When Bangkokians hop on a band wagon, they tend to ride it until the wheels fall off. Sometimes, however, it's worth seeing what the fuss is about – case in point: Sunday brunch. Brunch is not a new thing here – the Four Seasons has been doing one for years – but of late, the phenomenon has really been gathering momentum and we're seeing an increase in luxury food imports, along with free-flow wines, exotic meats and preparations usually reserved for dinner time.
Rather than just a lazy lunch to quell post-Saturday night indulgence, brunch in Bangkok has been elevated to the status of an important see-and-be-seen social event. This is partly because they're so lavish and expensive and partly because a lot of local families use the occasion as an excuse to spend quality time together. Brunch buffets in Bangkok are mostly attended by upper-class Thais and a smattering of expats, and are a bone fide part of the city's contemporary culture – not to mention a great treat if you’re a traveling foodie.
The most extravagant champagne brunch buffets are not surprisingly hosted by the top luxury hotels in Bangkok. Competition is pretty fierce, but each brunch has its own character and different traits that appeal to different diners. There are also less formal venues with more affordable a la carte options for those just seeking a high-quality hangover meal – but that's an entire blog post of its own. Here's a peek at what the Bangkok hotel brunch scene has to offer.
NB: Brunch is a half-day event. If you’re headed to a champagne buffet, you are simply not going to make it to the Grand Palace or Wat Pho or Chatuchak markets in the afternoon. For all hotel buffets listed here, it’s essential to book at least a week in advance. Try not to dress too casual – muscle shirts and flip-flops should be avoided – and if you can, bring trousers with an elastic waistband.
11.30am – 3pm
T: 66 2 126-8866 ext. 1231
This is Bangkok's most famous brunch. The dining area includes the restaurant’s surrounding Parichart Court, a ground-level open-air courtyard full of tropical plants and natural light, and a pond full of carp – which doubles as the caviar station. The courtyard garden offers a very sophisticated ambience with a jazz trio, but Madison restaurant is best suited for larger parties, while Spice Market is more casual and better for kids.
Japanese, Italian, Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisines are covered, plus traditional breakfast items, carvery meats, bakery goods and lots of fresh seafood. Limitless sparkling wine, martinis and a Thai Chili Bloody Mary Bar ensures that booze hounds stay happy. To avoid queuing, at some stations, guests can submit a slip with their table number on it, after which food is delivered to the table. Other stations are regular buffet self-serve style. THB 2,700++
11.30am – 3pm
Tel : 66 2 100-6255
There are two Sunday brunch buffets at the Centara Grand – a weekly one in The World on level 24 (THB 1,790++) and one at Fifty Five, which is the Champagne Surf & Turf held on the first Sunday of every month. The latter is indeed a gastronomic challenge and delight – one with fantastic 180-degree views. The centrepiece is a fresh seafood station of ice sculptures surrounded by fresh crustaceans. Lobster sashimi is made while you wait – one of only two brunches that offer this (literally from live lobsters – not for the squeamish) and there are three types of oysters, freshly shucked, or cooked if you prefer. Other cooked-to-order dishes center on French cuisine, including fois gras, scallops on the shell, escargot in the skillet, duck egg and vol-au-vent.
Mobile trolleys do the rounds: wagyu rib-eye, cheeses, Parma ham, more fois gras and seared wagyu sashimi. Lombard champagne is free-flowing, as are beer and wine. Desserts include berries, pastries, puddings, crepes, cookies and cakes. There's a distinct family-friendliness to this cornucopia, with big tables for extended families and plenty of macaroons for the kids to ogle. THB 2,995++
11.30am – 3pm
T: 66 2 476 0022
Trader Vic's is another of the top contenders for Sunday Brunch. Its main point of difference is the resort-style dining ambience here, since the entire property is set in tropical gardens with river views and the restaurant is kitted out in Polynesian style. The gardens and lots of romping/playing outdoor space make it very kid-friendly.
Trader Vic's is the "original" source of the Mai Tai, but if you're not up for cocktails, or even a cocktail sorbet, there are fresh bottled juices and free-flow wines and beers. Fresh seafood is abundant and special highlights include a chocolate fondue fountain and chocolate station, traditional charcuteries, a wide array of smoked salmon preparations and a vast cheese selection. Dishes from Brio (Italian) and Benihana (Japanese) are also available, plus Mediterranean foods, salads, breads, fois gras, Peking duck, roast beef and the list just goes on and on.
Trader Vic’s Sunday Brunch is priced at THB 1,799++ per person including free flow soft drinks, juice, Mai Tai cocktails, sorbet and beer or THB 2,199++ per person with the additions of free flow wines.
The Prestige Brunch @ Okura Prestige
11.45am – 3pm
T: 66 2 687 9000
Lunch and brunch here are basically the same, however the latter offers a bottle of Veuve Clicquot per dining couple. Packaged as a "boutique" dining experience, the physical area of Up & Above restaurant and its rather compact buffet area create a more intimate brunch than those of other hotels. On Sundays there's also a jazz trio in the lobby.
Dishes are cooked a la minute, so they're always fresh and there's not surprisingly a good deal of Thai and Japanese options to choose from. Traditional curries and even northeastern Thai food are prepared in small batches and constantly replenished. Rather than stack your plate, Westerner-style, here it's more about savouring multiple small samples of a range of specialty items, all excellently prepared and presented. Both lunch and brunch include free-flow juices, beer and wine. THB 2,400 – 3,200++ Children under 12 THB 600++
12.30 – 4pm
T: +66 2 207 7777
Significantly upping the ante in the champagne brunch stakes is VIU at St Regis. Take everything from the above brunches – including live lobster sashimi and sea urchin – and add Dom Pérignon. Truffles, fois gras, wagyu and game meats such as venison, pheasant and goose are accounted for, with Japanese and Chinese preparations to sate more traditional eastern palates. The truffle pizza – one of JoJo's most addictive treats – is also present.
VIU is on the 12th floor of the hotel, so you can enjoy views over the Royal Thai Sports Club, or head out to the poolside deck for some fresh air. To add to the air of exclusivity, it’s a table-service deal here, where food is brought to your table as opposed to diners cruising around food stations buffet-style. THB 7,900++
Sunday Family Lunch @ Siam Kempinski
T: 66 2 162 9000
Perks: childcare services, use of the pool and recreational facilities, Moet & Chandon Rosé.
11:30am – 3pm (Sat and Sun)
T: 66 2 659 9000 Ext. 7680-1
Perks: often rated as the best seafood buffet in Bangkok, with caviar, imported lobster, oysters, crab, sashimi and more. High-end, formal dining environment with river views.
THB 2,700 ++ (drinks not included)