Down a dark, narrow soi in Bangkok, things start to feel a little less Thai. Looking at the faces that line the street, you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere on the subcontinent. This is a Pahurat, a little pocket of India in the Thai capital and just down the road from the bustling Chinatown known as Yaowarat. Well known as somewhere to stock up on fabric, it also serves up some neat and authentic grub.
Tucked away off Chakphet Road lies Toney Restaurant, an Indian street food food haunt as good as you’re likely to find without getting on a plane. This is homey, local food – the restaurant no more than a few tables and wooden stalls in an isolated little room, open to the street during the day and closed up by way of self-enclosing metal shutters coming night time. The kitchen itself is across the soi in another shopfront, with the prep area spewing out onto the pavement.
Pictures of Nepal and Tibet line the walls, along with a photo of the Thai king, a big-screen television showing the latest football match, and a large-scale menu scribbled by hand with up-to-date prices just a little higher than those on the cards that adorn the tables. The clientele is reassuring – when you’re surrounded by Indians, you’re the only westerner and your dining partner is the only Thai, chances are you are in for some good nosh – even if they appear a little surprised when we show up.
By no means an expert in Indian food and somewhat dumbed down by the English-language descriptions of dishes at restaurants back in the UK, aside from the chicken masala my menu choices are made pretty blindly. Still, they come out well – that masala is divine, the chicken literally falling from the bone and swimming in a rich, pungent tomatoey sauce.
This aloo gobi – a dry(ish) dish of potatoes and an assortment of vegetables, all laced with lots of turmeric for that unmistakeable Indian flavour – wasn’t my favourite of the meal, but did take well to being scooped up in roti and scoffed down.
A sudden urge to order more led us to call for a plate of matar panner, which I only later learned is a garam masala spiced northern Indian dish of peas (‘matar‘ translates as ‘peas’) and paneer cheese, giving it a rich and lasting flavour.
But I confess that one of my main reasons for wanting to check out Toney Restaurant – and still my inspiration for so desperately wanting to visit Kolkata, for which this Migrationology blog post is solely responsible – was the masala chai tea. Whether in the form of a rich chai latte at a coffee shop back in the UK, or from an Indian food hut down on Koh Pha Ngan, nothing does it for me quite like a hot cup of chai. The powerful flavour and soothing warmth of the chai at Toney’s didn’t disappoint – which gives me one very good reason to return.
Toney Restaurant is on a small, apparently unnamed soi off Chakphet Road. Bus 25 will get you to Pahurat Road from Sukhumvit, with pick-up points alongside almost every station on the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit line including On Nut, Ekkamai, Thong Lor and Siam. From the Khaosan Road area, take bus 56 from Democracy Monument or Ratchdamnoen Avenue. Alternatively, jump on a motorbike, tuk-tuk or bus 25 from Hualumphong train station, which connects to the MRT.
From Pahurat Road, walk to the intersection with Chakphet Road and turn right, crossing the road and heading in the same direction. The turn-off for Toney Restaurant is just a little short of being opposite the San Chao Mae Tub-Tim Chinese temple on the other side of the road, and in the soi before sign for the Royal India Restaurant. Walk to the end of the soi and turn right, where you’ll see the restaurant’s tables right in front of you on the corner – the name on the menu on the wall is the giveaway!