Customers flood back to Thai café as it beats back the waters and reopens

Pam Mills

Eight months ago parts of Kai’s Kitchen, the popular Thai café on Mount Pleasant opposite Tunbridge Wells station, were three foot under water following the flash floods.

Today it’s back in business after being forced to close for three months to repair flood damage and refurbish the premises.

At first the restaurant only shut for three days following the August floods which inundated the area around the station and Hoopers department store. The kitchen, which was housed in the basement, was submerged under three feet of water inside 15 minutes.

But such was the structural damage sustained by Kai and John King’s establishment that they had to shut up shop again on January 18. The renovation work was supposed to be finished by mid-March but delays meant it opened its doors again on April 14.

“Since the day we reopened it’s been incredible, almost as if we had never shut at all,” said Mr King.

“The first Saturday night was manic, people were queuing outside the door.”

They had to have a new floor put in, all the stud walls came down and the tiles had to be replaced because they were all infected. All the electrical equipment was destroyed too, but it was covered by insurance.

However, the Kings will only recoup 70 per cent of the earnings they lost because of the long-term closure and Mr King estimates the hiatus has effectively cost them in the region of £20,000.

He can remember the downpour vividly. “The rain came down in biblical proportions. It was like being in Thailand, in Bangkok itself. When the water came through it was this colour,” he added pointing at the brown chairs of the restaurant and wrinkling his nose.

“My son-in-law Roland came and took photos of all the dead rats floating around outside.

“The water came up through the toilets and the drains in the basement like a fountain. Then it started coming in from the street, flooding the floor upstairs. The water rushed downhill and just went straight over the drains out there.”

Mr King remains critical of the authorities, who were notified immediately of the dysfunctional state of the street drains. “We’ve asked Kent County Council to come round and give the drains a good clean but we haven’t seen hide nor hair of them.

“The road had been relaid just before the floods came and the local council say they found bits of tarmac down the drains clogging them up.”

With such freak weather conditions on the rise, the experience has not deterred the Kings from staying on at the premises, which has been open for four years. But Mr King admits: “It would help if KCC maintain the drains. It’s not us that should get flooded, we’re not at the bottom of the hill. I’ve lived here 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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