BANGKOK — Blackwood café couldn’t have chosen a worse time to open its doors. 

Situated on Charoen Krung Rd Soi 71, the place was planned late last year. It got caught in the middle of a coronavirus business shutdown and wasn’t open until May. 

It’s been open for four months now but without any foreign tourists that would normally patronize the area. 

“Just accept it and chill,” said cafe owner Nonglak Thongthaipa. 

Although she originally planned to serve charcoal-fired pizza, with all the foreign tourists gone and reserved cash dwindling, Nonglak, 38, settled for a mere café for the meantime. Bad time means even the Italian coffee machine, costing 140,000 baht, is being leased at 5,000 baht a month and not bought. And there is just one paid staff, Ploy.

Nonglak Thongthaipa, owner of Blackwood Cafe.

There’s one silver lining – eclectic décor, a gray painted wall, and second-hand wooden furniture means it has quickly attracted a crowd of café visitors who post pics on social media.

“They helped a lot,” said the owner on a lazy and slow Tuesday afternoon. Nonglak said they helped bring in more and more customers. “Facing the current predicament, I don’t know how it would be without social media,” she said.

I ordered Black Hunter (80 baht), a cold concoction of espresso coffee, honey and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Refreshingly sour and sweet. A good summer drink. It went well with “chocco orange” (70 baht), a pastry of orange in syrup and chocolate pastry. It’s not too sweet and the pastry is done just right, thanks to a Japanese pastry maker who supplies them. 

Blackwood Cafe.

A hot Americano here costs 65 and made from Thai and Brazilian Arabica beans. It doesn’t disappoint.

“It’s like a second home for some customers,” said Nonglak, referring to one female customer who has been around for three hours already.

It’s more than quiet during weekdays, however, and Nonglak said she is seriously planning to have to earn more income by serving alcohol. 

There’s a problem. It’s in the vicinity of Shrewsbury School Bangkok which is a five-minute walk away and this means it may not be legal. 

“I will have to first find a way to sort it out,” Nonglak said of the legal constraints that forbid selling alcohol within 300 meters radius. The other is to make an art studio upstairs, on the second floor of the century-old shop house which is owned by the Crown Property Bureau though she sub-rent it from a middle man at 35,000 per month.

Blackwood Cafe.

“Anyone who wants to put their art on display, please contact me,” Nonglak said.

Also, the food menu is a work in progress, depending on the availability of the owner-slash-cook. Nonglak said she has to do it herself since the designated hired cook simply disappeared after telling her to buy 10,000 baht worth of supplies and kitchen utensils. 

Her construction and deco workers were also fired halfway due to their substandard work and she has to learn to do most of the rest by herself from Youtube.

The true selling point of Blackwood Café is that of its ambience and views of century-old shop houses across the first street in Bangkok that is Charoen Krung. 

Blackwood Cafe.

And also, the café owner, a former tour guide, is down-to-earth and more than willing to chat with you and tell you the story of how she unwittingly planned a business that got caught in the middle of a coronavirus storm. While she maintains only one hired staff, Nonglak would not save on fresh red roses placed on two glass vases.

Right now, most of the tiny number of western clients are staff and teachers at Shrewsbury.

“It’s been fun and wonderfully stressful. I do everything myself,” said Nonglak with an air of fortitude.

Blackwood Café is essentially an atmospheric new café with a note of vintage, western and melancholic decor that is deeply rooted on the ground and run by hard-workingpowner who will not quit easily, with or without COVID-19.

Blackwood Café & Studio is located at 1839 Charoen Krung Soi 71. It opens everyday from Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 7pm and weekend from 8am to 7pm. Call 086-391-7721 for details.

This review is unsponsored and we paid for the food ourselves.