Sunday, September 9, 2007


Read any Bangkok publication about where to get the best coffee, and without fail Kuppa will be bestowed with the title. After being confronted with this consensus again and again, it seemed like it was time to go.

Here's what greets you as you enter: the daily food specials and weekly coffee specials. A colonialist's delight! A list of imported delights that a small fraction of the world can enjoy. Kuppa represents a dining experience and a diner that doesn't and may never consider the word "imported" a bad word. Imported doesn't mean fresh, and it doesn't always mean better.

Kuppa has some very nice seating. It also has some very poor seating. Upon arrival we were given a choice table in the latter category. As we tried to find a different table complete with couches by the tall windows we were told that those ones were reserved. We were told that as tables opened up we could move. As tables opened up, we were informed that they too were reserved.

Kuppa roasts its own coffee once a week. It was not being done while we were there. Pity.

Kuppa water and sugar!

We had some nice food:

This was a tasty pene with a blue cheese cream sauce topped with rocket.

Cheese souffle with onion jam. One made with wine, the other with balsamic vinegar.

Based upon the food alone, Kuppa makes the grade. The coffee is good, and the food is good as well. But I don't base my opinions upon these things alone.

Kuppa is in five words: Good food for bad people.
Bangkok is full of pretentious dining and pretentious diners. Kuppa serves the blue blooded ruling class and the international jet set. Spending a couple of hours in Kuppa gives me my weekly, er monthly dose of self loathing. At least it can show me just the kind of people I don't want to have as my friends. Kuppa is purely a pleasure palace for the fabulously well to do. It does not cater to local sensibilities, but rather as a product of globalization, keeps the ruling class sated with their delicacies.


puck said...

Hi a,

I am new to your blog. I stop by your blog from time to time, just to treat my homesickness symptom. Thanks for your blog!
I was surprised to see this post. Actually, I was surprised by the food and their prices. -- Kidda too expensive to me. If I were there, I would not be able to afford them. But, you know what -- I don't care because I would rater enjoy my 'som tam' and spicy whole fish salad from your previous post. :)


a said...

I totally agree with you, but One of the things that really interests me is the huge contrast between the local fare (street food, local restaurants, etc)and the high end dining in this city. It's an amazing and appalling contrast. Although, it goes a lot deeper than just food...

Dr Maytel said...

that's a pretty old school left wing view of the humble australian cafe

thailand has long been a multicultural hub with different cultures introducing their own cuisine, its also long been a regional and global centre

what I like is that after time different food cultures mingle with Thai food and new food traditions are invented, like Thai spaghetti.

Just because I occasionally like to have a sandwich does that make me a colonialist? Am I not entitled to eat the occasional overpriced sandwich without being labelled high so?

I think your view of Kuppa represents Thailand as something it is not...Thailand is not and never has been has Thailand managed to do this? Through appropriating different cultural traditions and making them thoroughly Thai...Kuppa may begin as high so....but cheesy pasta is now turning up all around the Thai suburbs surrounding Bangkok...I think that this is what makes Thailand interesting, dynamic and above all comes from an openess to the world and a willingness to experiment

a said...

Thanks for your constructive comments. Perhaps I succeeded throroughly in my post to recieve such a response. If decrying the wastefulness of a long list of imported ingredients is only the rantings of an old school leftie, then I am certainly guilty. The whole gist of this post relies upon whether you are able to seperate food from polotics. I for one cannot.

I am intrigued by the way cuisines around the world have evolved through trade and even colonisation. In fact, many of my favorite foods are simply mongrels of two meeting cuisines. It makes for some really tasty results; Mexican and Vietnamese being two personal favorites. My comments are in no way the rantings of a food purist. I was certainly not ranting about a creation of fusion like Spaghetti Kee Mao. I was decrying the the prominent display of: Austrilian Angus, Argentina Angus, Rainbow Trout (from where?), imported berries, Kenyan coffee, and Colombian coffee. These are not examples of some kind of fusion, but imported expensive ingredients available only to the rich.

I know that Thailand has never been colonised, nor did I imply that it had been. Howevr when I was in Kuppa, or am in any other pricey world cuisine establishment for that matter, I can't shake the feeling that there is something very very wrong with my place in the world. Drinking a cup of coffee that costs as much as the local daily minimum wage illustrates this. Being able to enjoy expensive and imported luxury foods anywhere in the world, by association, makes me very similar to well to do British colonialists drinking tea, exported from India, in some far flung backwater during the time of their great empire.

While old school colonialsim doesn't occur like it used to, it has certainly manifested itself in purely economic terms. As status quo powers are no longer allowed to simply extend their own holdings into their poorer neighbor's, something equally destructive is accomplished in purely economic terms. For more a a small look at this concept, I would recommend the film "Black Gold."

This is an issue I have given a lot of thought to as of late, but as it is a very complex one, there are no easy answers. I like sandwiches too.

puck said...

What an interesting conversation it is!
You are right. We can't separate food from politics. I appreciate your critical view on this issue. Many times we see things, have a thought about it, but swallow it down, and say nothing.
An issue of overpricing western products is so complicated. It is realted to the believes, economics, politics, and social class. I am not so sure if it is because people are unaware of it or they are in a denial of this issue. I am not so sure if I can see it clearly if I have not stepped back and looked at it in an unbias view.

Again, I really appreciate your thought. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Great blog and great post. We like that you have a critical eye about food and culture and the places you are eating. I used to work at Kuppa in Australia (Claremont WA) which is owned and run in part by one of the owners of the Thailand branch. He used to bring over his workers from Thailand for up to a month and get them to do the same work we were doing at a fraction of the price. I completely understand and agree with the sentiment of your post and I have to say that, unfortunately, you find much the same environment in the Claremont store - which happens to be one of the most wealthy suburbs in Perth. The people are shit, the food is overpriced, and the owners have a really bloated view of their own importance! Thanks again for a great read and keep up the good work - you have made us definitely put Thailand on our to-do travel list - and Kuppa Thailand on our avoid list!!! lol! Cheers.

a said...

Hey there anon.
Thanks for your comments. They certainly add to the conversation and the intrigue!

a said...

Wow, it's been a while but I'm amused to say that people are still finding this post, some of them from a strange source or two. Happy reading!