I could’ve been no older than twelve when I had my first taste of Thai food. Family friends were considering opening their own restaurant and Natti, a powerhouse of a woman in every conceivable way, wanted to get a feel for public opinion when it came to her cooking. And so it was that a bunch of us were invited round to their house for a dinner party. Now Natti’s food is hardly for the faint of heart, and that night as we dined on fish curry, many a sweaty brow was wiped! But I, for one, was in foodie heaven… Every mouthful was bursting with flavour, a swift kick to the senses to be sure… I couldn’t remember eating ever being so exciting, a taste of something altogether new. Needless to say, on the subject of opening a Thai restaurant, it was a resounding Yes! from the party in question. And so it was that Natti’s Thai Kitchen arrived on the scene as one of PE’s finest.
From the humblest of beginnings in a venue hardly bigger than my lounge, I’m happy to say they’ve since flourished and expanded but thankfully without losing their charm. I’m not one for pretentious places; in fact I’m often loathe to eat in them. And in this, I can’t go wrong with Natti’s. This dynamic duo of husband and wife are down-to-earth epitomized and to borrow from Cheers, could there be any better than a place where everybody knows your name…? With Mark keeping things chilled in front of house, and Natti cooking like a demon in the kitchen, it’s a winning combo that never fails me. Having stood the test of time (which is no small feat in the restaurant trade!), they’ve truly become something of an institution to us locals. And I doubt that I’m alone when I say that I couldn’t be more stoked for them.
When I’m bordering on a case of man flu (you know it, the really, really bad kind!), nothing fixes me quite like their Tom Yum soup. And their calamari salad packed with mint and red onion and flecks of chilli is punchy Thai at its best. Then there’s my hands-down favourite of spicy rice (read: hot as hell!) and succulent prawns topped with a fried egg. This is not food I like. It’s not even food I love. This is food I crave. If I’m honest, I think it’s food I couldn’t live without. In the end, this is the kind of food that gets under your skin and urges you to scratch that itch. Time and time again. And if you’re really lucky, and the kitchen duties are done for the eve, Natti may even regale you with stories, her razor-sharp humour never amiss, while she sips on her night-cap of whiskey, fingers furiously knitting their next project (for Natti is almost as famous for her knitting as she is for her cooking!).
So although this is a day late for Wednesday Appreciation Day (thanks deadlines!), today I’d like to thank Natti and Mark Simmons. Beloved by as many who know ’em. Thanks for sharing your gifts with the rest of us plebs! This ol’ town wouldn’t be the same without you!