Ironies - A weekend in Padstein

Posted on 2012-11-06 by Chakers in United Kingdom.

In a radio play the other day an elderly mother said "The bus was delayed exactly one hour and when I arrived at the hospital one hour late they told me uncle Raymond had died exactly one hour ago."

A lad commented, "How ironic", to which she replied, "No dear, that is coincidence. If on the way to the hospital I had died that would have been ironic."

The fact that an irony has to be introvert in itself may explain why Americans don't get irony! Then again I don't either because surely a coincidence on an epic scale is in its self ironic? Anyway, we are in the throws of building a retirement home in Changwat Udon (prematurely I hasten to add as I am yet to grow out of Bangkok drunken debauchery and into Issan porch monkey) and we have to regularly alter our plans such as timing holidays to suit the unending unreliability of 'not to be relied on' family, weather, builders, local Amphur authorities, wild animals, and 'No one told us there was going to be a shop built there'. So I held back three weeks holiday from work to book when we were able to go and actually do something like put some waste pipes in the ground and make objections to the change of use of the open land next door.

In February Mae (that's the Thai word for mother by the way) told us she had put in one more rice harvest (yes it is our land, do not assume that would discourage her).

In April Mae told us the landfill had arrived but had not been levelled.

In May the rains started and because the land needs to be rained on six times before you can build it was a welcome event if only the top soil had been levelled out.

In June I made plans to travel September/October time but Mae said it is unlucky to start building the house in November.

Unfortunately for us Mae was right and unluckily it only rained four times. Which was a bit of a bugger. So come November I still haven't been able to go back and sort the construction company. As a result the daughter moaned that she'd had no holiday and the missus that she wanted a night out while we sat and watched UK telly for which the missus and daughter cannot comprehend we actually have to pay the Government to be allowed to watch.

Coincidentally (because this wouldn't be ironic) we were watching a re-run of Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey episode in Thailand. Rick Stein captured my attention when in 2010 he stood in Yowarat Road and described it as food nirvana and his favourite place in the world and I have to say I agree with him. TV changes scene to the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and a waiter walks by with a giant platter of shellfish to which the missus comments, "Hmm, I can eat dat, yez". And I thought, that's a good idea, we'll have a weekend break in Cornwall.

So, a few days go by and I submit an email to the boss with a holiday request and a mention of our plans. Within minutes he came to speak to me in the engineer's office and asked if I fancied meeting up for a beer because (coincidentally) he would be down that way as well. Well he would be sometimes as he has a house near St. Austell so it wasn't a big surprise apart from him telling me no one likes Rick Stein very much and his adopted home town has been renamed Padstein.

At the hotel overlooking the cliffs the barman who was an ex-brummie who had gotten bored with the Midlands and on once visiting Newquay simply never went back home asked us why we were there out of season and I explained the missus wanted to try Rick Stein's to which he responded, "Oh please, don't encourage him".

I told him he wasn't the first to make such a comment because on the way over Bodmin we had stopped for a sandwich at a roadside van where the lady making our sausage and bacon with brown sauce baps had enquired, "Where you arf to then my luvlee?" in that sumptuous, you can even smell the dairy ice cream, Cornish accent. And when I explained our plan muttered to herself, "Oh dear, nevermoind eh!"

But the irony of it, when we finally got there, was just how bland and boring the experience was. To be fair the restaurant is stylish and the attentive staff very precise but the food? It was just boring. I mean, a seafood platter in England isn't going to be cheap and the starter version at £24.50 I think is good value but if I told Chef Rai of the Seafood Restaurant in Bangkok, which is where Rick Stein got his idea, that half a platter in the UK, drowned in olive oil, and lightly dowsed with red flavourless chillies was 1225 Baht, he is quite simply not going to believe me. And I don't mean he won't believe the price, which in Bangkok's Seafood Restaurant is 275 Baht for a full platter, I mean he wouldn't believe one of his protege's could make such a hash of it. And that IS ironic. Rick, I hope someone points this out to you because your cooking is really good but you need to get your backside down to Padstow and sort it out because the food in your seafood restaurant is crap.... khrap.

