Bangkok may not be famous for its tea rooms, but that will soon change if flower enthusiast Sakul Intakul has anything to do with it. Our trip to his Salon du Thé gave us one of the most extraordinary afternoon tea experiences I have ever had.
And from April or May 2015, Sakul has plans to make this tea room even more special, but more on that at the end of this blog.
The Museum of Floral Culture in Bangkok is probably not the most frequently visited tourist destination at the moment. It is some way off the beaten track to the north of the city centre, and the tuk tuk we picked up from the ferry stop hadn’t heard of it, so struggled to find his way there.
If you’re heading there – and we thoroughly recommend it to any visitor to Bangkok – get off the ferry at Payap station and take a tuk tuk to Samsen Road, Soi 28. The museum is actually signposted once you get nearby, so isn’t that hard to find.
The museum is housed in a wonderful three-storey colonial building, set in beautiful gardens, with butterflies, exotic birds, and even a sugar baby flitting from branch to branch as we sipped our tea.
The whole place has a floral theme and is the brainchild of Sakul Intakul, surely one of Thailand’s foremost experts and author on tropical flowers.
He has designed an afternoon tea, where everything you consume has come from the flowers he loves.
The teas on offer include one made from Vietnamese lotus, several rose-based concoctions and the one we chose, which was a Thai flower (but I can’t decipher my notes to read what it was called!).
The sweet nibbles you get with your pot of tea are also flower – or at least plant – based: there’s lots of coconut in them, but also a range of Thai flowers we’d never heard of, cardamon from India and other creations using flowers from Japan or China.
It was really the most extraordinary afternoon tea I have ever tasted.
With Sakut’s plans to develop his venue, the menu will change slightly, but the tea selection and the basic format should remain the same.
You see, his big idea is to build a new conservatory in the middle of the gardens, with a Japanese bridge to link it back to the museum house. Inside he will serve up what he hopes will be Bangkok’s most exclusive high tea, with a maximum of 16 guests a day and one table set aside for lovers (He’s a bit of a romantic at heart).
Our only hesitation in giving this our wholehearted backing is that the prices will double. But I guess he needs to work out which way to make ends meet for a business he is clearly passionate about. And for western visitors – or for the local celebrities he currently has as customers – the £10 price tag should not be a disincentive.
We can’t wait to get back to Bangkok later in 2015 to try out the new Salon!
If you really can’t manage the trek up to that part of town, but still want a good tea in pleasant surroundings, you might want to try Elysian Teas, which was not far from a lot of the embassies in Bangkok in Sukhumvit.
They have three rooms: one is an air conditioned space set out in oriental style with low chairs to sit on or pouffes, or indeed mats if you like to sit cross-legged for your cuppa; you can go out into the garden if you like the heat and the flow of air; or onto the terrace, which is somewhere in between the two.
They have 30 or so teas on the menu, and you are invited to sniff as many as you like before choosing, as they bring round a basket full of small jars of each tea to give you an idea of what you’re about to order.
It’s a nice concept, very simply done, but it’s not really a full afternoon tea kind of place. Their food selection is based around mainly French-style patisseries with the increasingly popular macaroons (called macarons for some reason …), taking pride of place in the display units.
So if you’re needing a good place for tea in the heart of Bangkok, Elysian Tea House just might be the one for you.
I’d still recommend you get in that river ferry and find your way to the Floral Museum, though. Or, hey, do both as we did.