In May this year I celebrated ten years with The Gin Whisperer. To mark the occasion we decided to go somewhere we had never been before.
I’ve always wanted to go and when we saw an absolute bargain we went for it!
I love Thai food, always have. We used to live near a couple of decent Thai restaurants when we lived in the West Midlands and I used to love Together Thai on Foley Street in London when it was open so we were really looking forward to sampling some authentic Thai cuisine.
We went to Pattaya for 13 nights and had some absolutely amazing food and some that was absolutely shocking! After nearly 20 hours of travelling, a monumental cock up by our travel company we arrived at our hotel, Pattaya Marriott Resort and Spa, to be greeted with a cool towel and ice cold hibiscus drink. Very welcome!
I’d done plenty of research before leaving the UK about the places we could eat. With Pattaya being a haven for expats there is not a nation in the world that doesn’t have some kind of representation food wise! Thai, Chinese, German, French, Swiss, British, American, Brazilian, you name it, you can eat it.
On our first evening we decided to go to A Taste of Thailand (185 Soi 13, Beach Road, Pattaya). Situated within the Haven Hotel the staff were friendly and there were plenty of spare tables with it being out of season. The menu was extensive, plenty of Thai choices as well as some British and Italian classics. We ordered Thai fish cakes, chicken satay, Pad Thai and battered calamari.
The starter plates where much larger than we had expected, especially for the price. Absolutely delicious and with huge helpings of homemade sweet chilli and peanut sauce. Pretty soon after our mains arrived. The chicken Pad Thai was nice but not the best I had on our trip and although the calamari was good, the batter was a little thick. Along with four bottles of Singha the whole thing cost us about £20 and was well worth it.
After a couple more beers and some ice cream at Pattaya Beer Garden it was time to haul our jet lagged arses to bed!
And the next morning we got our first sample of the delights on offer in The Garden Cafe at the Pattaya Marriott. It has to be said, this place has possibly the best breakfast buffet in the world! We ate here 13 times and I still didn’t have time to sample everything they had to offer! There was an egg station, providing fried, boiled, poached eggs and omelettes, there was a pancake and waffle station, with pancakes in the shape of elephants, caterpillars and flowers, fresh fruit, cheese selection, cold meats, fresh juices, salads, sausages, bacon, beans, potatoes, sushi, miso, Thai dishes, rice and even a noodle station. Oh and I forgot to mention the baked goods. All handmade in the kitchen at the hotel and all amazing!
The staff in the restaurant where an absolute delight every morning. So happy and polite, a credit to the hotel. On our last day they brought us out a fresh mango to finish our breakfast with. Such a lovely touch!
Next up for dinner we went to Pattaya Beer Garden. Don’t get put off by the beer bars at the entrance, this place does some decent food at a good price. So good that we visited here several times during our stay. On our first evening the Gin Whisperer had Rad Na, which became a bit of an obsession, and I had Ka Na Moo Grob. Ka Na Moo Grob is fried crispy pork and kana vegetables and oyster sauce. Rad Na is made with really wide glass noodles, vegetables and a choice of meat or seafood. The Gin Whisperer went for squid. I found the pork a little dry in the Grob. The Rad Na was fab! It was quite soupy but full of squid and the rice noodles were amazing and only 150TB, about £3. It’s a shame you can’t buy them in this country, I even tried the Internet!
On other visits to the Beer Garden we had Pad See Ew, which was Rad Na without the soup. It was nice but not as good as the Rad Na.
I also had the sliders from there a couple of times which were really good. The Beer Garden had a really good atmosphere, no hassle like in some of the bars, and the staff were always really friendly and smiley. Everything, including the beer, was reasonably priced. We hardly ever paid more than £3 for a main course.
The Tavern By The Sea (240 Pattaya Beach Road) was our next stop for dinner. It was quite a walk up from our hotel at the top end of Pattaya, the opposite end to Walking Street. Most of the tables were outside and it took quite a while for someone to actually come and seat us. I think it was ribs and wings night, all you could eat for a set price, which is probably why the place was so full. We decided to just choose from the normal menu, I had the Pig Roll, a pulled pork roll, and the Gin Whisperer had a burger with blue cheese. The food was ok, but the service was pretty shocking and the food was quite expensive for Thailand. We caught the Baht Bus back down Beach Road never to return!
Because the football was on we decided to eat at Dicey Reilly’s which was part of our hotel. It’s an Irish themed bar with a very extensive menu, including Forno, pizzas stone baked in the oven on the terrace. I had the Pad Thai and one of the pizzas during our visits and the Gin Whisperer had a burger and Pad See Ew. The Pad Thai was probably the best I had in our entire stay and the Pad See Ew was better than at the Beer Garden, but at least twice the price. The pizza was amazing. Nice light base and covered in plenty of topping. And it was huge! The staff were fabulous, again so friendly and polite and really chatty. Another credit to the hotel.
