LifestyleIn The Know

Balzac, the New French Café, Cultural Hub in Charoen Krung

Since opening its doors in December of the previous year, Balzac has become the latest venue to foster exchange between Thai and French cultures with a selection of homemade delicacies.

The café is named after the renowned 19th-century French novelist, Honoré de Balzac, who abandoned a legal career to pursue writing.

Balzac was notorious for his intense coffee consumption, reportedly drinking upwards of 50 cups daily to fuel his creativity. Some speculate that caffeine overdose could have contributed to his death.

The proprietor, Chango “Zac” Favre, finds resonance with Balzac’s story, coming from a legal background himself before he pursued his dream of opening a café in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Zac mentions, “I’ve been coming and going from Thailand for around 6 years. I noticed that there was only one prominent French bookstore in Bangkok, which is Alliance Française.”

Observing the disparity between the number of French speakers in Thailand and available cultural outlets, Zac began importing his private collection of books, films, and music from Switzerland to Thailand.

Initially envisioned as merely a bookstore, it swiftly expanded into a more ambitious multi-level project. This project reflects the café culture familiar to Zac and other Europeans—a concept not as prevalent in Bangkok.

Located in Charoenkrung, the café benefits from its proximity to the French embassy in Bangkok and the local art scene.

Its facade, reminiscent of a French street, features a collection of second-hand books, comics, vinyl records, global vintage movie posters, and high-end items.

For a quick bite, their apple pie, priced at THB 150, or traditional croque monsieur for THB 150, comes highly recommended.

Zac describes, “It’s not exactly gastronomic, but it’s like something your grandmother would make for you.”

They offer a variety of standard beverages, including coffee, tea, and French summer staples like lemonade, ginger beer, and orange espresso.

The café has already experienced a significant moment of cultural exchange when the Thai publisher and designer of Balzac’s books visited. Across the street lies one of the city’s renowned Chinese-themed cafés, Heiji, whose owner also speaks French.

Balzac aims to continue influencing the cultural scene by organizing events such as French film nights and exhibitions featuring works by Francophone and Thai artists.

At the end of March, the café is set to host a black and white photography exhibition by a Thai artist featuring France.

Balzac caters to a wide audience, whether you are a collector, an art enthusiast, or someone with a casual interest in French culture.

Located at 43, 357 Charoen Krung Road, Balzac opens from 2pm to 6:30pm on Tuesdays, 10am to 6:30pm from Wednesday to Friday, 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, and 10am to 6:30pm on Sundays.

For more information, you can visit their Facebook page or call directly at 081-696-4798.