Andy Oliver on Som Saa and the Thai food “revolution”

By Liam Garrahan contact

- Last updated on GMT

Andy Oliver of Som Saa
Andy Oliver of Som Saa

Related tags: Thai cuisine

Andy Oliver and Mark Dobbie of Som Saa, a popular Thai cuisine pop-up operating in London, have overreached their crowdfunding target and are ready to move the restaurant to a permanent location within the capital.

The head chef pair have raised £700k through crowdfunding, beating their target of £550k.

Oliver told BigHospitality that they feel “really good” about the impending switch from temporary to permanent and that the time is right for the step-up.

“We’ve been running a residency for the past year which has gone really, really well and we’ve had a great following. People enjoy the food and we’ve had great reviews, so we’ve had an amazing start,” he said.

“The residency started out because we were looking for restaurant space and we were frustrated with not finding one and wanting to get going. It was an amazing stepping-stone for us and it catapulted us forwards. It’s a year down the line and we’re getting close with an exciting restaurant site. We’re in a good position and it was a good course of action so it was a good springboard for us.

Although crowdfunding formed the crux of the restaurant’s investment, Oliver says that they invested some of their own money and put their necks on the line for the restaurant that will be serving regional Thai food.

“We cook recipes that are regional Thai foods; we cook a lot of dishes that maybe aren’t seen a lot over here and we think that that’s interesting. There are a lot of delicious recipes that we’re excited about and it’s nice to showcase other Thai foods. People are ready to branch out, be more adventurous and see a lot more diversity in Thai food,” he said.

Oliver also sees a future expansion for Som Saa beyond the new restaurant opening, although he concedes that it won’t be for a “couple of years.”

“Our thing has always been that we want to start with one restaurant and get that right first and make that a success before we go chatting too much about a second restaurant. First things first: open up Som Saa, the HQ, but once we’ve got that then look to other opportunities,” he said.

“We think there are lots of opportunities with Thai food, our brand and the kind of food we want to do. We’d be interested in opening other projects be they a little bar, or a noodle place or another Som Saa in a different location. They’re all possibilities for us and things we want to explore but it’s always been a case of getting this right before we go running ahead of ourselves.”

It isn’t just Som Saa that’s thriving, Oliver says that the Thai scene is undergoing the same treatment that Italian cuisine received a decade ago: it’s picking up pace.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s growing really rapidly – people genuinely love Thai food and I think there’s a big revolution coming. There’s a big change happening to lots of cuisines and that’s definitely about to happen to Thai food,” he said.

“When you look at Italian food ten years ago and how much it’s changed in the last ten years, people know so much more about Italian food and Italian ingredients and are more interested in Italian regional dishes. People are eating reasonably good quality Italian food for a reasonably good price in London now and I think the same thing is happening in Thai food. People are being more adventurous and trying stuff as it’s cooked in Thailand and are taking more interest in the quality of the ingredients that are being used in cooking rather than just looking for Asian food to be cheap all the time.”

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