NONTHABURI — Suntanned women sip prosecco under a thatched outdoor bar. Freckled millennials take photos of their avocado toast. Brunette children scramble over a wooden jungle gym in a grassy yard.

There’s a space for every member of the clan at Sweet Poppy, a family-friendly community space that just opened last month. Parents can relax at the bar while hungry couples gnosh on slightly expensive vegetarian grain bowls in the restaurant and the little ones play make believe in the yard’s miniature house.

“It’s difficult to accomodate kids in the part of the world,” said founder John Popovic, an Aussie dad of three who has lived in Southeast Asia for 10 years. “You have to take them to a restaurant, and young children lose their attention span quickly so you have to give them an iPad or phone.”

John Popovic.
John Popovic.

Half of Sweet Poppy’s 2.5 rai (0.4 hectares) is green space: a playground with a wooden jungle gym, a bird’s nest swing imported from Denmark, a open yard where yoga sessions are held and a small herb kitchen garden.

“Here, parents can relax as kids run carefree, have social fun, shoes off, without electronics. They can run back to their parents when they get hungry or thirsty,” Popovic said. “I love to see parents relaxing, communicating more.”

The family-friendly space also includes little-but-significant touches like a family toilet for moms and dads to wash up and change diapers with their youngest children. All walkways are pram- and wheelchair-accessible. A hanging cascade of dried grass garlands can entertain 1- to 2-year-old kids, Popovic says.

Popovic holds up hanging chains of dried grass, part of a playground installation.
Popovic holds up hanging chains of dried grass, part of a playground installation.

Urban Escape

On Wednesday afternoon, Line Hojlund, Victoria Davy and Kelly Einarson were sipping seltzers and crunching on salads in the outdoor bar. Davy, a 46-year-old American, said the three rode to the Sweet Poppy on a golf cart from the nearby International School Bangkok.

ISB is one of the five international schools in the area along with Magic Years International School, St. Andrews Samakee International School, Early Learning Centre and Rose Marie Academy.

Kelly Einarson, Victoria Davy and Line Hojlund at Sweet Poppy.
Kelly Einarson, Victoria Davy and Line Hojlund at Sweet Poppy.

Popovic said the schools and the nearby gated Western community called Nichada Thani of about 1,400 families make Sweet Poppy a well-placed hub for a community space and healthy Western food. The owner hopes both Thais and expats seeking to escape Bangkok’s busy, polluted life can trek north to Nonthaburi for a grassy respite.

“It makes me happy when people say they feel like they’re in an oasis, a respite, or when they say don’t feel like they’re in Thailand at all,” he said.

Einarson, 34 of Canada, said it was her third visit since Sweet Poppy opened.

“It’s a nice setting. You can come with your kids and run around, and there’s a lot of healthy options too,” Einarson said.

Hojlund, a 43-year-old Dane, said, “It reminds me of a resort. It just needs a pool.”

They said they don’t mind if Sweet Poppy becomes popular. “I’d just be happy that it stays around,” Einarson said.

What to Expect

At a recent hosted media preview of the menu, the open-air bar area was festooned with tropical plants and a pink neon sign saying “Hello Gorgeous.” The indoor restaurant had a bright jungle-slash-colonial theme with marble counters and floors, woven Malawi chairs and rotating punkah fans on the walls.

Avocado toast (310 baht).
Avocado toast (310 baht).

Breakfast is served until 4pm and includes a surprisingly heavy slice of avocado toast (310 baht) topped with juicy, vinegared tomatoes and two poached eggs on hummus, topped with pickled red pepper (290 baht).

Two poached eggs on hummus, topped with pickled red pepper (290 baht)
Two poached eggs on hummus, topped with pickled red pepper (290 baht)

Meats are sourced from organic butcher Sloane’s, and almost half of the menu is vegetarian or has vegetarian options, with many gluten- or dairy-free choices. The vegetarian Grains Bowl (320 baht) is a extremely filling vegetarian salad of barley, quinoa and chickpeas with miso dressing. To a Thai tongue, the Vietnamese Slaw (390 baht) tastes like a farang-friendly interpretation of Asian food. While the Baco (410 baht) is delicious in its herby flatbread execution, the price is a too high for a pita stuffed with meatballs and chorizo.

Vietnamese Slaw (390 baht), Crushed potatoes (150 baht), Organic Pork Chop (590 baht), Grains Bowl (320 baht) and Leaves and Herbs Salad (130 baht).
Vietnamese Slaw (390 baht), Crushed potatoes (150 baht), Organic Pork Chop (590 baht), Grains Bowl (320 baht) and Leaves and Herbs Salad (130 baht).

The sides are a thing of their own. Check out a comfort-food plate of crushed potatoes (150 baht), delectably sweet, longan-honey roasted carrots (150 baht) and a salad of leaves and herbs which includes a crunchy pickled radish with just the right amount of tart and a refreshing lemon dressing (130 baht). Mains include the organic pork chop (590 baht). Glazed in hoi sin sauce and served with a cauliflower mash and charred Chinese cabbage, it’s an Aussie take on Asian ingredients.

Vietnamese Slaw (390 baht).
Vietnamese Slaw (390 baht).
Organic Pork Chop (590 baht).
Organic Pork Chop (590 baht).

Still, the prices would be more at home in Thonglor than Nonthaburi, so splitting dishes may be a more sustainable option.

The Baco (410 baht) in foreground.
The Baco (410 baht) in foreground.

There’s also a tempting and healthy kids’ menu that includes ricotta hotcakes (180 baht), crisp lettuce cups with chicken, avocado and poached veggies (200 baht) and the amusing Lamington Ball (140 baht), a Aussie dessert where one has to whack a coconut-covered chocolate ball to dig for the coconut ice cream within. Another unmissable dessert is the pavlova (260 baht), which is a scoop of the same coconut ice cream resting on meringue filled with lemon curd, all topped with passionfruit sauce.

Lamington Ball (140 baht).
Lamington Ball (140 baht).
Passionfruit pavlova (260 baht).
Passionfruit pavlova (260 baht).

The name Sweet Poppy comes from a nickname of Popovic’s mother, who emigrated to Australia from Croatia – so the Australian fare also has a slight Croatian touch.

For example, other than the condiments and baked-in-house bread, Sweet Poppy staff also make their own ajvar, a mild Serbian red bell pepper condiment. Their home-pickled peppers, chiles and radishes are worth the drive – Sweet Poppy says it will begin selling these things next month.

Popovic said he’s open to hosting activities in the open space, from custom treasure hunts and bocce ball to parkour and outdoor movies.

“We can do many things in a natural environment and provide lots of entertainment options,” he said. “If you don’t mind the sound of kids playing, everyone can find their own space here.”

This write up was based on a hosted visit. Sweet Poppy, open 7am to 10:30pm daily, except for Mondays through Wednesdays when it closes at 6pm. The nearest public transportation is MRT Nonthaburi Civic Center.

A sign saying “unsupervised children will be given an espresso and a free puppy” in English and Thai encapsulates Aussie humor, Popovic says, and has prompted some people to actually ask staff for a free espresso and dog.
A sign saying “unsupervised children will be given an espresso and a free puppy” in English and Thai encapsulates Aussie humor, Popovic says, and has prompted some people to actually ask staff for a free espresso and dog.
A toy cooking station.
A toy cooking station.
A miniature hut for children to play in.
A miniature hut for children to play in.