Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cabbages & Condoms

So last night I went along to the infamous (in a good way) restaurant Cabbages & Condoms, located in the heart of Expatland, Soi 12 (off Sukhumvit). I decided to go there as I had a hungry hoard of five Beijingers to feed and I wanted to take them somewhere memorable for their one and only night in Bangkok. And before you say it, yes, I could have taken them to Soi Coyboy or Patpong, but I did not mean THAT kind of memorable!

At Cabbages and Condoms (C&C) all diners get a condom with coffee, instead of an after-dinner mint because this is the only restaurant in the world dedicated to birth control. That’s right, you did read correctly: birth control. It’s a strange mix, I know! Luckily, so as not to put more prudish people off, they also serve delicious and innovative Thai food in an amazing setting. I for one was very excited to try this culinary and educational experience as I’ve heard nothing but good things...

As the place is run on a charitable basis I wasn't expecting it to be particularly five-star. Although the tables and chairs are of the outdoor, patio-variety, this does not register, for immediately upon entering one is blown away by the ambiance. Set back from the road in a beautiful little garden compound with overhanging trees and oodles of charm, it's easy to forget that you're in the centre of a bustling city as it's such an oasis of calm. You can choose either to sit downstairs (as we did) or on the terrace (also a good option because at night the trees are strewn with fairy lights and the whole effect is enchanting). The premises also have private rooms that can cater for groups of 10-80 people. And for those not wanting a meal, you can simple relax with a pint and the paper in the Captain Condom bar.

Prices are fairly good, mains generally cost around Bht 90-120 and a very generous. We tried a swag of “classics” like crab cakes, spring rolls, green curry, spicy papaya salad, phad thai and mango with sticky rice; all of which were divine and didn’t disappoint (well except perhaps for me as I like a bit of spice, but sadly that was a no-go with my northern friends). We also one of the more “exotic” dishes on the menu, the spicy condom salad, an exotic and tasty mix of Shanghai noodles, chilli and herbs. The service is also impeccable and highly friendly. Staff are ready, willing and able to advice as the menu is very comprehensive and like us you might find yourself simply flummoxed by all the choice!

In the adjoining gift shop, silver bracelets, vests, bags and various other and other handicrafts made by Thai villagers are sold. Alongside which are piles of T-shirts, mugs, keychains, towels, coasters and anything you can image, all emblazoned with the message, "Cabbages & Condoms: our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy". Not to mention flowers, clothing, picture frames and other oddities made completely of condoms. Proceeds from the sale of these items and the restaurant’s meals are given to the Population and Community Development Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1974 by Thailand’s leading philanthropist, Mechai Viravaidya, the former Thai Minister of Health.

Mr Viravaidya’s non-profit association backs birth control, environmental conservation, rural development and AIDS awareness. To wit, he wants to make condoms as common –and as accepted – as cabbages. This is their down-to-earth way of promoting a better understanding and acceptance of family planning, which in a city with such a thriving sex trade can only be a good thing. And it must be working, for Thailand’s birth rate has dropped below 1 per cent a year! But the fun doesn’t stop with food, PDA has also dipped its toe into the world of hotels, they now also own/run the beach-side Birds & Bees Resort in Pattaya and the C&C Resort in the mountains of Sap Tai. So now there really is not escaping: safe sex is for the city, the countryside, the sea and the sky!

Getting there: The easiest way [taking into consideration abysmal traffic] from the Siam City Hotel is to take the BTS from Phayathai station six stops (towards Mo Chit) to station Asok and from there you went to leave the station on your right-hand side (exit 2) and head back up Sukhumvit in the direction you came from. After about 800m small Soi 12 will appear on your left. Walk down another 500m and the restaurant in on your right. There are also four other outlets scattered around Thailand.


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