Meet the...gastropub owner in Thailand

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet the...gastropub owner in Thailand

We built The Buffalo, our fourth restaurant, nine years ago, on the site of an empty shop. It's named after the American style barn of our first restaurant, Buffalo Bill's. We'd previously also built and run the Hua Hin Go Kart Track and had a real estate company in Phuket. Bill has a knack of spotting potential in derelict sites.

Both Londoners, we'd always dreamt about living by the beach. So, 15 years ago, after working in the City for a few years we decided to backpack around Thailand, Vietnam and Australia. We never made it to Oz.

One night, at a beach barbecue under the stars, we decided to stay in Thailand to set up a business. The sea was as warm as a bath, life couldn't have been more perfect.

We had friends in Hua Hin so decided to use it as a base. The expat community here very quickly made us feel welcome, inviting us to BBQs, birthday parties and any other excuse for a drink. We had travelled all over and also found the Thais very friendly, but whenever we returned to Hua Hin it felt like coming home.

Bill had a passion for cooking and wanted to try his hand at running a restaurant. He's done a couple of training courses and we specialise in traditional British food with a Thai twist. The locals are lovely people but trying to persuade them there is any sense of urgency when you want something done is hard. They think it's OK to do something next month, and a few instructions are lost in translation with amusing results.

An elephant once crashed into the restaurant and crushed the parquet floor. It was one of the tourist attractions typical of street life, but some customers waved it over. Another time a hungry monkey ran into the bar and stole a packet of Walkers crisps. Generally, our customers don't cause problems as they are relaxed and on holiday.

Becoming a success where others have failed has been down to good customer and staff relations. We cater to our guests' very whim (we also have three guest rooms) and we maintain a good relationship with our ten staff by holding regular meetings to ensure they are happy and nothing is bothering them. This ensures any problems are nipped in the bud and many have been very loyal.

The Ye Old Buffalo Tavern in Hua HinEvery morning I sit watching the sunrise over the sea and saffron robed monks walking barefoot through the streets. This is a magical time of day, before the children, Georgia, 9, and Harry, 12, leave for school and the staff arrive for breakfast. Bill goes to the local market for fruit and veg, then buys seafood from the fishing boats as they arrive back at the harbour, opposite the
restaurant. When the admin and stock checks are done there's usually time for an hour or two's swim or walk on the beach. After school we try to have some family time before the evening rush starts at 7pm.

We love the laid-back lifestyle and the fact you never have to think about a coat when you go out. Having a business like ours has enabled us to meet many people from the world over, many who have become good friends. Our children are fluent in Thai but they also study Chinese and Spanish. Being exposed to so many cultures has helped them develop confidence.

Never in a million years did I think I'd still be here now. I thought it would only last a couple of years. Of course we miss our family and friends back in the UK but we've no current plans to head back home. I also miss the British seasons - especially the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot.


A Place In The Sun