Ananta Thai Food Pub offers distinct and authentic thai cuisine, excellent wines and local ales in its picturesque Coach and Horses pub in the quiet village of Wicken Bonhunt, Saffron Walden, Essex. They also run the Thai Food Van sited next to the pub offering a standard menu for customers that want food on the go or take out on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm. www.thaifoodpub.com and www.thaifoodvan.com also serve as outlets for their mouth-watering thai dishes cooked with a unique blend of flavours with recipes passed down several generations.
Ananta Thai Food Pub may be the best kept secret in Essex or maybe not. With over 100 Google reviews gushing about the great food, the wonderful service and the cosy environment in the pub, the founders, Sergio and Ananta, may have worked out the right formula for running a successful pub. Happy customer Mar Doncel-Luengo says “Probably the best Thai Food I ever had. Cosy and welcoming place with good service. Highly recommended”. Another happy customer Mathew Flower says, “Fantastic food and excellent service, will definitely be returning”. There are lots of excellent reviews which would tempt any foodie to visit Saffron Walden to see what the fuss is all about. If that is not enough, you are likely to be welcome by Sergio or Ananta when you walk in.
Luckily, Herts Review had the opportunity to speak with Sergio about this wonderful family run food pub, how he and his wife started out and their aspirations for the future. Do not take our word for it but this might be a great preview before you visit the pub.
This business adventure started back in 2008. Ananta had a passion for cooking and had been making great dishes for friends and family. At the time, Sergio who trained as a Computer Scientist worked as a Software Engineer for one of the largest global software companies which had an office in the Science Park in Cambridge. Sergio and Ananta came up with a plan to start a food delivery service in the Science Park as there was less variety in the area. “Our food van really took off and we were getting lots of orders and were doing well at the time”
The success of the food van carried on for another 2 years until there was a change in strategy to sell their unique thai food to pubs. The food delivery service in the Science Park therefore stopped. “A friend owned a pub and reached out to us to sell our food in his pub. We took up the offer and had great success, but the business relationship became complicated and we decided it was time to move on”.
With the global economic recession leading to a lot of pub closures, Sergio and Ananta were on the lookout for their own pub. “It was the middle of the recession and there were a lot of pubs closing down. We came across this lovely 500-year-old building with a pub and in a nice area in the countryside. It was hard to resist and we purchased the building in 2012. The fact that we had a home and a pub together on the same site was something we had always wanted. We never wanted to have a restaurant on the high street away from our home. We enjoy what we do, and it is our life”.
Ananta has deep roots in thai cuisine. She is a descendant of one of the traditional chefs of the Thai Royal Family. Her parents introduced her to cooking at a young age and generations of her family have passed down various recipes which she uses till this day. She is central to the business as she manages the kitchen, and each meal is specially prepared by her for all customers. Says Sergio “We prepare the food once the order is made, that way we always deliver freshly prepared food to all our customers”. Sergio runs the operational side of the business utilizing his expertise as a Software Engineer and his business experience.
There were challenges at the beginning. The pub they had purchased was closed for 2 years and the water and heating systems were not in good shape. “There was a lot of pressure in the first 3 months. Combining my job with running the pub and having a very young family was a lot to take on at the time. Adding the initial financial investment as we were self-funded was tough. I am really grateful to my friends and family for helping us through that period”. In 2013, on his birthday, Sergio gave his notice to leave his day job to focus on building he and Ananta’s dream. “It was a great relief to me. I am excited working with my wife and my family on our own plans and our future. It means we live by the decisions we make good or bad”.
The covid-19 pandemic has brought its own challenges to all businesses, but it has also helped Sergio and Ananta re-strategize. The business is more resilient and is set up for future growth. “We started off and had been experiencing a level of success. I cannot say I was totally happy with everything. As we only make fresh food after orders are made, on some occasions there are delays getting orders to the customers. I was always thinking of a way of changing this, but we have been too busy to make those changes. The covid-19 lockdown gave us an opportunity to change our process. Now for our safety and that of our customers, we offer dine in, drive-through and no-contact delivery services. This has significantly reduced waiting times for orders and has made us better with happier customers”.
This period has also seen a lot of growth with the food van as the orders for take away has increased due to the social distancing measures. “The lockdown helped us a lot. We have reorganized the business within that time ready for opening in July. We have designated menus for the pub and for the van. Although we had to let some temporary staff leave, we have pretty much managed very well on our own. Everyone in our family is involved in the business. It is a joy to work together to achieve something great”.
Looking to the future, Sergio and Ananta are thinking of more investment in equipment and manpower to expand the capacity of the kitchen to deliver more orders with less waiting times. There is also a strong consideration to have a high-end special menu for customers with unique tastes that want to spend more. In addition, they want to grow the standard menu delivering more quality and quantity and improve the overall outdoor experience. An oriental beer garden may be on the cards within the next 2 years. “We are optimistic and looking ahead to the future with excitement. We acknowledge these uncertain times but see a very bright future”.
If you are after delicious thai coconut rice massaman curry, king prawns or soft-shell crab tapas then head to Ananta Thai Food Pub. They also offer drive-through and no-contact delivery options. Besides Sergio and Ananta will be happy to welcome you to their delightful pub.