Readers of Charles Dickens would be forgiven for thinking orphanages are rather joyless places, but anyone who has visited Mr Jones’ Orphanage in Bangkok will know that they can in fact be splendiferous places of extreme bliss, filled with giant teddy bears, mountains of chocolate lava cake and miniature bottles of strawberry milk. Good news for would-be orphans then, as Mr Jones has opened a branch of his famous orphanage-inspired café on the top floor of Myanmar Plaza.
If it all sounds a bit perverse, that’s because it is. Disregard the alluring piles of cakes and the whimsical interior, complete with quirky tea cups and whirling teddy bear carousel, and Mr Jones’ Orphanage is essentially a disturbing homage to dead parents. In modern London, where Dickensian orphanages are a thing of the past, it might just about pass as ironic. Here, where they are very much still a thing (and, presumably, sans chocolate lava cake), it’s more than a bit off. One Bangkok branch even has an “orphan drop-off box” outside. If this cutesy trivialisation of child misery isn’t creepy enough for you, staff uniforms bear a reminder to “Be nice to your mum” – which I can only assume is either a sinister warning or an entire misreading of the whole orphan concept.
Questionable theme aside, the cakes really are very good. Among the tempting display of desserts are a warm apple pie, chocolate truffle cake, waffles and a whole host of other sweet treats. The magnificent chocolate Kit-Kat cake (K3500) looks like something conjured up by the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to lure defenseless children, and after devouring the banoffi pie (K5500) – a melange of crumbled cookies, banana, toffee and cream – I almost found myself asking, “Please sir, can I have some more?”
The coffee isn’t bad either – though the foam teddy bear on top of my latte (K3500) was a bit irksome – and it’s hard not to be enamoured by the wonderland-inspired tea cups and saucers, adorned with helpful reminders like, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth”. There’s also a variety of milkshakes on offer: I almost hate to admit it, but the Purple Cow – a mix of fresh strawberries and bananas – is delicious. If you want to take your “orphan” experience to the next level, you can order Mr Jones’ flavoured milk, which is served in tiny bottles with straws. Or not.
Excellent though the cakes may be, you’d have to be either a hard-line dessert fanatic or an absolute head case to want to come here. If Mr Jones gave little thought to his theme, he gave even less to the location: The café is right next to a children’s soft play area, and despite their efforts to drown out the noise with irritating pop-music, you’ll be enjoying your cake to a soundtrack of screaming kids. Great if you’re a parent in dire need of escape from the ball pit. Not so much if you’re any other kind of human.
On second thoughts if you really want to escape, you could just leave the kids there and get the hell out. Don’t worry about them – it turns out being an orphan isn’t so bad after all.
Mr Jones’ Orphanage
Myanmar Plaza, Yangon
Great for… naughty kids, patient parents