It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts for restaurateur and chef Tom Saengthong.

A week after he was handed the keys to his new premises in March, the country went into lockdown.

Fast forward a few months and Tom’s Kala (meaning coconut) Thai establishment is doing well and gaining a name for itself.

It sits in the one the best locations in town says Tom, overlooking Horseshoe Common in Bournemouth, where Alcatraz used to be.

“We're doing well and everything is okay despite Covid,” he says with typical Thai cheerfulness and optimism.

“At the beginning we just got on with it and hoped the best.”

Lockdown was spent refurbishing and giving the place a real Thai feel, with dark wood, soft pink lighting and decorative artwork.

There’s a covered terrace for the summer, with windows installed for the colder weather.

Tom ran a restaurant for several years in his native Bangkok but was already more than familiar with Bournemouth and wanted to do the same here.

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“It was just a case of the time and the right spot,” said the 43-year-old who has always been in the hospitality sector.

He was inspired by his late mum, Arun, who was a chef herself.

Tom’s approach to cuisine is based on simplicity, fresh local ingredients, authentic flavours and many of the starters being handmade.

“It may be a little time consuming but it tastes much better that way.”

The menu is wide, offering classic dishes such as chicken satay, sesame prawn toast, pad Thai, Tom yum and dumplings and speciality dishes like Weeping Tiger (a dark rum and soy marinated sirloin steak) and Duck Honey Tamarind (roasted duck breast with a honey and tamarind glaze).

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There's a range of special cocktails on offer too.

Tom is not just owner but the head chef and has three other chefs on the team along with two kitchen porters.

He likes to be at the centre of things in the kitchen at least six days a week.

Another six staff work front of house.

Kala Thai was, like many restaurants, inundated during East Out to Help Out in August.

Although trade has slowed, business is still good and word of mouth referral and repeat custom are both building nicely.

Tom added: “We all know that it takes time to establish your reputation in this sector but I feel we are doing that.

"Bournemouth has a fantastic hospitality industry with such diversity and we are delighted to be a part of that.”

From Monday to Friday lunch deals are available between 12-3 with one course for £7.95 and two courses £9.95. Takeaway and deliveries available.


Kala Thai, Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth

01202 096357