I am not a shellfish foodie so I opted for the cop-out dish of local steer rib-eye on a bed of saute potatoes. Now in all honesty I am not a foodie at all. I can only tell you what is good and what is rubbish but I do know that cubes of potato deep fried in cooking oil is NOT saute potatoes and I have had better in a Bernie Inn for a lot less money. My steak had been cooked on a hot-plate. Is that seriously the best you can come up with in a haute cuisine restaurant? No wonder it doesn't have a michelin star. And how did I know it was cooked on a hot-plate? Because the idiot doing the cooking had cooked it on one edge of the plate. It was cooked at one end and rare at the other - for £27.00

It got worse, in desperation I tried the salad, and the dressing was sour beyond edible for me. It wasn't so bad I wanted to complain but it was a severe disappointment. So if you are ever in Cornwall in the UK do not be tempted to try Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant. It really isn't worth it. You might wonder what ables me to make such a statement so here's an irony for you; In Aranyaprathet in the province of Sa Keaw, a hardly noticeable tiny town in the south east corner of Thailand famed only for being an entry point into Cambodia, is a Tesco Lotus. In this Tesco is a fast food hall where I ordered Moo Saap on a bed of rice topped with a sweet sauce, clear soup, and chinese tea. That cost the princely sum of 40 Baht, in English 80p, in American $1.20 - Moo Saap is similar to char sui roast pork and this one tasted stunning. And the irony isn't how cheap it is, it is that I would have swapped that for what was served up for me by the bloke who lied to Rick Stein when he said he was a chef.

I once had a pork steak in a fast restaurant near Bangkok airport that was excellent but ironically was cooked the same from one end to the other. I had a water buffalo steak in Kanchanaburi the size of a buffalo's arse and they had magically managed to cook it the same all over. Must have been one hell of a big hot plate; Oh no wait, they don't have hot-plates in Thailand, they wouldn't know what one was. I hope I sound sarcastic because it is meant to be and I have lost count how many times I have felt let down in a UK restaurant while in Thailand the food is to die for even when the service and surroundings are not.

Now ironically my boss (and he won't thank me for writing this because he is all too often being reminded) once entered a competition for a track day in the not yet released Mazda RX8 that he only knew about because I mentioned it to him. The irony was that he only entered it because he was drunk.... No change that - the irony was he won and I didn't. The winner also got two tickets not one, yes two, and did he take me? Did he heck, he's married, and not to me! But while in his Cornish second home local pub one of the punters asked the other half if we wanted some lottery tickets. The thing is, to my missus, a lottery ticket, even in a pub, means a set of numbers which if you choose the right ticket, especially with nine's and sixes in it, will guarantee you will win one million baht. So I replied quickly that we wouldn't but, and pointing at the bosses wife, said 'but she will', because my other half wouldn't know that in an English pub the first prize will be a bottle of wine and we're unlikely to ever collect it. The irony wasn't the boss winning the race-day tickets, it was that he sent me a text the next day to say he had won the pub lottery - a fiver! But that was still better than I did with three lines on the National Lottery on which I had managed to get all six numbers but failed to win anything at all...

Then again the other half insisted on buying a lottery ticket just before we left Thailand and gave the ticket to her sister for safe keeping. She won 20,000 Baht and mother-in-law immediately saw several reasons why she needed some extra cash. Even Thai's have a saying for 'que sera sera' - it's 'som nam na'.

If you want to know what Thai's mean by som nam na you will have to stop reading this and instead go and read Som Nam Na (AKA conversations with my conscience) on StickmanBangkok. Of which the irony is those who have been there will be highly amused.

Before giving up on our Cornish Quest we asked the night porter in our hotel if the chef was working tonight. He wasn't and we were hungry so I enquired where is the best place to eat in Newquay. He looked at the missus and remarked, "There's a nice little Thai restaurant in Cheltenham Place." - Thank you for that old chap, you really made me feel like I was back in Thailand where I have many a time asked "Raan ahaan saap yu tee nai" which translates as the exact same question and they always look straight at my missus and tell her where we should eat including directions and will she be able to remember or would she like them to write down instructions as if I will not understand a single word of what was said. Very often I don't but that is hardly the point and I worry as I pass middle-age that I am dribbling like a window-licker or have had a mild stroke that makes me look either retarded or threatening so they wish to avoid any possible eye contact. Ironic how a stroke can do both!

The food in that Thai restaurant was so superior to the Seafood Restaurant that Mssrs. Stein really should go and try it. Or better still, send his chef to try it and while there ask the Thai cook for some cookery lessons. Really - if you are ever in Cornwall give Rick Stein's a miss. Go to the Phuket Thai Restaurant in Newquay instead. As well as the food being rather good the waitress who came to serve us had a beautiful smile and cheerfully entered into some conversation, again as if I wasn't there, and possibly I suspect because the staff are English and the punters are surfers and she wanted someone to talk to in Thai for a change. And regardless of the fact that her English was rather good she politely asked of our daughter who explained she had only just got to the UK and learned English in a private school in Aranayaprathet, Sa Keaw. And where was our waitress from? Of course - it was Sa Keaw and the owner slash chef of the restaurant was also a Thai lady who it transpired was from? Yep, Udon!

How ironic! - No dear, that is coincidence...

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