One day the weather was terrible. It had rained over night and was still pouring when we went for breakfast. We decided to spend the day sightseeing. First we walked down Walking Street towards Wat Phra Yai, Big Buddha Hill and after fighting off millions of Mosquitos, decided to get a taxi the rest of the way! On our way to the stairs up to the Buddhas we were papped by a couple of souvenir makers. At the top of the stairs are several golden Buddha statues all in different poses, the largest standing 18m tall. We got there quite early so it wasn’t filled with the large tour groups we encountered the rest of the time in Pattaya. We spent about 10 minutes at the top taking various photos and made our way back down the stairs. In that ten minutes the souvenir makers had created a plate and a clock with our photo on. Ingenious! Who would turn down the chance to own a plate within their face on for £4? We caught a bhat bus back to the hotel and as the Weather hadn’t improved we decided to grab a taxi from outside the hotel to take us out for the day.
We visited The Sanctury of Truth (206/2 Moo 5, Soi Naklua 12, Bang Lamung District) which is amazing. A temple carved entirely from wood which was started in 1981 and is due to be finished in 2050! All the sculptures are hand carved, we were taken round with a guide who was very informative and told us about the different kinds of wood and the next stages of the build.
Next up was Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens (34/1 Moo 7, Na Jomtien, Sattahip). This place is enormous and full of what felt like thousands of coach parties. Our driver arranged tickets for us to the Cultural and Elephant show. The Cultural Show had a bit of Thai boxing, some Thai history and some traditional Thai dancing. We then moved on to the elephant show, which I really wasn’t that keen on seeing. There were 20 or so elephants of all different sizes and ages performing tricks like riding bikes, painting pictures, throwing darts, dancing etc. The tour groups seemed to love it, paying to have their photos taken holding the elephants tusks and being held in the air by the elephants trunk and buying bananas to feed the elephants. The elephants looked really sad. On the way out of the show there was a tiger chained up on a platform for you to have your photograph taken with. The poor tiger was clearly sedated, people were pulling its tail and it didn’t even flinch! The gardens themselves were very good, and nowhere near as busy as the plaza by the shows. We spent a couple of hours walking round the different gardens, my favourite was probably the French Garden. There was plenty of choice of different foods to eat here, I went for a giant Char Sui bun. I had another bun with the same pastry but filled with vegetables but this was a little dry.
Finally for the day we went to Khao Chi Chan, Buddha Mountain (Na Jomtien Km 163, Sukhumvit Rd, Pattaya). A cross-legged Buddha standing 109 metres tall and 70 metres wide and carved out in gold on a limestone cliff. Again, absolutely beautiful. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.
Back at the hotel we were shattered after a day of sightseeing so decided to nip across the road to Ruen Thai (2nd Road, Pattaya). What a mistake! Apparently this is the only restaurant in Pattaya to also have traditional Thai dancing while you eat. The service was appalling! We were seated by a moody waitress in a flowery shirt who also came back to take our order. Then some children, well they were in their early teens, brought out the drinks and the food. We didn’t bother with starters so ordered Pad Thai with prawns and garlic squid. While the Pad Thai was okay but tiny the squid was vile! The Gin Whisperer likened it to eating cat litter. The skin had been left on the garlic leaving it dry and papery, and the garlic skin got stuck in your teeth. Absolutely disgusting. The dancing was ok, nothing different to what we had seen at Nong Nooch. The best entertainment of the night was when the heavens opened and everybody eating outside in the courtyard made mad dash inside. A waitress tried to follow them but ended up slipping on her backside, much to the delight of the other members of staff! We couldn’t even get a menu to order anything else as the staff were so badly trained that they just walked past the train and ignored you! We were still absolutely starving when we left!
For dinner on the next evening we decided to try out the MK Restaurant in Central Festival Mall. We had passed this place a couple of time and they always seemed really busy. We were intrigued by the pans of boiling broth on the tables. Turns out it was Thai Suki, a Thai version of hot pot. We had no idea what we were doing and unfortunately for us the waitress spoke about as much English as we speak Thai! So we ordered a plate of veg and some prawns and squid, we knew we could tell when the prawns were cooked and that squid wouldn’t take so long so we wouldn’t poison ourselves! So a big plate of veg arrived and we decided to pour it all into the pan of hot broth bubbling away in the centre of the table along with the prawns and squid. Needless to show I burnt my mouth but it all tasted good. Turns out we were supposed to dip our food into the spicy sauce which had also been placed on the table, but we know for next time! The waitress kept giggling at the Gin Whisperer, I think she was laughing at his beard! Clearly she had never seen such well maintained facial hair.
