Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Whimsical Wonderland at Mr Jones' Orphanage

Update October 2015: Mr Jones' Orphanage Seenspace has now ceased operations and it now has 6 branches in major malls across Bangkok. If you want to feel the most vibe, Stranger in Bangkok recommends the branch in Siam Centre.

Mr Jones' Orphanage

The bustling food scene in Bangkok has just gotten quirkier with the appearance of this certain Mr Jones' Orphanage. Nestled at the corner lot of Seenspace, Thong Lor Soi 13, its appearance together with Fat Gutz and Belon Oyster and Raw Bar has given the no-longer-bustling community mall for hippies and expats a fresh lease of life.

However, unlike its neighbours on the ground floor focusing on pairing alcoholic drinks with gourmet finger food, Mr Jones' Orphanage decided to go head-to-head with After You right across the street, with desserts and flavoured milk as its main offerings.

The actual orphans in the orphanage
The first thing that drew me to it was, of course, its name. I had been keeping it in mind ever since I saw its name when it was undergoing massive renovation a few months ago. Without asking the staff with my less-than-perfect Thai, I figured that the orphans referred to these little bears that were doing various things comfortably in their little cubicles near the ceiling throughout the entire eatery.

The atmosphere was a win for me

After being pleasantly welcomed by mist-spewing gargoyles outside the door, the fairy-tale-like interior decoration captured me. From bears sitting on swings that were literally swinging vigorously 24/7,  to the massive fruit-filled carousel as the centerpiece, toy soldiers on every table and a ceiling hung full of paper aeroplanes, it was like entering Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. The world outside meant nothing anymore. It was an invitation to go back to my childhood to re-live the childish fantasy I had, even if it was for half an hour over some flavoured milk and cake.

The display of cakes

Custard Cow's Poo, now that's interesting

Though colourful, the huge array of cakes on display did not impress either my wife or myself. They all looked roughly-presented (this might have been on purpose) and a little dry. When I asked the waitress for recommendations, to my surprise, she did not point out the Custard Cow's Poo, which, due to its deliberately-eye-catching name, was what I assumed to be the star of the show. We did not try it in the end.

Strawberry Waffle
Our first dish was the strawberry waffle, which was served to us at a jaw-dropping-less-than-one-minute speed after our order. This was, even for Ronald McDonald's standard, lightning quick. A small touch on the waffle explained why -- it was stone cold. Determined to get a freshly-made piping-hot waffle, I requested for a change, which was equally-swiftly rebuffed with an explanation that it was meant to be served cold because the cream and ice-cream should not melt too fast.

Oh well, since we were in an orphanage anyway, how could we expect to get what we want? That said, the waffle itself was delicious, buttery and soft, with a generous topping of strawberries. Why can't they just serve it hot? I would rather eat it quickly while it's hot (before the ice-cream melts), than be given the liberty to take hours finishing a cold one (with the ice-cream melting anyway).

Chocky Mud Pie

Our next choice was the Chocky Mud Pie, recommended by the waitress. It was served with the same vanilla ice-cream as the waffle (it was served in a ramikin so it doesn't melt too fast beside the hot pie??!). It looked pretty attractive, like a volcano of molten chocolate boiling over. However, if I am very honest, it tasted more like an undercooked cupcake than anything else. It was doughy, heavy, stuck-to-your-teeth mushy without being richly chocolate-y. It was really not that bad, but extremely forgettable.

As I have said before many times over the course of my restaurant reviews on this blog, an eatery is judged on many levels. Ultimately, the most important should be its food and service, but for Mr Jones' Orphanage's case, both aspects did not leave an impression lasting enough to make me want to go back.

Why then, did I decide to write this review? Because it has been a long time since a food establishment wow-ed me simply through the atmosphere it managed to successfully create. So, even though the waffle needs to be hotter and the mud-pie more muddy, on a boring weekend afternoon, if Noah tugs my sleeve and asks to go out, I might just put him on my shoulder, say hi to the spitting gargoyles before entering this whimsical wonderland all over again.

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