Spending my time equally between Bangkok and London’s swanky Mayfair (someone has to live there and it’s infinitely better that it’s me rather than you), I am amazed to see the Thai-sation of that most traditional
of landmarks – the good old British pub.
It is now totally impossible to walk past just two or three Mayfair pubs without seeing the ubiquitous ‘Thai Food Available’ signs, often accompanied by a picture of the lovely Thai missus (sometimes including the particularly odd looking
leuk-kreung kiddies too!).
So how did this come about?
I guess grossly overweight publican / landlord / manager / whatever (just read ‘fat’) wakes up one morning, realises that: (1) he’s definitely past his prime; (2) he’s alone and not getting any regular jiggy-jig; and (3) he’s
heard from his customers and fellow booze-business chums about this magical paradise called Thailand, where the sunshine, booze and women are plentiful…and the latter two cheap as chips (which he loves).
So he gets into websites like bangkokchat.com and meets a lovely young thing online who meets all of his aspirations. ‘Young Isaan beauty, now working in Patpong, seeks a western husband, financial security, looks unimportant’ (that last
point definitely appeals to the typical Mayfair landlord). And the chance to live in a foreign country would certainly increase her standing with her family back in the rice fields.
So he arrives in Bangkok, they do the whole sex-love-marriage thing over the next few months and British Embassy willing, she gets a spousal residency visa for the UK. She brings pride and honour to the family by being able to live in the country that’s
the best friend of the USA and he gets someone totally out of her depth but adept at frying.
Bored with Mayfair life, and realising that sugar-daddy’s (sorry, hubby’s) business will not provide a level of income commensurate for a Mayfair lifestyle, they agree that she can start to provide Thai food at lunchtime. BUT, she needs
help, so who does she turn to for this? Yes, you guessed it – the family back in Bangkok. So they arrive en masse, and the whole Thai food business kicks off. With some of these pubs charging GBP 3.50 (THB 260) just for
kow-suay, (plain steamed rice to you), Thai missus sees the future as very rosy.
This is now happening everywhere in Mayfair and spreading throughout London and the UK. Great old pubs and 16th century coaching inns that used to serve warm English beers and their gassy Ozzie counterparts now serve Som Tam Boo.
If your Mayfair pub doesn’t have a Thai food sign, it may still be worth asking. Just look for some of the giveaway signs. A hugely overweight publican (ok, too easy); A happy publican (after all, he’s getting regular sex now, right?); A
tanned publican (he has to go back to Thailand regularly to keep the wife happy and bankroll the rest of the family she’s left behind); And primarily, the grossly inappropriate Buddhist amulet on a large gold chain, which he wears proudly
with his shirt unbuttoned down to his overweight gut.
All well and good? Yes, I guess, until he kicks the bucket and wife takes over the business. Then where will us Mayfair boozers be? I can count over 200 restaurants and bars in Mayfair now selling Thai food. I planned on keeling over in later life from
liver damage, not from blocked arteries caused by daily doses of deep-fried sawasdee-krap!
God help us all. Buddha too.
Yep, this is exactly what many Brits have been telling me, that finding good old pub British favourites can be more difficult than locating a tom yum goong. I wonder if it is just the UK, or if it is happening elsewhere too?