Is Cafe Claire solid enough to get people buzzing about Wireless again?
Text & Photos By Paul Cypert.
Bangkok’s Wireless Road has served as a central vein to Bangkok’s expats and well-heeled Thais for many years. Sadly this street is dropping off many people’s radars due to the exodus of some old favorite pubs, the former Suan Luam Night Bazaar, and because of its often-congested streets.
Recent new additions to the major road have been on the more upscale side. First Plaza Athene and soon other high-end hotels and serviced apartments followed. Closer to Lumpini Park you’ll find The Oriental Residences (OR). Anyone familiar with the hotel by the river will know The Oriental’s reputation as a premium, historic hotel that exudes class and works to bring the world’s best food and chefs to Bangkok.
We’ve previously reviewed another OR restaurant (Mandopop), but when we were there we looked around the facilities and saw Cafe Claire nestled quietly in a back corner. You could tell from the front door fonts that this was some kind of play on a French Bistro (sadly lacking in Bangkok these days). When we looked over the menu we knew we needed to schedule a repeat visit to the Residences to sample the food.
Cafe Claire is a perfect breakfast or brunch spot. We’re not yet into the food review, we’re talking about the decor here. The cheery, brightly lit room seems to be full of natural light and warmth even in the evening. There are large wooden tables perfect for a group of 8-12 and tiny little corner booths if you’re looking to nestle in with a date.
There are various fun and quirky quotes from famous foodies scattered about on the distressed mirrors or found on plaques on the wall. “A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch” and “Nothing helps scenery like bacon and eggs,” are two of our favorites.
You can just see yourself seated for a few hours, lost in conversation with your friends, while you sip prosecco and eat a couple plates of food too many. Too bad then that breakfast here is just until 10 am at which time they change over to a diverse menu of Thai and western food. We went hungry and sampled signature selections from across the menus.
I knew I had to come for a visit when I read that they served khao soi. They don’t call it khao soi, dressing it up instead in fancy chef lingo, but I know my favorite northern noodle anywhere. Since we can count the restaurants offering a good example of this dish on one hand in Bangkok, this already delighted us. To our great relief the flavor is there, as are the accompanying pickles and shallots and mix ins. Our only complaint would be that the dish is a bit shallow so you get more crispy noodle than luxurious curry/soup.
Other Thai dishes like the pad Thai with giant prawn were decent enough, but a bit high in pricing compared to many street offerings. Of course many tourists lack the stomach for the more authentic dishes (why spend your vacation perched on porcelain if you don’t have to) and would rather sample versions in a safer environment.
The Western menu had a few highlights of its own. The miso-glazed cod fish was sweet and savory and would seem at home at Zuma as this humble little bistro. We also enjoyed the rich beef cheek with saffron risotto. They managed to keep the risotto a bit more on the al dente side and the beef was spoon tender.
Instead of dessert we went with the fruit topped French toast, which was a bit crunchier than any French toast I’ve had elsewhere. It’s hard to say how much of that was our fault as we delayed eating to photograph the food, but we will be back specifically to try the breakfast and will report in with our findings.
All in all the food was decent enough with some dishes exceeding others. The khao soi in particular, if they can get a bit more sauce into the bowl, would be a great initiate dish to northern Thai cuisine for those travelers who aren’t feeling so brave and would rather eat with nice linens on the table (and an assurance of no stomach problems). Other dishes are comforting and are executed well if not a bit safely.
Is Cafe Claire solid enough to get people buzzing about Wireless again? Unfortunately we’d have to say probably not at this time. If you live nearby or work in the area it’s a definite must try though, and if you’re a new visitor to the kingdom it’s a great place to sample some Thai dishes in a more modern, clean environment (without sacrificing authentic flavors). We’ll keep watching it though, as they seem keen to continue working on the concept and look to refine things further. A few specials here or there, a boozy brunch option, and a reinvention of a plate or two and Cafe Claire could suddenly be the talk of the embassy district.
Lobby Floor, Oriental Residence Bangkok
110 Wireless Road, Lumpini (BTS: Ploenchit)
Pathumwan Bangkok 10330