Most countries have an iconic chef, one who is familiar to every person on the street. The UK has Jamie Oliver (Sorry Gordon), France has Joel Robuchon aand Thailand has now……..well, the iron chefs. British food is undergoing a resurgence, as French food is with the new generation of ‘Fooding’ guys. Thailand, hopefully, will always have the street food vendors, but for Thai cuisine by a Thai person?
Enter Chef McDang…….
I hear this time and time again from frequent visitors to Thailand. ”We always want to go to Huahin, but its sooo far away” If the words ‘Crab Heaven’ make your legs go tingly and jaws tightened in anticipation for cracking shells, you need to take the 2 – 4 hour journey from Bangkok to Huahin. This place….of course, is 30 – 60mins away in Pranburi, google ‘Pranburi Resorts’ if you intend to stay there instead of the main tourist hub of Huahin.
Opened by a local celebrity Chef and his protege, this restaurant brings the nose to tail eating concept to Bangkok. St John made this concept its own in the UK, and the food that comes out of St John is so simple and fantastic that one may be fooled into thinking they can cook it at home too…..or in their restaurant. I mean, how hard can it be right? Simply cooked offal and meats?
Can the team at Smith live up to St John’s philosophy to which they have so blatantly subscribed?
This is a very memorable meal from the past, waaaay back in 2009, when I was living around 30mins walk away from St John Bread and Wine in London. However, this is at the main, St John restaurant, where we tucked ourselves into one of the most memorable meals of my life.
The simple surroundings, bare, white walls with simple wooden chairs and tables, spoke volumes on how St John went about its food. Its unfussy, but downright brilliant in its simplicity. Not many chefs or restaurants in the world can make the kind of food that we ate that night, and I have never eaten anything similar since.
Potential 2 hour traffic jam? 30mins minimum waiting time for your table? Not so far, but not so near to the city? You’re dependent on a taxi to bring you to Ram-Intra? Speak no Thai?
But……you’ve just landed in Bangkok, as have I, and you are craving craving craving for some seafood, local style. You’re tired, cranky, desperate in need of some stomach lovin’ and wanna boost your cholesterol levels up a notch. Do you REALLY want to come here?
“Qu’ils Mangent de la Brioche!” or perhaps, “Let them eat their tea cakes!”, as Anne Boleyn actually mouthed before she was given ‘Le Chop’. The “eating brioche’ part was actually said by someone else and mistakenly attributed to Anne Boleyn. You read it here first, through lots of dubious research, I have uncovered a famous quote lost to history just until now*.
As fascinatingly brutal as that era was, we can be grateful that Henry VIII’s and Anne Boleyn’s brief pairing gave birth to this delicious tea cake called a ‘Maid of Honour’. The best place, according to marketing hype, to eat this is at Newens at Kew Gardens in Richmond, London.
According to folklore, Henry VIII first met Anne Boleyn when she was a Maid of Honour. This historical event took place at his Richmond Palace, and he fell in love with her eating this dainty little pastry. Love never tasted so sweet, and if this story has a romantic ring of regality to it, there is also a dark story attached, if you believe the myth (As printed on Newen’s website). However, it would not be surprising if this story was true, considering Henry VIII’s reputation.
Now Henry VIII’s key achievements were plenty, not excluding breaking away from the Catholic Church, beheading 2 of his wives, of which one had a younger sister who was his mistress prior and executing tens of thousands of people (72,000+ according to a less than trustable internet source*). His daughter, Queen Mary 1, is credited with burning around 300 Protestants to their deaths and thus, earning the nickname, ‘Bloody Mary’, to whom bar-goers and bartenders around the world pay homage to with a shake of the jigger*. Back to the dark story……
When people think of London, they think London Eye, Big Ben and all your other normal touristy joints. When I think of London, I think of Whitechapel, amongst one of the dodgiest areas in London (Thats what people tell me!) that has played host to the most famous Whitechapeler of all, Jack the Ripper.
Perhaps this luminary cemented Whitechapel’s place as a ‘special’ part of town, but really, it is a diverse, multi-ethnic area of London where you have congregations of immigrants from all over the world. Yes, the streets are dangerous at night (Drunkards, drug addicts and pushers), but you could say that of any other street in the UK. Well, we lived in front of Sainsbury, right next to the IdeaStore and along the stretch of the famous Whitechapel ethnic day market across Royal London Hospital. Therefore, you could say it was in the safer part of WC that we went about our daily lives.
Besides having been the CENTRE of Britain’s H1N1 epidemic, this is also the home to the Bell Foundry, where Big Ben came from. These historical streets have seen everything from serial killers to mob hits and more recently, Chinese people touting pirated DVDs.
Brick Lane happens to be just down the road (20 mins walk) from Aldgate Station and is home to the famous Brick Lane market and the interesting shops that throng the area. I’d avoid the ‘curry mile’ of Indian restaurants serving up lip-smacking portions of ‘Chicken Diarrhea’, and head straight for them Beigels.
You have 2 days and 1 night in Bangkok, armed only with an iPhone and you need to eat and document some food. What do you do? What do you do? Well, this is just a very small list of the places I frequent to satisfy desires and cravings. Whether you can find these places or not…….its another question and up to your abilities to navigate your way around. Here are some recommended eating places for those on a tight schedule:
Day 1 – Lunch
Time sure passes fast as just 1 year ago, we were celebrating Songkran in Wimbledon, London, feasting on delicacies cooked to the ‘Thai taste’ on the temple grounds.
This year, amidst the protests and riots that besieged Bangkok’s commercial nerve-centre, I began what could well be my last holiday in a long time. Well, not so long, as Songkran 2011 will see me back here.
Its not a coincidence that Songkran and Easter follow each other closely, as both events are/were determined through astrological observations. Songkran is now celebrated within fixed dates, where the whole country simultaneously contributes to the coffers of Scottish distillers.
Imagine my shock when Polish colleagues in the UK told me of the water-splashing tradition during Easter in their country. What are the chances that 2 different races, continents apart, practicing different religions would have the same practices?
Perhaps we are connected even more deeply then we think, and this short break was a great time to undo the hardships of the past 2 years on the road, relax, chill, drink copious amounts of alcohol, stuff my face with food and just do absolutely NOTHING.
This year, we drove up to Huahin, currently at the top of my ‘Places to retire to before 40′ list, a timely reminder of why one should take a chill pill now and again.
Just this afternoon, on my way to a Nasi Padang lunch at Keong Saik road in Singapore’s Chinatown, who should I come across but Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, along with a friend, M, sitting at the corner road kopitiam and having tiger beer. Like a star struck groupie, I shook his hands in awe, for eating at St John was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This inspired me to drag my lazy ass and finally do a new blog post on this meal.
A few continents, delayed flights and man on train tracks delayed this long awaited meal at St John for a few years. Any restaurant that has the balls (pun intended) to serve the spare parts of any animal drives me wild. Booked a few weeks in advance, finally, we had a chance to see if its been a meal worth waiting this long for.