Change of location for this charming café-restaurant

Mark Whitman
Many readers will have been familiar with the Café Pandau, formerly located off Nimmanhaeminda Road. This friendly establishment has now relocated to the attractive area between Loh Kroh Road and Tha Pae Road, you enter Soi 3 from either of those busy thoroughfares and you will find their conservatory-style building roughly in the middle. It’s well sign posted and is, of course, not far from the Night Bazaar.
The good news is that they have not only created a pleasant venue, comfortable, with dashes of vivid textiles in a predominantly white setting, but have used the move as an opportunity to ‘upgrade’ the menu. They are open all day and might be thought of as primarily an early day place or ideal for lunch, but since they do not close until ten in the evening, dinner is certainly an option. It is not simply a ‘café’.
One of the main additions to the menu is a range of sandwiches, made to order from their home-made bread, using organically grown wheat from Northern Thailand. Fillings include hummus with eggplant, spicy fish with herbs, egg salad and others. All around 70 baht. But try the sandwich ‘set’ at just 100 baht. This is ideal for sharing and gives you five ‘mini’ sandwich choices. I went there recently with a friend and we had that plus a salad each for lunch. His was mushroom and mine avocado. With his iced tea and my lemon drink, sweetened with honey (they bring a little dish on the side) we had a tasty and healthy meal for around 300 baht for the two of us.
The menu is quite extensive and although by no means vegetarian, there is an emphasis on salads, fruit, eggs vegetables, rice, noodles and tofu plus a few fish and meat dishes. They also have a drinks menu, including a house wine by the glass right up to a litre at a modest 500 baht. Beers are around 60 baht and coffees start at 50 baht for an espresso and 80 for a double jolt. In this area, though, the teas and the fruit drinks are possibly the most interesting. They serve organic green tea from Japan, Rooibos from South Africa and a range of yoghurts and lassi.
The emphasis is on freshness and quality ingredients and, for example, the eggs are free range as is the chicken breast, stuffed with spinach and ricotta, which is one of their meat dishes. Another is spaghetti with home made sausages in a tomato sauce (160 baht). Omelets are from 70 baht and they offer ‘all day’ breakfasts.
There is also a range of so-called ‘light’ dishes, based around white or brown rice or noodles, including one with vegetables and topped with a fried egg at just 70 baht. Or, more substantially, there is a tofu steak at 180.You won’t find obscenities such as foie gras or milk fed crated veal on this menu but a range of simple dishes all offering well prepared healthy options.
The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and the service attentive. There are about 16 places inside and a further half dozen on the leafy verandah, which faces the quiet part of the soi. In closing I should cite just one example of the care involved in this pretty establishment. At the end of the lunch mentioned we were invited to try a wedge of baked apple, topped with ricotta cheese. It was absolutely delicious, with the apple just perfect. It was, we were told, from New Zealand and was organically grown. The owner had sample apples from China, which had also tasted good. But she had rejected them because of the excessive use of pesticides. It is encouraging when someone realizes that we are what we eat. There’s more to ‘dining out’ than filling up with junk food or even seemingly half way decent food. We share at least a modicum of responsibility for our role in the ‘food chain’ and a place like Café Pandau offers, in an unassuming way, the ideal venue to do just that.
You will find Café Pandau on Soi 3 off Tha Pae Road, not far from Loh Kro Temple. They are open from 10 in the morning until 10p.m. at night. Tel: 053 280 386.


Mussels in White Wine Sauce

Mussels are plentiful in Thailand and safe to eat - as long as you discard any shells that have not opened after steaming.

Ingredients                                 Serves 4
Mussels in their shells                         2 kg
Dry white wine                                 300 ml
Onion, finely chopped                       1 large
Garlic, finely chopped                2 - 4 cloves
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Bay leaves                                               2
Butter, melted                                    225 g
Juice of                                          1 lemon

Cooking Method
Scrub the mussels well and remove any barnacles and beards.
Place the mussels in a basin full of cold water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
Drain the mussels and place them in a large, deep saucepan with the remaining ingredients, except the butter and lemon juice. Cover the pan and bring to the boil.
Stir the mussels occasionally while they are cooking to help them cook evenly. Cook about 5-8 minutes, or until the shells open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
Spoon the mussels into individual serving bowls and strain the cooking liquid. Pour the liquid into 4 small bowls and serve with the mussels and a bowl of melted butter mixed with lemon juice for each person. Dip the mussels into the broth and the melted butter to eat.