Samui Wining & Dining
And Now it’s Four!

A coffee shop with a difference – Black Canyon opens ‘Xin City’ in Chaweng.

 p9There are people that I know who are hopelessly addicted. Some do odd things with little glass jars with plungers. Others use aluminium cones that sizzle and drip. One or two have invested fortunes in gleaming automats with spouts and nozzles and everything. But, in truth, the majority of hard-core coffee drinkers usually get their hits while on the move. And that, of course, means calling-in to a coffee shop at every passing opportunity.

Some coffee shop ‘names’ spring instantly to mind, although some of the ‘Stars’ of the show stand accused of being just a bit too costly for price-wary Thailand. Fine for visiting tourists and their WiFi laptops – who are snared by a familiar brand-name – but certainly not for the locals. Because the people who live here want more than just an over-priced frappe with a silly name. They want a selection of good coffee, yes, but at a sensible price. And, being Thai, they also like to eat a little at every opportunity they get. Which is where Black Canyon bounces cheerfully into the picture and plugs a very big gap in the local market.

Make that ‘plugged’. Because Black Canyon has been around for quite a while, certainly long enough for all of Thailand to recognise and respond to the name. It started up back in 1993 with a company that came up with a variation on a familiar theme: excellent and affordable food as well as all the expected coffees. It caught on and, today, there are more than 190 branches throughout The Kingdom, plus branches in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates.

The franchises are tightly controlled and are very much in demand. On Samui, for instance, there are only three; all of them run by entrepreneur and businesswoman, Khun Anchalee Keeratiwithayanon. Actually, make that four. Because she’s just opened another one – and something really enticingly out of the ordinary – in Chaweng.

Khun Anchalee saw her opportunity initially with the opening of Samui’s first superstore, Tesco-Lotus, in 2005 and was quick to jump in with the first of the island’s Black Canyon shops. And, when the next branch of Tesco-Lotus opened two years later in Nathon, she repeated the successful formula at that location, too. And again in the next superstore in Lamai in 2009. All three coffee shops are identical in concept: an extensive coffee menu plus a whole range of fruit juices and frappes, smoothies, fruit and herbal drinks, tea, chocolate and even beer. The food menu has International and Thai dishes, with a wide range of appetisers, soups, salads, steaks, curries and noodle dishes, and there’s even a children’s menu, too – all of them at superbly reasonable prices. But the one in Chaweng is a whole new concept.

It’s smack bang in the middle of the town, in the small side-road that runs parallel to the Soi Green Mango (that now somebody seems to have named ‘Soi Sound’). It’s very accessible, visible from the main road, and seems set to really give those nearby established ‘named’ coffee shops a serious run for their money. Here the layout and design has been expanded into what is essentially four areas. The sports bar is on street level but the venue also runs up onto the first floor (second floor if you’re American) and accessed by a wide and sweeping open set of steps that leads directly to the broad outer terrace. The main area is ‘Thai-style’ and open on two sides by means of full-length folding doors. And, running off this and separated by a glass wall is a roofed rear deck, open on all sides and overlooking the street and the entrance stairs.

But, as mentioned, it’s re-designed and kitted-out to appeal to an international clientele. Firstly there’s WiFi throughout, making it a perfect daytime venue to either sit back and catch up with some work or rest awhile and browse through the emails on your smart-phone. There’s a pool table and sports bar downstairs – another pleasing distraction and perfect for those occasions when you don’t want eardrum-cracking music and ladies leaping about on poles. And I’m told that there are also plans for a regular music programme, but that’s yet to be decided.

There’s a departure from the expected décor, too. Out of necessity all three established outlets of Black Canyon are similar: one space containing the dining area with a counter and kitchen at the side. The furnishings are strictly regulated by Head Office and are pleasant but predictable. But here, in Chaweng there are four separate ‘spaces’. It couldn’t have been better planned. By yourself, in company, in the afternoon or evening, you pick your spot according to your need. Working, eating, waiting for a date, street-watching, watching matches on the big flat screen TVs or even just drinking coffee (!) this new Black Canyon knocks the spots off its competitors.

Which rather makes me think – just who is the competition? The rest of the coffee shops aren’t – all they sell is coffee and shakes. Certainly not the local restaurants as they only sell food – and assuredly you can’t get a streak and fries for well under 200 baht, as you can here! The bars? Far too noisy and they don’t have the rest of it! With the average price of a designer-coffee at around 60 baht, with 90% of the menu items costing under 100 baht, with a kiddies menu, with WiFi, and a sports bar … there really is no competition!

The service is super, the menus themselves are a colourful work of art with notes and information on the coffees and the dishes, it’s cool and it’s shady and it’s right in the middle of town. I think congratulations are in order to Khun Anchalee and her adventurous concept. She’s taken the basic idea one stage further and created the first Black Canyon of this kind anywhere in the world. But there’s just one thing missing. The name Black Canyon is familiar and ‘Xin City’ is catchy and in keeping with it all. But I’d add one extra word at the end. All that’s missing is – ‘deluxe’!

 


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