If you measure out your life in Fine de Claires and Instagram filters, you’re probably familiar with Sunday brunch in Bangkok. The rich aroma of the carveries and live cooking stations, the chilly blast of king crab on dunes of ice, those protracted feasts that swell to a crescendo as smooth jazz and champagne provide a salve against the end of the weekend.
Over the past decade, the city’s selection of brunches, like its architecture, has boomed and diversified. There are sprawling buffets with suckling pig, aged parmesan, and profiteroles, and restaurants offering unlimited à la minute orders of French dishes. There are free-for-alls for freshly cooked prawn, free-flow packages, and hazy, bacchanalian retreats in upscale hotels.
Especially on the upper crust of the social spectrum, the very concept of brunch might be a reflection of the city’s culture. Leave it to Bangkok to take an already extravagant experience to extremes. Yet amid the increasingly varied ways to soothe Saturday’s aches or, equally, relish a slow afternoon before the coming deluge of e-mails and meetings, one long-standing Sunday brunch hasn’t changed much apart from its name. And that’s a good thing.
Anantara Siam has been putting on big brunches for as long as brunch has existed here. Back when it was still called the Four Seasons, the hotel rearranged its Parichart Court into a sort of dining co-op, setting up stations and seating in Madison, Spice Market, and alfresco Aqua. A band was brought in while foyers were transformed into corridors of compote-covered crêpes and tiramisu shooters. The layout has remained as smooth as ever, though. Today, diners sitting outside enjoy the poetry of people gliding between tables of pasta and dim sum, and those seated inside let the hours pass in sublime, storm- and clatter-free sanctuary.
The hotel’s impeccably gracious hosts greet guests with welcome drinks, which are currently two types of sangria: white or red. The bittersweet starters don’t just cleanse the palate in this case – they lubricate the mind for what will be, depending on the vibe you’re going for, an afternoon of romance, familial solitude, or unrivalled indulgence.
Any of the above should include champagne. The hotel has offered a free-flow champagne package for many years now, but never has the bubbly been so premium: Taittinger Vintage Brut and Rose. This free-flow package also accords you to unlimited refills of a good range of cocktails, including martinis, cosmopolitans, and make-your-own Bloody Marys, as well as red and white wine, beer, and spirits. But let’s not lose sight of what’s important here. The Brut will lift any mood, and it leaves space for seconds and thirds from the smorgasbord.
Favourite cuts from across the hotel’s outlets highlight the spread. (Apart from being a top-of-the-line option, Anantara Siam’s Sunday brunch is an opportunity for the F&B team to showcase the quality of the hotel’s outlets.) That includes sushi and sashimi from Shintaro – tuna, salmon, yellowtail, octopus, prawn – as well as baked salmon, risotto, and fresh-cooked casareccia from Biscotti.
Worthy of special mention among the familiar refrains is the happy little nook fronting Madison’s kitchen, where you can graze your way through a beautiful lineup of fresh seafood while you decide what meat, and how much of it, you’ll order from the carvery. On ice: tiger prawns, snow crab legs, mussels, sea scallops, and, the centrepieces, Fine de Claire oysters and Boston lobster. The setup practically begs you to grab a few oysters and lemon slices and spend a few extra minutes debating your order.
Madison, the long-standing steakhouse, has a hard-earned reputation for excellence, much of which stems from the high quality of its products (300-day-aged Japanese ribeye, US black angus beef, Australian prime rib) and the care those products are given. Naturally, the preparation is no less excellent on Sunday afternoons. The only difference is the diminished serving size staring back at you. (Although, to be fair, smaller servings allow for greater exploration of, say, the imported cheeses and cold cuts.) Wagyu striploins and lamb chops steal the show, but the crispy pork loin won’t disappoint those who don’t eat beef.
Outside Madison, there are lighter, less meat-centric options. Although it may not appeal to everyone’s brunch tastes, the Middle Eastern corner, beside the bar, shouldn’t go untouched. Beyond the myriad sauces and dips, all perfectly pungent, from fluffy toum (garlic paste) to creamy hummus, the dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice, currants, pine nuts, herbs, and spices such as cinnamon and clove) offer complex, acidic, and slightly oily bites. They actually go pretty well with champagne, too. Less so? The Indian and Cantonese cuisine. But that doesn’t take anything away from the Peking duck, char siu, and tandoori chicken. These are well-made and delicious dishes, even if off kilter in the grand scheme
Over the years, the brunch has added spare parts to the puzzle. As it should. Many of us, for better or worse, have fallen victim to the sheer variety of places to eat nowadays; sometimes, even the vaguest suggestion of freshness can rein us back in. Among the more recent accoutrements is the foie gras station between Aqua and Madison. A lone chef stands at the ready, offering pan-seared foie gras, foie gras parfait with port wine jelly, foie gras sausage, and more, all made from Rougié Sarlat duck terrine.
The latest toy comes all the way from Chelles, France: a fire engine-red rotisserie. Whole chickens and pork rolls slowly rotate behind a glass display, glistening under gold light. The meats, accompanied by baked potatoes and jus, come out juicy and tender, bursting with nostalgia for the heartland—any heartland—despite being served on a white platter in Bangkok.
And dessert. Why not? To the diner’s benefit, the house-made macarons, bread pudding, cakes, chocolates, and tortes appear in miniature form (all beautifully arranged, of course), even if they sit on a table that stretches like an unconquerable horizon.
If this all sounds like a bit of a hodgepodge, both in theory and practice, that’s because it is. But that’s kind of the point: everything you want lies within arm’s reach. If there’s any nit to pick at all here it might be that the sheer scope of the brunch has reduced space for people to move around. Inside Madison, for instance, the (attentive) staff can seem to hover over your shoulder, even when they’re standing off in their small corner of the room. And, although this isn’t exactly a problem, all the food here will really challenge your awareness of that liminal zone between happily full and just about bursting at the seams.
Then again, brunch in Bangkok is about pushing limits. So get a different dessert every time you get up from the table and ask for another refill. Sunday will be gone before you know it.