We’ve got plenty of mega brunch deals to choose from at the hotels around town, but what about when you don’t want buffet fare or a stuffy hotel environment? Here are our picks for five of the best spots that do brunch with a little more personality.
In a restored old house near the Swedagon Pagoda, the founders of Bodhi Nava have done a brilliant job at creating a little oasis of calm in the city. The name reflects this aim: the Bodhi or Bayan tree was where the Buddha gained enlightenment, while Nava, meaning nine in the ancient Buddhist language of Pali, refers to the nine attributes of the Buddha. The house holds a hostel upstairs and a restaurant downstairs. There has been a lot of noise made about the smoothie bowls, but I really rate the creamy pesto topped hummus with spicy falafel (5,500 kyats).
There’s also a pineapple salad (3,500 kyats), sweet and satisfying with a chili kick, and a Rakhine/Mon fusion pulled chicken (5,500 kyats) that’s moist and deliciously moreish. The kitchen also does a twist on the classic eggs Bene (6,000 kyats), adding sweet potato and aubergine — a quiet veggie triumph. Magazines and quiet music make for the perfect slow morning. Pro tip: go to the bathroom upstairs — it’s much nicer than the one downstairs.
FIND IT: Bodhi Nava is at No. 17 Bahan Street 2, +95 9 781 265517. Open daily, 9am-9pm.
For me, a classic brunch includes an excellent coffee, a vitamin-packed smoothie and at least two eggs and/or pancakes. Cafe Salween has all these covered.
This spot is serious about providing the ultimate coffee experience. They have five types of cold brew (ranging 4,000-6,000 kyats). Even as someone who has a cold brew maker at home — I have become a parody of millennial living — I usually only have two types of cold brew options on offer: namely, with milk, and without.
Cafe Salween takes this to another level by offering options with ginger, apple, orange and even pomegranate, featuring coffee beans sourced from different regions. They also give you the whole glass bottle, so you can top up yourself. They are certainly passionate about showcasing the amazing range of coffee that Myanmar grows, which feature in many different styles of drink, as well as a multitude of freshly prepared non-caffeinated options like juices and smoothies.
The food also lives up to expectations. The Burmese pancakes (3,000 kyats) come thick with chickpeas, spring onions, and topped with eggs, or a thin crepe with veggie and meat toppings. Eggs are perfect: a fork stab yields a gorgeous runny yolk melting into the pancake, enhanced by a subtle spice, with plenty of sesame and seeds for crunch. The vibe is warehouse chic with exposed brickwork, wooden crates and low benches. I confess to being a little confused by the presence of an apparently decorative sack of overflowing sweet potatoes, but perhaps this is just the latest in interior design?
FIND IT: Cafe Salween is at G15, Urban Asia Center, Maha Bandula Road, +95 9 42583 0657. Open daily, 8am-8pm.
Sofaer and Co’s welcoming blue facade can’t help but put a smile on your face in the morning. Inside, the space includes a Victorian terrace with original encaustic tiles, beams and wooden panels, cane furniture and a large mural wall. I instantly recognize the glassware from the Nagar Glass factory (unfortunately destroyed by a cyclone in 2009) by the stunning workmanship and skill. Sofaer and Co has some excellent dinner options — crab claypot, I’m looking at you — but it is also about the brunch life. Covering your sweet and savory needs equally, staples of pancakes (with honey, 6,500 kyats) and eggs Benedict (with pulled pork, 12,000 kyats) are covered beautifully and deliciously.
The cocktails (7,500 kyats), on the other hand, are sometimes mad combinations of flavors that shouldn’t work, but somehow do. Order whatever the special is and enjoy. For me, the turmeric latte doesn’t quite land, although maybe my barista that day was just a little heavy-handed with the turmeric. In my experience, however, all the other coffees are on point, and the service is speedy. With a soft Sunday morning soundtrack in hand, it’s a great way to while away a lazy day. Its only real downside is that it’s really too dark inside for photos if you’re trying to flex on the ‘gram.
FIND IT: Sofaer and Co is at 60 Lower Pansodan Road, +95 9 44833 3499. Open daily, 8am-11pm.
Alex’s Gastro Bar at The Loft
OK, so this is technically a hotel, but hear me out. Puff pastry is a quiet god among foods. Unassuming. Not usually the star of the show. Gentle on the palate. And yet, when done right, puff pastry can become a light, flaky, buttery queen. Thus it is with the croissants and Danishes (1,800 kyats) at Alex’s Gastro Bar in The Loft hotel. Combined with homemade jam made from fruits grown at their own farm, the pastries here (1,800-2,000 kyats) are just the best.
And, the outside seating comes straight out of my 14-year old fever dream, all rainbow walls, golden retrievers and a live album from Evanescence on repeat. This is all compounded by the seats being designed for tall people, so at 5 foot 4 inches on a good day, I was briefly worried I might be trapped aloft forever. At least I wouldn’t go hungry.
FIND IT: Alex’s Gastro Bar & Garden is at 33 Yaw Min Gyi Street, Dagon Township, +95 9 42198 3687. Open daily, 6:30am-10:30pm.
The nice server at Port Autonomy thought perhaps I had not read all the way to the bottom of the menu, and helpfully pointed out the unlimited mimosas (35,000 kyats, with any brunch item) and other such goodies hiding in the second section. This free-flow option works out pretty reasonably, price-wise, and the cocktails are very much easy drinking. As much as I love an unsubtle up-sell, though, I had to decline in favor of a coffee (3,000 kyats).
On to the food.
The subtle art of the huevos rancheros (14,000 kyats) is not one to be taken lightly, which is why I was delighted by the generous guac loaded into my bowl, and the overall balance of flavors that Port Autonomy’s take on the dish achieved. Take note, plate givers — a bowl is far more suitable to prevent yolk mishaps. I did find that I required more bread than the tortilla given, but I am a bread fiend. I asked for some more, and they didn’t charge extra for it, which was great.
The avo toast (12,000 kyats), on the other hand, does come up a little small (sorry, but avocado toast is two pieces of toast, minimum). Luckily, it leaves room for a brunch pudding, brudding, if you will. Six fat churros (6,000 kyats) come piping hot and crispy, and although the chocolate sauce is dispensed prior to serving — no dipping, dipping fans — it is plentiful, thick and delicious.
FIND IT: Port Autonomy is at 42 Strand Rd, +95 1 392 263. Open daily, 11am-late.
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