varied menu, snappy yet friendly service, and the quality of food and drink, the cafe is usually nearly full (although that magic lone table always seems to be there for me) with an equal mix of Thais and foreigners.
A couple of details that make for some well earned “extra credit” are complimentary glasses of ice water as soon as you sit down, and individually wrapped but reusable hand towels at the bathroom sink. For anyone whose spent some serious time in Southeast Asia’s usually soap-less bathrooms, individual hand towels are a dream come true.
The coffee here is exactly what I look for — strong and dark northern Thai arabica served in larger glasses than are typical of Thailand. A full range of variations are available, from a professionally crafted cappuccino to a hot cocoa complete with the perfect amount of chocolate sauce drizzled over whipped cream. Thai-style iced teas, fresh juices and smoothies are also available.
While it’s a worthy stop just for the coffee, the food is what brings the loyal clientele back day after day. The menu is extensive, although not overwhelmingly so, and there’s no pressure to order quickly. Sandwiches aren’t the best I’ve had in Thailand, but the ham and cheese croissant will do the trick for satisfying that bread craving. If it’s the pasta fix that needs quenching, a full page of lunch-size spaghetti dishes are solid choices.
I usually opt for one of the many Thai rice plates on offer. My favourite — which I’ve enjoyed more times than I can count and always find to be consistent — is the gai met mamuang himapan (cashew nut chicken stir-fry), which comes in a balanced spicy and salty package with the right mix of onions, roasted chilli, scallion, tomato and cashews.
My usual Northeastern Thai salad expert dining partner more often than not turns up her cheek when sampling yam woon sen (spicy glass noodle salad), and typically a subtle nod is the only sign of approval. M Coffee’s yam woon sen with pork, however, consistently brings a full-on smile to her face. In other words, these guys get authentic Thai food right.
Other favourites include the tom yum soup, fried rice sauteed with the sour and spicy flavours of tom yum, and a solid chicken green curry. The cafe also makes for the perfect “I know I shouldn’t but I’m going to anyway” late afternoon indulgence — try the divine scented waffles (they taste pretty good too) with strawberries and ice cream or a slice of blueberry cheesecake.
The “M” in M Coffee apparently stands for “Mama”. We’ve yet to meet her, but that won’t stop us from applauding her on running an excellent and functional day-to-day cafe. To get here, take Exit 3 out of Phra Khanong BTS station, hang a U-turn at the bottom of the stairs, and walk about 20 metres. M Coffee is open from 8:00 to 22:00 Monday to Saturday, and 8:00 to 20:00 on Sundays.
M Coffee & Bakery
1539 Sukhumvit Road
Phra Khanong, Wattana, Bangkok
(023) 822 121 ; (023) 823 131
BTS: Phra Khanong
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