Pattaya Survivors: Tulip House Jomtien Beach

Mathieu Corporaal holds the record for running the longest-serving restaurant in Thailand under a solo owner.

Pattaya Survivor

This popular Dutch and international restaurant is a classic survivor in the best sense of the word. Founded by Mathieu Corporaal in 1989, Tulip House is the oldest eatery in the whole of Thailand operating under the founding Dutch owner. That’s quite a history.

“I first came to Thailand on vacation in 1989 and was captivated from the start,” says Mathieu. He explains that his background was in running bars and restaurants back in Europe, and he originally started at Tulip House with a Dutch business partner. “In those days, Jomtien was mostly unlit and undeveloped and you might wait half an hour just to get public transport into Pattaya. The premises were smaller then and we had only two tables and eight chairs.”

Mathieu, and his Thai wife Tik of 30 years standing, lost no time in developing the business. Contact was made with tour operators in Holland and, in 1992, Tulip House formally opened its own travel agency specializing in domestic tours and airfares. During the 1990s, business boomed as the numbers of European visitors to the Eastern Seaboard continued to zoom upwards. “The golden years lasted until the Asian economic crisis of 2007,” says Mathieu.

A keen marketer, Mathieu lost no time in promoting new ideas. The restaurant began music evenings and special dinners and liaised with the Dutch Society which acted as a social meeting complex for tourists and expats from Holland. The restaurant, in a prime beach location, attracted many nationalities, including Russians with “hearty appetites,” and became well-known for the quality of the Thai food too. “We were always popular with the Bangkokians on weekend trips. We still are.”

Tulip House certainly has a Dutch flavour, but caters for an international crowd.

Naturally, the Covid pandemic has hit the business hard, especially during the several periods of no in-dining and the alcohol ban which is still in operation. “But I’m no quitter and we are determined to succeed,” promises Mathieu, “so I’m confident the tourists will return once the government’s rules and regulations are sorted out. I was recently in Phuket and saw there the great success of the Sandbox program which attracted lots of European vacationers.”

Tulip House has been helped too by its open and friendly atmosphere and the fact this is primarily a family business. “Three of the staff have been with us for over 20 years and this continuity has been one of the secrets of our success.”

The Thai government plans a Pattaya and Jomtien reopening on December 1. Once serving alcohol and permitting late opening are back on the agenda, we can expect to find Tulip House booming once again. “If you like, you will be able to order a beer with your evening breakfast at 10 o’clock at night,” suggests Mathieu. That’s an offer I look forward to taking up.