Bangkok-hailing Nilavongse moved to the UK in 2004 to study for a Master’s in art, but crippling university fees meant she ended up working 90-hour weeks in Thai restaurants across the country, until settling in a managerial role in Hebden Bridge. Made redundant after the restaurant’s owners enlisted the help of their family in 2010, Nilavongse decided to start a Thai tapas joint at another Todmorden pub, the Three Wise Monkeys. Walker, who wasn’t romantically involved with Nilavongse at this point, had recently been employed as resident DJ there.“I said to the guys, ‘She’s going to fuck this up for all of us because you’re going to have people eating and no one is going to want to listen to us.’ But she said, ‘It’ll work,’ and it did.”
Mr. Scruff was so impressed with the pub that he donated his fee to improve the venue’s tech spec.
Evidence that Nilavongse and Walker are firmly rooted in plans for the immediate future comes courtesy of its soon-to-be-launched new menu, which Nilavongse explains is a result of dishes changing in accordance with incoming chefs.“We had a talk and decided that if you’re going to do Thai here, then it has to be your original, your own style,” she says. “So this new menu is a little bit different from what I did as I’m from Bangkok but my chefs are from North East.”The broth of my Tom Jued noodle soup is subtle but sweet and comes with crispy tofu. I also order a crispy papaya salad, and Nilavongse brings me a banana fritter and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. I share the generous portion with Jane, whose six-month-old daughter gives the silky custard a satisfied smile.
"We’re not a brand, we run a space for people who have a dream and want to do things."