Popular cafe chain Greyhound Cafe, a tourist attraction in Bangkok, is opening an outlet in Paragon in Orchard Road around the end of next month.
The chain, loved for its artistic and chic interiors, is known for serving innovative Thai and Western dishes with a contemporary twist. The new cafe is replacing Cedele on the first level of the mall.
Spanning 2,600 sq ft, the 100-seat restaurant will have a menu that is largely similar to its 11 outlets in Bangkok. It also has 11 outlets outside Thailand, in cities such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Beijing.
Cafe-hoppers can look forward to an extensive menu of about 150 items, including bestsellers such as the bite-sized Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wings, which are marinated in fish sauce; Complicated Noodles, in which diners wrap minced pork in noodle sheets; and lettuce and spaghetti stir-fried with Thai anchovies. For dessert, there will be a semi-frozen dessert of Thai milk tea granita; coconut crepe cake; and Tub Tim Krob, or red rubies, made with water chestnut with coconut granita, coconut meat and milk.
There will also be new dishes, such as Thai green curry with crispy bread as well as spicy seafood soup.
Greyhound Cafe is brought in by JC Global Concepts - a food and beverage company that runs Central Hong Kong Cafe at Resorts World Sentosa and VivoCity. It also operates Chinese restaurant Black Society at VivoCity as well as BreadStory, a bakery chain with outlets in Malaysia and Dubai.
Its director Jun Low, 50, first visited a Greyhound Cafe in Hong Kong two years ago. She fell in love with dishes such as its salmon sashimi in Thai hot sauce.
She says: "When Singaporeans think of Thai food, they think of communal main courses such as tom yum soup, but here we present Thai food with a fashionable twist in terms of presentation and fusion flavours."
She is confident that Greyhound Cafe can survive the highly competitive cafe scene in Singapore, adding: "Most cafes here are centred on Western food and diners hardly have Thai flavours in a cafe setting."
It also helps that it is a well-known brand among Singaporeans who have travelled to Bangkok.
Its managing director Pornsiri Rojmeta, 60, says that out of all the tourists who dine at their Bangkok cafes, Singaporeans make up the largest proportion.
"Singapore has been on our must-open list for a long time as it is a cosmopolitan city that has the right type of diners," she adds.
The brand has come a long way. It started as a menswear label in 1980. In 1997, its founder Bhanu Inkawat converted a vacant unit next to its Emporium shopping complex store into a cafe, which soon attracted queues for its photogenic dishes and settings. The Greyhound food empire has since expanded to include an upmarket restaurant, dessert cafes and a food retail line.
To ensure that the quality of the food here remains consistent, the Singapore team, comprising Thai chefs, will undergo a month-long training session at Greyhound Cafes in Bangkok. There, they will learn the recipes and be given instructions on how to operate the restaurant.
A team from Thailand will also be based here for two weeks after the restaurant opens to ease in local staff. Sauces such as pad thai sauce, chilli sauce and salad dressings will be imported from Thailand.
Opening the restaurant at Paragon was a natural choice, says Ms Low, as she feels that being in a "premium mall" in the prime Orchard Road shopping belt would help to establish a new-to-market brand. She hopes to open five outlets here in three years.
Prices here, she notes, while comparable to those of the chain's international outlets, will be at least 30 per cent higher than those in Bangkok due to "higher costs of living". Diners can expect to pay $30 a head, including drinks.
The cafe's interiors will be "Thai street style with a touch of class" and adorned with Thai crockery, zinc sheets and graphic-printed tiles. Taking centre stage in the black and grey-toned restaurant is a glasshouse dressed up with plants and butterfly motifs made from recycled tin cans.
Diners who frequently travel to Bangkok are excited about the opening of Greyhound Cafe here.
One of them is Mr Timothy Ouyang, an analyst in his 30s in the travel industry, who has dined at Greyhound Cafes in Bangkok and Shanghai for more than a decade.
He says: "Dining there has been a staple on my trips; I love dishes such as its spicy squid ink pasta and Thai milk tea granita. Its interesting menu is constantly evolving and I can always expect a nice ambience there."