A stark white space with concrete floors and a gaudy light-up marquee aren't exactly features one would associate with a tea house. For the inveterate tea tippler – you know, the one who faints over floral wallpaper and fine china, and delights in doilies and dainty crumpets – KrungThep Tea Time's sleek minimalism might even be a turnoff.
Well, ol' chap, KrungThep Tea Time isn't your Cornish grandmother's tea house. Rather, it's a gathering ground for yuccies, slashies and neo-hipsters to sip and chill. The local art, strumming troubadours and open mic nights that are often hallmarks of tea and coffee joints are a long-forgotten, aughts-era vestige here and, as far as this aging sip-ster is concerned, the excisions are welcome. Austere surroundings have a way of calming and soothing one's constitution, I find. After adding a hot cup of aromatic rose tea ($3) to the mix, I felt relaxed enough to croon "I Love the Nightlife" à la Eugene Levy as Perry Como. (YouTube it.) That's not to say it's perpetually quiet inside KrungThep's whitewashed confines, but even amidst a din of chatter – the row of six tables in close proximity to one another makes it inevitable – the mood is expressly relaxed.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Thai leanings add an exotic element to not just the scores of teas offered, but to sandwiches and the wickedly sweet endings as well. "KrungThep," in fact, is what Thais call Bangkok, and "my new fave sammie" is what I'd call the gra-prow sandwich ($8) – chicken, onion, red pepper, Thai chilies, mozzarella, fresh basil and basil mayo served on Olde Hearth bread (your choice of sunflower, sourdough, pumpernickel or whole wheat) pressed to perfection. But it's the Thai chilies that bring all the flavors together – I make it a point to get a little extra thrown in. A moderately spicy and tangy "jaaw" sauce in the "Thaiger Is Crying" sandwich ($10) with marinated beef, cheddar, cabbage, onion and cilantro won't necessarily make your eyes water – your mouth, however, might not be able to hold back.
Many of their sandwiches are also offered "naked" (just call them salads, people), including "From the Forest" ($7), an appropriately earthy mélange of grilled mushrooms and steamed tofu coated in a sesame-soy mayo. Apart from skimping on the grilled onions, the salad, er, naked sandwich was fine, just fine. I did make the mistake of ordering the papaya salad ($8) "Thai hot" – and the first few flavorsome bites gave way to a sensation much like a pastry docker being repeatedly rolled over one's tongue, I imagine. Even Thai iced tea ($3), arguably the best you'll find in the city, didn't really help.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Good thing there are plenty of milky-sweet desserts to help palliate the pain – specifically, brick toast, thick slices of crisp buttery bread cut into small squares, then piled with all manner of toppings. My favorite (and the favorite of KrungThep's Thai servers) is the ka-ti ($6) with condensed milk, homemade coconut ice cream, honey and crushed peanuts. It's splendidly seductive, and its dramatic presentation has made it a must-post on local Instagram feeds.
For an ending a little less taxing on your gallbladder, try a slab of toast ($3) with condensed milk. It might be lean on looks but, for what it's worth, it's still too rich for your own good.