Greyhound Cafe opens in Paragon

Greyhound Cafe founders Pornsiri Rojmeta and Bhanu Inkawat (both above); and one of the cafe's signature dishes, Complicated Noodle.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The chic Greyhound Cafe from Bangkok may have made its name among cafe-hoppers over the years, but was actually an afterthought to complement its fashion line.

Now, it has 14 cafes in Bangkok as well as 12 outlets in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.

Its 13th outlet, outside Thailand, and the first one in Singapore, opens at Paragon in Orchard Road today.

Bangkok's Greyhound Cafe opens in Singapore

  • The chic Greyhound Cafe from Bangkok may have made its name among cafe-hoppers over the years, but was actually an afterthought to complement its fashion line.
  • Now, it has 14 cafes in Bangkok as well as 12 outlets in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.
  • Its 13th outlet, outside Thailand, and the first one in Singapore, opens at Paragon in Orchard Road today.
  • In 1997, Greyhound's founder, Mr Bhanu Inkawat, 62, was offered an empty unit next to its store at Emporium shopping complex in Bangkok to sell coffee and food.
  • Mr Inkawat, who is also Greyhound's executive creative director, says: "We had no knowledge about food. But we thought, let's just do it. In the first week, we had people yelling at us for food and had to close the restaurant for another week.
  • We served a full food menu from the beginning. Yes, we were ambitious."
  • Despite its rocky beginning, the cafe chain is more successful and recognisable than the brand's fashion business.
  • Mr Inkawat, together with his Thai team, are in Singapore for the opening of the 2,600 sq ft, 100-seat restaurant.
  • Greyhound Cafe is brought in by JC Global Concepts, a food and beverage company which runs Central Hong Kong Cafe at Resorts World Sentosa, VivoCity and Wheelock Place.
  • Greyhound's extensive menu is a collection of the childhood memories and travel experiences of the founders, and are based on old Thai recipes and ingredients.
  • For example, Mr Inkawat grew up eating the cafe's popular Complicated Noodle ($16), where diners wrap minced pork and spicy chilli sauce with noodle sheets and lettuce.
  • The chain is known for serving innovative Thai and Western dishes with a contemporary twist.
  • Cafe-hoppers can look forward to an extensive menu of about 150 items, including bestsellers such as the bite-sized Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wings, which are marinated in fish sauce.

  • Sauces such as pad thai sauce, chilli sauce and salad dressings are imported from Thailand.
  • For dessert, there are a semi-frozen dessert of Thai milk tea granita; coconut crepe cake; and Tub Tim Krob, or red rubies, made with water chestnut with coconut granita, coconut meat and milk.

In 1997, Greyhound's founder, Mr Bhanu Inkawat, 62, was offered an empty unit next to its store at Emporium shopping complex in Bangkok to sell coffee and food.

Mr Inkawat, who is also Greyhound's executive creative director, says: "We had no knowledge about food. But we thought, let's just do it. In the first week, we had people yelling at us for food and had to close the restaurant for another week.

We served a full food menu from the beginning. Yes, we were ambitious."

Despite its rocky beginning, the cafe chain is more successful and recognisable than the brand's fashion business.

Mr Inkawat, together with his Thai team, are in Singapore for the opening of the 2,600 sq ft, 100-seat restaurant.

Greyhound Cafe is brought in by JC Global Concepts, a food and beverage company which runs Central Hong Kong Cafe at Resorts World Sentosa, VivoCity and Wheelock Place.

It also operates Chinese restaurant Black Society at VivoCity as well as BreadStory, a bakery chain with outlets in Malaysia and Dubai.

Greyhound's extensive menu is a collection of the childhood memories and travel experiences of the founders, and are based on old Thai recipes and ingredients.

For example, Mr Inkawat grew up eating the cafe's popular Complicated Noodle ($16), where diners wrap minced pork and spicy chilli sauce with noodle sheets and lettuce.

The other signature item - Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wings ($14) - is based on the recipe from the grandmother of Greyhound Cafe's managing director Pornsiri Rojmeta.

While the food may be Instagram-worthy, Mr Inkawat makes it clear that he is not selling "fashion food".

"The thing I hate the most is when people call our food 'fashion food'. That's how people judge our restaurant. But we serve real food. It is the authentic taste of Thai food, with a twist.

"We know that no matter how beautiful your restaurant is, the food is important. Now people take food photos and they just leave. We need to make sure they come back."

