Eccentric theme restaurants dot the Asian landscape, focusing on everything from cats to toilets to robots, but only Bangkok’s Cabbages & Condoms brings an obsession with prophylactics to the table.
Founded by politician and family planning activist Mechai Viravaidya (who is also known by the nickname “Mr. Condom”) the large restaurant was opened next to one of the few family planning clinics in Bangkok that offers abortions for the impoverished women in the community. While pregnancy termination is allowed by law in the city, it is often thought to be illegal and contraceptive measures, in general, are often seen as taboo, thus Viavaidya started his restaurant with the intention of raising understanding and acceptance of birth control (as well as to serve food). This devotion to the titular form of protection can be seen in the ubiquitous condoms decorating almost every corner of the eatery.
From the small gift area near the entrance featuring informational pamphlets on family planning and a visual guide to varieties of condoms to mannequins covered in dresses made of prophylactics and studded by birth control pills, diners are surrounded on all sides by rubber reminders of safe sex. Lampshades, wall decorations, and even Christmas tree trimmings are constructed out of the proverbial raincoats, giving guests no place to rest their eyes that doesn’t have some playful new use for the protective device. Then at the end of the meal, diners are given their own condom in lieu of dinner mints.
While the almost cartoonishly overblown presentation of condoms in the restaurant seems silly, the purpose is to make the otherwise taboo item more mundane and less exotic, and the gambit seems to be working. Along with a number of other initiatives begun by Viravaidya, Cabbages & Condoms has contributed to a staggering decrease in children being born to Bangkok families. In addition, the restaurant itself has become so successful that the brand has been expanded to include a hotel and franchise locations reaching as far as the United Kingdom.