However, I frequently challenge this rose-coloured spectacle view of my gourmet travails, pointing out that they are unaware that on many occasions, as I prepare to venture out, my stomach and honestly, occasionally, even my desire to eat are far from stimulated at the prospect of a ten-course tasting menu composed of obscure ingredients in questionable combinations that would never appear on anyone’s list of favourites, with the exception of the talented young chef offering them that particular evening.
Indeed, having to eat a certain dish when that’s not what you really want, is far from pleasurable. I recall the same exact feeling, when as a child, my parents would gently instruct me to, ‘eat your greens’ or equally horrific, ‘clear your plate,’ before allowing me to leave the family dining table to watch what was probably a mindless episode of a fortunately now long-defunct TV series.
Back to the here and now, sometimes, all you wish for is a shepherds-pie or a satisfyingly overindulgent fry up. I smile as I recall a little more recently than my childhood memories, the days when driving around the UK, all I craved for was a ‘Little Chef Early Starter’ and a mug of strong tea. I would almost drain the petrol tank prolonging my stop till I found a filling station with one!
As those who regularly read my column, I am more often than not commenting on a swish new restaurant, so when invited to pop in to Angus O’Tool’s in Karon, bearing the above in mind, I was in fact truly delighted. Located a short walk from Karon beach, I arrived late morning to meet partner and chef Maurice or Mo to the community. Mo has been here for 20 years, in fact since Angus O’Tool’s opened.
From Birmingham originally, accent still noticeable and for those of you who know this city, as is his sense of humour with a Tuesday special of Brummy Balti curries! I am introduced to Mo’s friendly and enthusiastic team of manageress Plaa, Toy her assistant, bartender Nisa and waitresses, Ratee, Fon and June. I sit down and despite an extensive menu offering the classics and several tempting specials – more of later – I immediately spy the ‘Big Bhoyo Breakfast.’ Chef Mo takes me into the kitchen to meet the cooks who are now preparing their Karon version of my fondly remembered classic. I meet both Peung and Joy who have been with Mo since the beginning, so many years ago.
I then return to take my seat noticing even at this early hour several regulars enjoying tea, whilst reading the headlines from thoughtfully downloaded English newspapers. I ask for similar and am swiftly brought one I could potentially stand my spoon up in, absolutely perfect!
Perusing the menus, I notice specials, offered on particular days, including home-cured ham and colcannon, liver and onions and on Sundays, roasts of sirloin of beef, leg of lamb, pork loin and chicken with sage and onion stuffing, all accompanied with roasties and Yorkshire pudding. Friday is pie day with a choice of chicken and mushroom or steak and kidney and on Saturdays, an Aussie black Angus steak is served up; I quickly snap a photo of the dishes and days and make a mental note to return.
My breakfast arrives and does not disappoint; two soft and slightly runny fried eggs, back bacon, sausage, black pudding, golden fried bread and of course a spoonful of baked beans, accompanied with slices of toast with condiments. There is also a less comprehensive version available, the ‘lek bhoyo’ or indeed a ‘build your own.’ Mo joins me and has chosen to eat his signature lamb shank.
In between mouthfuls of this delectably tempting dish, he narrates his story, having spent many years in the UK elevating pub grub to new heights, also working for a classy London members club, where he had the honour to cook for HM The Queen, he eventually relocated to Phuket and to Angus O’Tool’s. He has endeavoured over the years to cement his current establishment’s reputation as a friendly environment for everyone. An example of this is the cutely named, ‘wee folk’s’ menu, featuring lots of kid treats such as pizza, spaghetti and mini burgers.
When families visit to experience the umpteen sports shown on a multiple of large screens, the kids can be well catered for. Staff offer me a refill of my tea whilst Mo tells me about the guesthouse element of Angus’; a number of smartly kitted out rooms upstairs which are competitively priced. Having almost managed to conquer my plate, it is time to bid farewell to Mo, his team and Angus.
I haven’t talked about the tropical feel to this cosy and welcoming venue or indeed the other dishes on the menus providing many reasons to return. So, when you are seeking a down to earth, homely evening of classic comfort food and friendly service, go visit and discover for yourselves, the charm of Angus O’Tool’s!
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly restaurant column.