No Nonsense Nosh
Those not adequately blessed to have been born in God's Own Country – Yorkshire, in England – will not fully appreciate the importance of simplicity. Folk from Yorkshire are sometimes inaccurately described as being blunt and rude when it would be closer to the mark to call them 'direct'. Everything from mannerisms and speech to the local cuisine – the world famous 'Yorkshire Pudding' – is simplicity itself. No fuss, no frills, no nonsense.
The same can be said of a Yorkshireman's attitude to dining. You can balance your ingredients up in fancy towers and spend half a day carving the Venus de Milo out of a carrot, but why bother? It all ends up going down the same hole and those towers never survive the first frontal assault with a knife and fork, so what's the point? To make it look pretty? I want to eat the stuff, not admire it for its aesthetic values.
I am not above appreciating the effort that goes into presentation and it can, in certain circumstances, set the mood of a restaurant a few grades above those not so well able to create works of art with root vegetables, but MG Foods is, bluntly, not that kind of establishment. It is functional; it provides an essential service, which is to furnish the customer with sustenance and a taste of home. It is much more a café than a restaurant.
In fact, probably the best analogy for the eatery on Soi Khao Talo is that it is much like a 'transport café' or 'greasy spoon' – what our American readers (or anyone who has recently watched Smokey and the Bandit) would call a 'choke-and-puke'. These names may not provide the most flattering image, but there is genuinely no higher praise for such an establishment. Before motorway services were dominated by the well-known fast food franchises, they used to each have an independent café which derived the first of their colloquial names from the fact that their main source of custom was the road freight industry. The second name comes from the fact that truckers are not known for being too fussed about eating healthily (much like Yorkshiremen, which is why Yorkshire is the most overweight county in England!) and the most popular dish on the menu was generally the ever-popular 'fry-up' – which is essentially the majority of a Full English Breakfast when eaten at any time other than breakfast. This goes some way towards explaining why many on old trucker has arteries with more blockages and obstructions than the roads they once plied.
The important fact to remember in this analogy is that the trucking community is a highly talkative one. Sat at the controls of a lorry for the majority of your working week, there are few enough forms of entertainment, so swapping gossip and stories becomes a good way to pass the time. The result is that the good eateries soon found their reputations spreading right across the country while the bad ones quickly found themselves with too few customers to afford to stay open. Through a process of gastronomic natural selection, the transport cafés of Britain's motorways became the very best places in the world to get a good fry-up.
How does MG Foods compare? Well, the menu is two sides of A4 (with big writing) and most of the offerings are some combination of bacon, sausages, eggs, beans and other fried favourites. One side lists rolls (with the bacon sandwich topping the list, because nothing in the world beats a bacon sandwich), burgers and breakfasts while the other side has the meals, which includes pies, chops and steaks. There is a selection of Thai food for the wives and sweethearts, but they are not even listed on the menu. Again, this is just simple practicality – it says what it needs to say, with the minimum of fuss and nonsense.
Just to totally waste a perfectly good analogy, I tried the special, which was chicken cider and vegetable casserole. It was served swiftly and simply, though even the most artistically-inclined eater might have raised an eyebrow if they'd managed to stack a stew in a tower or attempted to construct a copy of the Statue of Liberty with a jacket potato.
What the food lacks in aesthetic value, it more than makes up for with the taste – which is, let's be honest, the important bit. The first bite may be with the eye, but the dozens of bites after that are with the mouth and it’s those which really count. The chicken was as tasty as it was tender, and it was so tender that you could cut it up with an unusually blunt spoon. The casserole, too, was rich and filling and the potato...was a potato. There's only so much you can say about potatoes.
Returning to my analogy, greasy spoons of England became known for providing the best food at the best prices, and MG Foods is the same. Very few items on the menu have three figures in the price, and the middle one is a zero or a one in some of those cases.
MG leans away from the analogy once you get inside the premises. The outside, under shade, is where the seating is, but inside is where the shop is. There are only a handful of these sorts of shops in Pattaya, selling the finest farang foodstuffs which, due to being virtually never used in Thai cooking, are not generally available in the supermarkets. All of the essential pies, peas, puddings and pickles can be found on their shelves.
While you maybe wouldn't be able to park a fully-articulated 18-wheeler outside, MG’s location about 100 metres further up the hill than the old Khao Talo market provides plenty of space for parking, giving you a comfortably short walk back to your vehicle after you've indulged in the simple pleasures of great British food.