Twenty years ago, Pattaya was buzzing with British tourists searching in vain for mushy peas and Oxo gravy. Nowadays, with fewer Brits around thanks to the Thai ban on most foreigners arriving during the pandemic, there has never been a better choice. You can find dandelion and burdock fizzy drinks at Friendship supermarket whilst Villa has an amazing selection of multi-flavoured potato crisps.
So Siamburi’s small but bustling food mart, perched at the top of Soi Khao Talo on what is still misleadingly called The Dark Side, isn’t the first place to attract a British and international clientele. But nobody, it seems, goes to Siamburi’s just once. You will be instantly hooked by the wide variety of fish (frozen seabass and salmon were the specials on offer during our visit), best-cut steaks, pies galore, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, sauces, breakfast cereals and bakery items. And that’s just the start. Don’t forget the Lancashire Eccles cakes and Coop Piccalilli.
The two cold cabinets stocking virtually every type of English cheese – even including the rare white crumbly Cheshire – are a unique feature in Pattaya and likely the whole of Thailand. And the prices are about half what you expect to pay. Some say more than half. There’s even a selection of British chocolate and, on our visit, genuine wine gums and Smarties. Not cheap, but a reminder of your childhood perhaps.
A female customer on her way out boasted to us that she could make her own fish fingers, chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce dinner at home, prepared only with Siamburi products. There were some other surprises too. We never saw reduced-calorie tonic water on sale anywhere else, not to mention Australian veal Osso Bucco. Of course, special offers come and go according to the supply chain, but we noticed that salt-n-vinegar crisps were at knockdown prices. Frozen meals in several cuisines abound. We found the cottage pie and the rogan josh curries spot on.
Staff are customer-friendly and super-efficient whilst store cleanliness is a constant feature. The company hasn’t got round yet to banning plastic bags. The store can be crowded at busy times, but the layout has recently been changed and makes best use of the available space. The semi-rural location is near an awkward bend in the road and parking facilities are limited. If busy, it may be best to drive past, turn round and park on the other side of the road.
Siamburi’s wide selection and value for money across the board make it virtually impossible to beat. We paid three visits and did notice that some lines were slow-moving – one brand of pickled onions and some tinned soups – but that’s inevitable in any food-related business.
The name Siamburi’s is said to be based on Sainsbury’s, the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. It’s a worthy successor with a well-defined niche market of expats in Pattaya. And if you don’t want to boil your own potatoes, remember For Mash Get Smash!