5 new Thai eateries to check out

  • This four-month-old casual restaurant focuses on Thai street food. Dishes include E-sarn pork sausage ($8.90); pad thai with tiger prawns ($13.80); fish maw soup ($11.80); and grilled chicken with Hainan rice ($9.80), the Thai version of chicken rice.
  • For something more premium, opt for the Khun Mae Sunee's stewed pork noodles ($18.80) with shiitake mushrooms. Complete the meal with desserts such as mango sticky rice ($7.80).
  • The two-month-old gastro-bar specialises in Thai tapas, with a focus on seafood.
  • Menu highlights include spanner crab miang kham ($16), with spanner crab wrapped in fresh betel nut leaves and garnished with a mix of peanuts, lime, chilli and dried shrimp; tamarind grilled prawn ($14); and fresh oysters with trio granita ($18), where the oysters are topped with kaffir limoncello, citrus grapefruit and yuzu vodka granita.
  • To start, order the Aroi Mak platter ($28), with crispy mee krob, rice crackers with prawn ragout, Thai fish cakes, golden prawn toast and grilled chicken brochette with roasted peanut sauce. For mains, options include nam jim salmon belly ($20), oven-roasted stingray ($28) and stewed pork belly in northern Thai curry ($18).
  • If you do not have the time to grill your own meat at a mookata restaurant, get the barbecued skewered meats for takeaway instead at this two-week-old kiosk at The Clementi Mall.
  • This stall is by the Mookata chain, which has outlets in Katong, Yishun and Bugis.
  • Skewer options ($1.60 to $2 each) include pork belly, chicken thigh, beef, cheese balls and bacon enoki wrap. A bento set starts at $5.80.
  • Basil's Thai dishes include less-known specialities from southern Thailand, such as Keang Khua Poo ($16.90), a southern Thai yellow curry with chunks of fresh crab and betel leaves, chopped long beans, cabbage and vermicelli; and Poa Pia Boran ($9.90), a traditional Thai-style spring roll filled with savoury minced chicken, glass noodles, bamboo shoots and black fungus. Familiar favourites such as Thai salads and curries will also be available.
  • While many mookata eateries require diners to buy set meals, buffet restaurant Talay Kata allows them to eat all they can.
  • Its spread features a wide selection of seafood along with meats and housemade dipping sauces and soups. There is also a small section to whip up your own som tam (green papaya salad) as well as dessert. More premium, seasonal items, such as bamboo clams, scallops and crab pincers, are available on weekends.
  • Here, diners also have a choice of soup base, from tom yum to bonito and even salted egg yolk - it is made with salted egg, bonito and seafood broth, cream and Thai herbs.
  • The buffet is priced from $18.80++ for lunch and from $28.80++ for dinner on weekdays.

Indeed, he is a stickler for quality. During a media lunch yesterday, he takes one bite of the Pita Pizza with Seafood Stuffing, shakes his head and asks the chef to try the pizza as well.

He then points out that it is not spicy and not cheesy enough. He also insists on the use of fresh ingredients such as coconut milk and Thai mangoes to ensure the taste is consistent.

And if one finds it odd to see pasta and hamburgers on the menu, he says: "In Bangkok, we are known as a trendy cafe, so it doesn't really matter what we serve as long as it is trendy.

But when you open outside of Thailand and people know that we are from Bangkok - they think we are a typical Thai restaurant. So we present Thai street food in a hip way, but it's not your traditional Thai food.

"Bangkok is very chaotic - where else do you get taxis in five colours? Similarly, anything goes here, it can be chaotic, but it is controlled, beautiful chaos."

An exclusive dish to Singapore is the Crispy Pork Leg With Surprisingly Curry Paste ($36), a German- style crispy pork leg marinated with Thai herbs and served with tamarind chilli paste, Jaew sauce (North-eastern Thai dipping sauce) and sticky rice.

The savvy and stylish founders, who have been friends for 40 years, are also always on the pulse of trends, asking reporters many questions about the dining habits of Singaporeans, the dining scene here and the influence of social media.

Noting that retail is on the decline, Mrs Rojmeta, 62, says: "It is a digital world now and people are shopping online.

But people are always exploring new things in the food and beverage scene.

We are confident of our expansion to Singapore as many of our fans are Singaporeans and it has always been our plan to open here."

They plan to open another four to five Greyhound Cafes in Singapore within the next five years, including a stand-alone.

There will be a seventh outlet in Hong Kong and they are eyeing new markets in Indonesia, Taiwan and London.

Greyhound's sister brands - dessert bar Sweet Hound, the Italian- influenced cafe Another Hound and Everythinghound, which sells the brand's sauces and ice creams - will remain in Bangkok for now.

On the longevity of the brand so far, Mr Inkawat says: "People are leading trendy lifestyles and they are expecting more unique concepts rather than the usual fast-food brands.

We are not just selling food. It's a total experience from when you first walk in."

euniceq@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 13, 2016.
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