Fern Forest Café

delightful sojourn under the trees

There are some venues that just seem to have an immediate appeal. Fern Forest Café is one of these. Go down the quiet Soi 4, off Singharaj Road, and you will see the restaurant on your right. Park the car and walk through the gate and a new world awaits you. Canvas umbrellas over covered tables, cushioned garden furniture, grass, ferns, trees, more ferns, a flag-stoned L-shaped courtyard and a house in the grounds. And quiet.

We were met by the owner Khun Yai, who said that she had been living in the house for 30 years, but opened the restaurant only two years ago. When I remarked on her being open every day from 8.30 a.m. until 8.30 p.m., she said, “Why not? I live here!”

Perusal of the small menu shows that it is something more akin to a bakery that sells food, rather than a restaurant that sells cakes. Coffee is also obviously a speciality, and the Fern Forest Café grows its own coffee beans on Doi Saket at an elevation above 1,000 meters.

The beverages on offer (B. 25-50) are plentiful and imaginative, with interesting items such as hot ginger and various teas and coffees, as well as something called “Aegle Marmelos”, which I think is a beverage from Bale juice, but don’t hold me to it.

The bakery items are baked on the premises and in addition to quiches and assorted sandwiches (B. 60), including my favourite BLT, there were many dessert items such as coconut cream pie and bale cake, which are on display in the refrigerated cabinet.

Main dish items tend towards a German fare, with the German sausages made in Chiang Mai, I was assured by Khun Yai. There appeared to be no real reason for this choice of cuisine, other than the fact it was simple to cook and filling!

Khun Yai said she would order for us, as there were items that she wanted to make sure we tried, and being hungry that lunch time I agreed. While we waited, the smartly turned out service girls in Lanna jackets served us with iced fruit drinks in tall glasses, and I literally sat back and enjoyed the ambience.

The main course arrived as a representative of the various sausages, plus the German saut้ed potatoes and bacon and onions (a ‘bratkartoffeln mit sweigel’ and forgive mis-spellings)! Different mustards were also presented to go with them. Mention should be made of the heavy polished wrought stainless steel cutlery. Again not what I expected in a garden setting.

Coffee came, complete with three different sugars and hot milk! Again not what I expected, in fact these were small touches that one often does not see in many restaurants that consider themselves ‘up-market’.

With coffee cam a selection of cakes and desserts. The coconut cream pie was superb, and Khun Yai told me that an American customer came every day to have one - and true to her word, he walked in while we were still there, ordered his pie and sat under the trees with a beatific expression of joy!

Other desserts were the famous bale cake, which is a type of sponge cake served warm, and written in the menu as a ‘Matoon’ cake (and please don’t ask me why!).

The Dining Out team came away from the Fern Forest Café more than adequately filled, but more than that, we seemed to have imbibed some of the ambience. Suddenly the cares of the day seemed less pressing. Perhaps it is something in the coffee, but whatever it is, it appears to work! I can see why many people come so regularly and I hope they will forgive me for making public knowledge of their secret. This is a place to come and relax. Definitely worth a trip amongst the ferns. By the way, Khun Yai said they are also able to do outside catering. Something to keep in mind for an afternoon soiree at home.

Fern Forest Caf้é, 2/2 Singharaj Soi 4, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 416 204, fax 053 221 361. Street parking (very quiet soi), open seven days 8.30 a.m. until 8.30 p.m.