I haven’t been on a holiday to anywhere, where I would fail to plan even just a tiny bit of my itinerary… unless someone else in my travel party was planning it of course. But when I flew solo to Bangkok earlier this year, I had gone without itinerary and without plan. My only objective was to use the very lovely Klapsons The River Residences as my “home base”, so all I did was to make plans to get there from the airport which in this case was just:
- Get a local prepaid SIM card (for only 199 baht) after clearing immigrations
- Hop onto the first cab I could see at the taxi queue
I decided only every night or in the morning on what to do the next day by scrolling through Instagram for inspiration.
This strange but beautiful place called Karmakamet Diner caught my eye while doing my foodie Instagram scouting using #bangkokcafe and some related hashtag or other while I was cafe hopping along the Ekkamai stretch. So I did what any discerning and adventurous solo wandergirl would do – I waved down a taxi and proceeded to request for him to bring me there. It was the best decision ever.
The cabbie himself had never been to Karmakamet Diner, but he figured it was probably near The Emporium Suites after showing him the Thai address (30/1 สุขุมวิท แขวง คลองตัน เขต คลองเตย กรุงเทพมหานคร 10110 if you needed to know).
Let me just heave a long hard sigh just because I am not right there, right now as I am reliving my wonderful memories of Karmakamet Secret World.
I alighted at Emporium Suites and explored the supposed route to the mysteriously located diner by foot, with the help of Google Maps. It’s not so elusive once you catch sight of the big sign which pretty much screams, “TURN RIGHT OVER HERE”.
Bangkok has the benefit of space and there are so many gorgeous restaurants, cafes and diners, all just hidden away in little “soi” (streets). Many of these places you might just miss even if you’ve walked up and down the area just because it was tucked away further at the back of some alley that isn’t on the main stretch of street you’ve wandered on.
I was so excited when I made my way towards the landscaped garden behind the iron gates of unit 30/1. It felt very much like a secret garden and during my time there, especially so because I had arrived at the doorstep rather late in the afternoon and evening was maybe an hour or so away.
It wasn’t a “peak period” as it was neither the typical lunch (or should I say brunch) nor dinner timing for the diner and I remember thinking to myself I was pretty lucky to be able to catch it when it wasn’t overwhelmed with people.
I recall telling myself that I wanted to photograph everything about it for memory’s sake, but I doubt I would forget it soon anyway because it was so impressive.
While I enjoyed travelling around Bangkok alone, it hit me that it was a pity I did not bring my tripod with me because I really wanted a shot in the beautiful gardens. I guess that means I’ll be coming back again in future.
The impression I got of the establishment was that there seemed to be a sort of story behind the place. It was furnished almost like a home away from home – a rustic bohemian hide-out.
While I initially visited because I was drawn to the design of the place from photos I had spotted online (yes, I did very sparing research considering I would be travelling out of the way to get there), I soon realised that Karmakamet was really more known for their, forgive the bad pun, scent-suous fragrances having started out selling aromatherapy and scented products. As their line and brand grew in repute with the locals, they ventured into the world of F&B with great success. It is now not uncommon to scroll through Instagram or google “cafes in Bangkok” and promptly spotting a Singaporean raving about it. I guess, it really is “all that jazz”.
The devil is in the damn details. Aside from the jaw dropping fittings that makes you feel like you’re in an apothecary-meets-bar-cum-restaurant, there is this attention to the little things that make the experience such a memorable and impactful one.
There’s the intricate paper “placemats” that look like old-timey Thai Chinese newspapers to set the mood. Then there are the menus that are designed to resemble something that is aged and stained with time while placed in a menu holder that looks as if it were made of material usually seen in woven gunny sacks – gunny sacks which you would also see lying around casually in the diner overhead or on the floor… just for the “feel” you know?
As if that wasn’t hardcore enough, the coasters are actually blue “envelopes”. These are so deliberate in the set-up, but made to look so carelessly folded and placed on each table.
The “envelopes” are in fact just a folded sheet of printed paper, but the design of it mimics an actual letter complete with postage stamps, scribbled scrawls and an interesting peek at the contents of a message to “Edge” from “Som”.
I wondered if this shed an idea of what the diner’s story was all about and true enough, with a bit of internet detective work, I found out that “Som” who wrote that note was actually Chef Som Jutamas Theantae, one of the co-owners of Karmakamet Diner on Sukhumvit 24.
I appreciated the level of detail and I loved that I was on my own so that I could really let this all sink in and experience the diner completely without consideration for another person like a dining buddy. Not to say that this wouldn’t have been enjoyable for two people, but I was just blown away by the thought behind every small detail here and being alone really helped me focus on them.
Whether indoors or outdoors, the dining areas are immaculate down to a tee. Everything about Karmakamet Diner, at least design-wise, is perfect. You just know that the whole boho “just-threw-this-together” eclectic, charming look and feel did not happen by accident. It’s totally intentional.
Tables are placed apart to allow for plenty of personal space and there is also bar side seating if you’d like to see your cocktail made.
During my visit, I was given a table by the full-length windows overseeing the al fresco dining area which looked like a cosy backyard with rustic wooden tables and metal chairs.
I would have loved to order a dessert, coffee and another main just for a taste, but I found it too wasteful especially after my afternoon-long cafe-hopping adventure at Ekkamai. So after studying the menu, I settled on a glass of white wine and something off their mains section.
Food and drinks arrived in a timely manner on my visit, perhaps because it was not packed like at peak meal times. They arrived wonderfully plated and looked entirely appetising with a gorgeous mix of colour.
My choice of main was the Crab Pasta (390 baht) featuring al dente fettuccine tossed in olive oil, garlic and dried chilli flakes. It is topped generously with chunks of sweet crab meat, dried chilli, parsley and ikura (fish roe), which by the way had a delicious saltiness that complemented the sweet crab meat.
I loved the combination of flavours, slight sweetness, distinct saltiness (also from the parmesan cheese sprinkled on the pasta dish) and mild spiciness which while not overpowering, did get me wanting a glass of water to wash it down.
Chef Som has created a delightful rendition of an otherwise common “cafe” find. Its a real treat for the senses – a joy to look at and eat.
After I was done with my pre-dinner meal, I wandered to the apothecary-themed Aromatherapy Shop where I promptly went crazy testing the different scents and admiring the pretty packaging it all came in.
There is so much to take in. The scents are just amazing. There are unique scents like “White Tea”, “Tabasco”, “Orange Blossom”, “Lotus” and “Nectaria” just to name a few.
I took an instant liking to the “Lotus” scent and purchased a Body Perfume Oil roll-on and not just one but two Perfume Room Sprays.
I spent almost the same amount of time dining as I was admiring the different perfumes, candles, spray and oils.
The place is just magical and I wouldn’t think twice about visiting Karmakamet Diner. One thing though, I’m relieved, however, that I can get my supply of Karmakamet from quite a few places in Bangkok though like Central World, Jatujak Weekend Market, Silom and Mega Bangna, so even if I can’t make a visit to the Sukhumvit 24 branch, I’ll be able to get my favourite scent from the other branches.
Karmakamet Diner is just behind Emporium Suites at Chatrium and the nearest BTS Station is Phrom Phong.
Karmakamet Diner (Secret World)
30/1 Soi Metheenivet, Klongton, Klongtoey,
Open Daily from 10:00am to 11:30pm.
Do note that the Aromatic Shop closes at 10:00pm.