The garden is dotted with the deep purples and whites of Thai orchids here and there; a fountain gurgles and a cat lounges on the well-kept lawn. If health stems from a feeling of tranquility, then the Whole Earth is well on its way to keeping customers happy right from the start.
Take off your shoes at the entrance to the converted house, feel the cool smooth floor under your feet as you enter and absorb the peaceful atmosphere, enhanced by wooden furniture and khaki and pink d?cor. Downstairs there are tables and chairs, while upstairs the seating is traditional Thai-style. Altogether around 150 people can be accommodated, but the division of the rooms lends a degree of intimacy that suggests a much lower number.
Lounge on the cushions as you sip a smoothie – a blend of banana, papaya, yoghurt, orange juice and honey (Bt55) – and browse the menu, which features a great selection of both Thai and Indian vegetarian food, as well as a selection of dishes with seafood and chicken.
"Most people still like to eat a little meat," says part owner and manager Kaneungnit Jearawaropart. "But people really come here for the vegetarian food."
And it’s the vegetarian food that she’s obviously most proud of, carrying on a tradition of providing healthy food to Bangkokians that her uncle began 21 years ago at the Whole Earth’s first branch, on Soi Lang Suan.
"Everybody likes good food, and more people are wanting to eat food that’s good for their health," Kaneungnit adds. "Here the concept is all about health. And we want people to feel at home, to be able to relax. That’s why it’s shoes off at the door."
The restaurant philosophy is suggested by the text on the menus, that begins: "Every fibre of food we eat has within its total potentiality of cosmic intelligence." It might be a little inscrutable thanks to the translation, but the basic idea of "you are what you eat"is easily determined.
I tried the vegetarian samosas, served with a zesty sauce of coriander, mint, yoghurt, salt and pepper. Sturdy and stuffed solidly with tasty vegetables, a few of these would almost be a meal in themselves.
Kaneungnit’s favourite starter is the mango salad (Bt85), which she says is one of the more popular starters, along with the deep-fried vegetable cakes (Bt85) and the vegetarian satay (Bt85).
Next I tasted the vegetarian hor mok, a creamy steamed curry served in banana leaves (Bt90); it was a reminder of how readily adaptable so many Thai dishes are to being vegetarian. The sauce was spicy, but let the flavours of the finely-chopped vegetables show through.
"Everything we serve is fresh and cooked just before serving," Kaneungnit reminds me. She needn’t have – it’s obvious.
The fried rice with mixed vegetables and ghee (Bt140) comes served in a pineapple and with a generous sprinkling of cashew nuts; but my favourite dish was undoubtedly the tofu larb. Normally I find the idea of making vegetables imitate meat somewhat distasteful, but this dish demonstrated that tofu is simply a perfect ingredient in its own right to use in larb, being solidly textured and readily able to absorb the flavours of the herbs.
Prices are excellent: most dishes are in the Bt85 to Bt120 range. The pricier dishes include a deep-fried snow fish with mango sauce (Bt295), the shrimp tandoori (Bt295) and a charcoal broiled snow fish, but these are in the minority – making this a very affordable restaurant for the Sukhumvit area.
The wine list is a little brief, and most of the reds are unfortunately described as being suited to red meats. If you’re really here for your health though, perhaps you’ll settle on a glass of the house Carlorossi (Bt130). Large beer bottles are Bt130.
The focus on health strays just a little when it comes to dessert – this is reward time, after all. Ice cream sundaes available for those with a seriously sweet tooth, but a more well-balanced choice is the fresh banana or papaya topped with home made youghurt and fresh farm honey (Bt55).
If you’ve been really good, treat yourself and finish off with a liqueur coffee (Bt155). This is, after all, the sort of place to linger, relax and reenergise.
71 Sukhumvti 26
Tel: 258 4900, 661 5279
93/3 Lang Suan
Tel: 252 5574, 652 0301