Does coffee taste better when sipped in a discreet vine-covered shophouse? Are croissants satisfyingly flakier when eaten in a space that you may or may not have had to ask three locals where to find? We’re going to argue that the answer is yes, and that’s because these six hidden cafes ultimately charm with their romantic secrecy, winning us over with pastries and tea despite the extra effort it took to get our hands on them.
Bangkok, generally, is a town of many secrets, but all in all, cafés are not one of them. Mall culture and wide bustling streets assure nothing goes unseen for too long. However, off the main drag, around a few unassuming corners and likely through an antique doorway, a handful of cafes in the city’s Old Town offers a portal to a quieter, cosier world.
Even though a wise man once said the journey is the reward, we’ll bet that a slice of homemade lemon cheesecake or tourist-free spot on the Chao Phraya River makes a pretty solid prize as well.
My Grandparent’s House
Fair warning, you may feel as if you are invading someone’s property as you approach this café. The home has been in the Thangsombat family for four generations and represents a long history of the family and the Talad Somdet neighbourhood, starting from when it was built in 1929 — but head right in, there are crispy dumplings and peach tea inside with your name on them. The humble wooden house sits on a prime spot of the Chao Phraya River with a deck that makes for the perfect, breezy place to watch the boats glide by, so we’re pretty excited the family decided to share the charming space with the rest of us. But it wasn’t until the house, which at the time was being used to house the family’s fish sauce business, flooded a few years ago and the Thangsombat family was forced to renovate that the idea for a cafe was prompted. The menu here is made up of the owner’s grandma’s recipes and dishes inspired by the nearby community. Don’t leave without trying the signature Chrysanthemum tea, a refreshing and perfectly sweet ode to Grandma.
Napasorn floral cafe
Tubs of roses, sunflowers, and marigolds welcomingly spill onto the sidewalk on Chakrapat Road. A stroll past the many shops and stands is a joyful escape from the concrete jungle in its own right at Pak Klong Talad flower market, but look for the shop called Napasorn and head to the second floor for what can only be described as a trip to some sort of fairy-tale land. Branches, flowers, and crystals cloak the ceiling, making for an exceptionally cosy space to sip matcha lattes and devour indulgent cakes and cookies.
The florists who own the cafe change the theme of the flower arrangements monthly, turning the room into everything from a dreamy white Neverland to romantic pink and red-drenched getaway.
Ha Tien Cafe
Between scurrying temple-hopping tourists, breaking palace officials, and shopkeepers who are watching it all pass by, river-bordering Tha Tien neighbourhood is buzzing with life. Amidst it all, sheltered in a humble, unassuming shophouse, Ha Tien offers some respite from the outside world— not only because of its withdrawn location down a quiet soi, but the cafe’s interior will take you far from Maharat Road.
The first floor of the shophouse is designed to look like something like an old pharmacy, with tiled flooring, eclectic shelving, and a long coffee bar where delectable homemade treats wait to be chosen. It’s an impressive start, but the real surprise comes when you make your way up the spirally vintage staircase to the second floor. Odds are, the first thing that will catch your eye is the large deer bust on the exposed-brick wall, or maybe the taxidermied peacock hanging from a coat rack, but there are plenty of original vintage photographs to gape at, too. The museum-like space was put together by Ha Tien’s owner, Bird, who is an avid antique collector and history buff.
The third floor, which is drenched in sunlight, takes on the same Victorian-meets-old Chinese theme, and provides access to a small rooftop area where hanging plants shroud tables from the sunlight.
Drenched in red and yellow light and crammed with food vendors, the streets of Yaowarat feel like the last place you'd come across a quiet, borderline minimalist cafe, but Aoon Pottery is here to provide some respite. The tiny shop is one part cafe, one part pottery studio. Not suprisingly, everything from latte cups to brownie plates are made in-house. You can watch the masters go to work in the studio on the second floor or shop a heartfelt souvenir. But don't miss the cafe's spot-hitting comfort dishes like creamy pasta dishes and decadent breakfast bowls.
Rue de Mansri
While not exactly hidden, you’d be forgiven for missing Rue de Mansri. The café, which only opened in January, fills a space in a 130-year former tram station, and while its teal shopfront stands out against the building’s yellow facade, it’s quaint enough to just miss. Through a wide swinging door, a cosy (read: just big enough for a couch and a few standing tables), charming space is revealed. First things first, get a croissant, and yes, that’s an order (though, with their sweet, buttery scent filling the compact space, we’d doubt you’d be able to get past the pastry case empty-handed anyways).
The dough is flown in from super popular Chiang Mai bakery, Nana Jungle, but the little buns of joy are baked in-house. Almond, chocolate, and raisin varieties are available, but it’s the chicken and the ham-and-cheese pies that sell out daily. With a coffee and snack in hand, head up to the eclectically-decorated second floor which feels like the living room of a sweet Parisian apartment. The space actually doubles as a photography space, which won't come as a surprise given the room’s stylish aesthetics. And make sure to check out the cafe’s small rooftop space that overlooks the buzzing Old Town streets below.
Baan Rim Nam
There’s a 100 percent chance you are going to feel like you're in the wrong place the first time you make your way to Baan Rim Nam. But continue on through the zig-zagging sois and ignore the mounds of used automobile parts that line the road. When you finally arrive at the 200-year-old house, you can celebrate with a coffee — or even well-deserved cocktail — but we have a feeling you’ll be too busy gawking at the unexpected, uninterrupted views of the Chao Phraya to begin imbibing.
The old wooden house was built in the era of King Rama II, and had been used as a warehouse before Florian and Goy took it over for some TLC. Loungers and Thai-style pillows and mats are scattered around the lower level of the stilted house so that in-the-know city dwellers can chill out and enjoy the breezy riverside. Relish the fact that the closest thing to traffic nearby are the barges and tourist cruises plowing down the river — which, we’d argue, serves more as a source of entertainment.