BANGKOK — An over 150-year-old shophouse where ships were once repaired has become a go-to brunch spot since it was recently taken over by a Singaporean cafe and eatery.
Sarnies Cafe may sound familiar to those who’ve been to the city-state’s Central Business District, where it draws fashionable crowds with quality coffee and big sandwiches. Now the hip hangout has found its north into wonderfully distressed-looking digs in the Bangkok riverside area off Charoen Krung Road.
Transforming what had been an empty, two-story shophouse, Sarnies Bangkok opened in late December with designs blending rustic style with a modern touch perfect for welcoming cafe crawlers.
Renovations were kept to a minimum on the 19th-century building, meaning authentic vintage charm oozes from exposed bricks, weathered concrete and peeling teak.
It took only a week for the place to find an audience and go from a few dozen daily customers to hitting its 400 maximum capacity. The place’s partners said they barely put any work into marketing and relied mostly on word of mouth and social media.
Despite it being 10am on a recent weekday, the venue’s first floor was already occupied by a mixed crowd hunkered over cups of coffee or brunch. Two men walked in and were told by the barista to “please make yourselves comfortable.”
“In terms of cafes, we want to bring something special to Bangkok,” said barista Eric Chan, who’s also a partner. “When you think of a cafe that serves brunch, there are not too many of them in Bangkok. Nothing with a full-scale menu, usually. That makes our brand quite unique.”
The original Sarnies Cafe was opened in 2011 by Ben Lee, an Australian banker. Lee said he did so because he couldn’t find a good sandwich in Singapore. It soon expanded beyond not only “sarnies,” British slang for sandwiches, but also caffeinated drinks and other brunch items.
“It’s funny because the brand is called Sarnies, but we do a lot more than sandwiches,” Eric said. “We wanna check all the right boxes. Good Coffee. Good Food. Eventually at night time we want to launch dinner too.”
Still in its “soft opening,” Sarnies Bangkok already offers a variety of fare.
The highlight is an classic English dish called Fry-up (450 baht) which comes with a big bowl filled with eggs (fried, poached or scrambled), home-cured smoked bacon, spicy northern Thai sausage aka sai ua, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and sourdough bread.
“It’s perfect for post-hungover,” general manager Nick Chong said as the hearty dish hit the table at a recent hosted tasting.
Some localized dishes take “a little bit of a different spin” from the original branch. They include Tom Yum Eggs Benedict (320 baht) and Krapao Brisket Hash (320 baht). The assortment of breads are picked up daily from Amantee, a French bakery in the Rama III area. Salmon and bacon are from artisan meat distributor Sloane’s.
“A lot of ideas behind the menu are to celebrate the local ingredients,” Nick said.
Apart from traditional coffee drinks such as espresso, lattes and cappuccinos, there are some specials worth trying: Iced orange mocha (homemade chocolate sauce infused with orange zest for 140 baht) and iced coconut long black (long black made with fresh coconut water for 140 baht).
The beans come from several places around the world including Thailand’s Lampang province, Laos, Brazil and Panama. They’re roasted weekly by A Stimulant by Sarnies located up Soi Sukhumvit 39.
Capturing the eco-friendly moment, iced drinks at Sarnies are served with reusable metal straws. For takeaway drinks, they are made of biodegradable plastic.
Vegetarians can choose a CB&J (cashew butter, natural local honey, roasted grapes, thyme on sourdough for 280 baht), Triple-Cheese Sarnies (triple cheese toast, sun-dried tomatoes, braised aubergine and baby spinach on sourdough for 300 baht) and Avocado Loaded Toast (smashed avocado, feta cheese, roasted tomatoes and dukkah on sourdough for 320 baht).
Not satisfied with any of the above? Try the Pimp My Breakfast options to mix and match your favorite sides, from smashed avocado and sauteed mushrooms to flank steak, charred mackerel and smoked salmon.
While the place is known for coffee and brunch, a surprising number of passers-by walked in to pick up A F**king Good Brownie (140 baht) or Chunky Choc-Chip Cookie (140 baht), which are baked in-house. The intense, fudgy brownies and cookies are perfect for a bite when they’re sprinkled with sea salt flakes on top to cut through the sweetness.
Sarnies Bangkok is located on Soi Charoen Krung 44, only a few minutes walk from BTS Saphan Taksin. It currently opens 8am to 5:30pm daily with plans to add later hours for dinner and drinks in the future.