A LITTLE Thai restaurant has shot to national fame thanks to sizzling reviews from Masterchef star John Torode.
The Australian chef, aged 49, has taken to Twitter to rave about the Thailand Cafe, in Bridge Street, Bolton, where he dined on Saturday night after being turned away from neighbouring tapas eatery La Salsa, which was fully booked.
After sampling the fare cooked by owner and chef Pong Rujipong, Mr Torode told audiences at his Bolton Food and Drink Festival cookery demonstrations he had enjoyed “the best chicken larb I’ve tasted outside of Thailand”.
On Twitter, Mr Torode yesterday retweeted Bolton Cllr Chris Peacock, who wrote: “After glowing recommendation from @JohnTorode1 have tried Thailand Cafe on Bridge Street in #Bolton for lunch. Was brilliant! Do try it.”
Mr Torode then tweeted: “Brilliant . . . let’s make them famous.”
The star was staying at the Holiday Inn opposite the cafe on Saturday, ahead of his eagerly awaited demonstration at the record- breaking festival, when he wandered over to see if there was a free table.
Mr Rujipong, aged 51, opened the cafe only three months ago with his wife, Ying Jadpreeya, aged 27.
He had little time to be star-struck by his surprise visitor. Mr Rujipong said: “The cafe was so busy, we could not to chat to him. He ordered spare ribs, chicken larb, green curry and sticky rice.
“When he had finished the plates were empty. He told us it was delicious and we were highly delighted to have pleased him.”
Asked by an audience member where he ate in Bolton on Saturday night, the chef said: “I was staying at the Holiday Inn, so I went to the tapas place nearby.
"I couldn’t get in there, so I went to this little Thai place next door. Hand on heart it was the best Thai food I have had outside of Thailand. Maybe it is Bolton’s hidden gem.”
Demand for menus from Thailand Cafe has been so high since the weekend that Mr Rujipong is having to have more printed.
He moved to the UK 14 years ago from his native Bangkok and ran a successful outlet in Manchester.
He and his wife decided to move to Bolton and thought the Bridge Street cafe was perfect for their business.
Mr Rujipong said: “We love living in Bolton. The people are really friendly and they seem to like our food a lot.”
La Salsa owner Abdul Simsek said he was sorry he could not give Mr Torode a table. He added: “When he came in, I was in the bar.
"One of the staff asked if we could give him a table, but we were fully booked. I would have loved to have given him a table, but it would not have been fair to the people we were expecting.”