When cousins Gulapat Kanokwatanawan and Maetup T. Suwan first opened After You Dessert Cafe in Bangkok 10 years ago, the response was instantly phenomenal. Dessert-lovers went crazy over the outlet's decadent Shibuya honey toast and queues were - and still are - common.
"We weren't sure if it was overhyped or a trend, so we waited a year before we opened the second outlet, and then another year for the third one. And then we were quite sure that the success was real. So from that time on, we just kept on expanding," says Maetup.
There are now numerous outlets in Bangkok. In December 2016, After You became a public listed company in Thailand.
Although the company has a solid decade behind it, it was only on a trip to Bangkok this year that Andrew Yap, the managing director of BookXcess Sdn Bhd (the company that runs the Big Bad Wolf book fair), discovered the cafe's sweet delights.
"I tried the Thai tea kakigori and the moment I tasted it, I was like, 'Whoah!'. I love food - I'm obsessed with it, and I know what is really good and what's not … and this was off-the-charts good. I was just so bowled over, and I thought, 'We need to bring this to Malaysia,'" says Yap.
He was so besotted with the kakigori that he ate at After You at least five times a day during his 12-day trip.
That initial dessert mania turned into something far more tangible when by a stroke of luck, Maetup actually happened to be at the Big Bad Wolf (BBW) sale in Bangkok, which is how the cafe owner and his biggest fan ended up meeting.
From that initial meeting, Yap convinced Maetup to set up a pop-up store at the BBW fair at the Mines Exhibition Centre this December 8 to 18. "BBW has never collaborated in such a way before, but I wanted to share this with Malaysians. I'm just happy that they're here," says Yap.
While the Bangkok outlets have about 70 items on the menu, the curated list at BBW features seven items - three kinds of toasts, three kinds of kakigori and a limited amount of durian ice cream sticks.
Though BBW runs for 24 hours, After You is only open from 12pm-1am, and has a capacity of 1,000 servings a day. Everything is made to order, so you might have to wait a bit for your orders.
From the selections on offer, you absolutely should - must, really - sample the Shibuya honey toast (RM27). It sounds so ridiculously simple the way Maetup puts it: "It's just buttered toast with some ice-cream, whipped cream and honey", but oh my, it is so much more than that!
This toast is total, utter perfection. The thick plank of bread is made in-house and is crusty on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. Perfectly buttered, the bread soaks up the generous serving of honey drizzled over it and is awe-mazing, especially in combination with the vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on the side.
You'll never be tempted to stray with another toast after this - satisfaction and lifelong devotion are both guaranteed.
From the kakigori selection, have a go at the Thai tea kakigori (RM34). The shaved ice dessert offers ice-cold punchy flavours, enhanced by the jelly and bread hidden inside this towering creation. The underlying tea flavours tie everything together and you'll find yourself digging in without hesitation even if you had only minutes earlier said, "I'm way too full".
The fact that After You is in Malaysia at all begs the question: Is this a testing ground for the real deal? All the signs are pointing in that direction.
Maetup says Yap was interested in setting up an After You cafe in Malaysia, and so BBW offered the perfect meeting point for the two to test the market, and see how they work together.
"I focus more on partnerships. It's the right people that will bring success. Our plan is to open After You in Malaysia maybe late next year, but After You is not something where you can open 10 outlets at the same time - it's not like that," says Maetup.
Maetup says After You Malaysia will be modelled on the Thai version - most of the elements in the desserts are likely to be produced in the company's Thai factory, while some fresh ingredients would be sourced locally.
Menu items will probably be introduced in stages, depending on response. "At first, we would try to bring all the classics, but the rest, we'll have to see. Later on, we might add some local dishes on the menu," he says.
Yap is more excited than ever that After You could potentially be available in Malaysia. While he freely admits that he has no F&B experience, he very strongly believes in everything After You stands for.
"The perfection that goes into what Maetup does, is what drives me to want to bring this here. After You stands for so many things - the food is so good because of the high standards they consistently set. That's why we want to introduce it here," he says.