One of the favourite places we ate whilst in Thailand was MAYs Urban Thai Dine (Ratanakorn Market, Thepprasit Road, Next to Colosseum). It was quite a way out for, the rest of Pattaya and getting there proved difficult. Both times we got a taxi, asking for Ratanakorn Market. Blank looks from the taxi drivers. Colosseum? Again blank looks. So we showed them the address. ‘Ah, Ratanakorn Market!’ Clearly I had been saying it wrong. The next time was even funnier after five minutes of saying we wanted to go to the Colosseum, which is a big famous Lady Boy cabaret show which we couldn’t believe nobody knew where it was, the driver said ‘Ah, Colisium’. Well yes, I suppose you could call it that!
You will find the restaurant inside the market, over to the back left over the wall from the Colosseum. We were greeted by some very friendly staff who seated us and brought over a cold towel and delicious mint drink for us while we looked at the menu. There was plenty of choice and all at a very reasonable price. Once we had ordered we were brought an amuse bouche of spicy chicken salad which was absolutely delicious! For starters we ordered deep fried squid and some Thai fish cakes. Both were served with different dipping sauces and both were very tasty. I especially enjoyed the squid, there was lots of it. For mains we went for River Prawns and chicken with cashew nuts which were accompanied by rice. We also ordered some Morning Glory. The prawns were delicious, big, fat juicy prawns in a sweet sauce. The chicken and cashew nuts was also very good and I was a massive fan of the Morning Glory which came in a nice sauce.
The staff were lovely. We met May, who is an absolute delight. She apologised for the presence of her dog, which wasn’t causing a problem at all!
Again the service was fantastic, the restaurant was a little busier as we were a bit earlier than our previous visit. Again we received a refreshing drink on arrival and an amuse bouche. We were also given some spiced nuts to enjoy with our beer while we waited for our food. The starters were presented beautifully. The chicken satay, rather than being plonked on a plate was speared into a slice of fresh pineapple. The squid was great again as was the chicken and cashew nuts. The sweet and sour chicken was little too sweet and tomatoey for my liking though but everything else was delicious. It was great to see them paying so much attention to detail. May is hoping to open some franchises so if they could stretch all the way to the UK I would definitely be up for a visit! There was no chance of getting a taxi back into Pattaya so we walked down the the end of the main road and caught a Bhat bus right to the front of our hotel.
Oishi Ramen (Pattaya Central Festival Mall) was a revelation. We ate here a few lunch times as it was ridiculously cheap and the food was amazing. Think Wagamama for £3 including sides and you would be somewhere in the right area!
There were plenty of different meal deals available. The cheapest was about 110TB for a ramen and some goyoza and a refillable soft drink. The goyoza came covered in an incredible sticky sauce. The Gin Whisperer had a couple of bento boxes which were huge! All of the food was excellent and the staff were great.
You are never far away from some street food in Thailand. There was plenty of choice between our hotel and Walking Street. Perfect when you are feeling a bit hungry after a few beers.
We had some breaded prawns with sweet chilli sauce, 50TB for two lots. Very nice. The Gin Whisperers favourite was corn heated up with some butter and salt. Another option was to add sugar or condensed milk. 40TB for a plastic cup full. I had some squid kebabs which were cooked over a griddle and served with a sauce so hot it made your lips sting. Delicious and I had 3 skewers at 20TB each. Of course locusts, beetles and worms were available if you desired, but we didn’t!
We had some great nights in Stones Bar (Walking Street, Pattaya) which had a happy hour from 6pm until 10.30pm. Beers were 110TB so it was pretty easy to drink all the beer you needed for the night whilst listening to the amazing cover bands that played. We danced so much one night that on our next visit the singer came over and shook us by the hand!
Our final evening in Pattaya was also our tenth anniversary. We decided to treat ourselves to a trip to Casa Pascal (485/4 M.10 Pattaya Sai Song) which was just across the road from our hotel. We had taken a look at the menu after our disastrous visit to Ruen Thai and it looked good. There was not only Thai available, Swiss, French and Italian also featured on the menu.as it was our anniversary we started off with a couple of glasses of champagne while we looked at the menu. For starters we chose Japanese style beef carpaccio and the home smoked salmon. Before these arrived we were treated to an amuse bouche off some kind of tomato juice and then a mushroom wrapped in bacon. When the starters arrived they were amazing. The beef was delicious, flavoured with soy sauce and rice wine and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The salmon came with shallots and horseradish sauce. Both were perfectly presented and tasted wonderful. So good that we swapped dishes half way so we could both enjoy them. Next up was a palate cleanser of fruit sorbet. For mains we had Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Mornay and 5 spiced duck breast with apple sauce.
The mains were also very, very good. I wasn’t expecting 6 scallops. They were very tasty as was the accompanying mash potato and the vegetables. The duck and apple sauce was also really good. For dessert I had the Swiss chocolate mousse with Grand Marnier oranges. When it arrive it looked more like ice cream but it was delicious. Really light and fluffy.
We had a really enjoyable evening. The staff were really knowledgeable and helpful and the food and wine were really good. Perfect anniversary dinner!