We love to share the hottest new places in East Anglia and Easy Tiger is an obvious addition to that list. Specialising in the fresh flavours of fusion Asian food, Easy Tiger in Beccles is born from a passion of travel to, and the taste of, the Far East. Owned by David Little and Kevin Wainwright, who are no strangers to Beccles hospitality, Samantha Mattocks went to Easy Tiger to discover whether this tiger has more of a purr or a bite.
Easy Tiger is David and Kevin’s third food venture into Beccles – actually the fourth, if you include their homemade chutney business, Chutney Ferret, that kept the wolves from the door when they upped sticks and move from London to Suffolk over 15 years ago. Since then, they have run the Bear and Bells, owned Satis House in Yoxford – appearing on the very first series of Four in a Bed and winning with some style – before returning to Beccles and opening Graze at The White Horse. Clearly drawn to hospitality businesses with an animal in the name, Easy Tiger is much more personal to the couple. For one, it is allowing them to explore a passion; for David, it is the realisation of a long-held dream.
“I am a self-taught chef with an obsession for Asian flavours,” smiles David as we take shelter from the ongoing heatwave inside the trendy surroundings of Easy Tiger on Newgate, opposite Tesco in Beccles. “We have travelled extensively across Asia on holidays – Malay, India, Thailand, and so on, and we just have a passion for the food there. When we bought Satis House, we kept on much of the staff, including a Malay chef. I learned so much from her, about balance and flavour, and especially the five elements of Asian dishes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.
“In 2016, we left Satis House, including Satis café, which was more of a restaurant than a café, and returned to Beccles, where I would experiment with different dishes at Graze. I would spend my time, and still do, poring over old Asian cookbooks, ones that got back to the real essence of the food and what it was about, and Kevin and I began to dream about our own Asian fusion restaurant.”
Kevin explains they realised there was no local sit down Asian restaurant not only in Beccles but the surrounding area. “We had a week off in January this year and decided to go for it. We did the design and posted on Facebook that Easy Tiger was coming to Beccles. The reaction was huge, although the reality was, we didn’t even have a venue! Then along came this spot, and it was perfect. Easy Tiger opened during the Jubilee and the restaurant is regularly full on weekends. We have 32 covers and do two sittings a night. We just love the response to the food David and Head Chef Scott Nathan cook here. Many have said that it is authentic, and we couldn’t ask for more than that.”
David and Kevin do not come from a hospitality background. Kevin was a star of the West End, appearing in musicals such as Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, something that makes him very well suited to the front of house role he has at Easy Tiger. David worked in Waste Management, and it was close to 20 years ago that they left London, looking for something more in life, something to let them live out their dreams. While Brighton was on the cards, they actually ended up in Beccles, staying with Kevin’s boss at Phantom while they decided what to do. That is when they began making chutneys, including David’s signature sweet chilli jam, that still features on the menu now. They even took part in another television programme, Life Begins Again, as the opportunity arose to buy the Bear and Bells. Taking over, they turned their backs on the frozen foods served previously and instead cooking fresh, seasonal food from scratch, something that gave David a chance to start living his dream.
The opportunity of a lifetime came along when a brewery made an offer on the Bear and Bells – something that then enabled the couple to buy Satis House, a stunning boutique hotel that catapulted them to hotelier fame. Then, seven years ago, they returned to Beccles, opening Graze at The White Horse. However, all along, Asian food was always in the background.
“This cuisine has always been there,” smiles Kevin. “We just love that part of the world, and we would go there, just for the food. Last November, we were in an Indian restaurant, and it was heaving. We saw a possible business opportunity, but with Thai and Asian food – the kind we had always dreamed of.”
The couple pause, looking around their restaurant – dark walls, panda chopstick holders, striking tiger paintings, and a Chinese waving lucky cat – before Kevin continues. “We had worries, of course we did. Asian, especially Asian fusion, is a niche market, and we knew we were launching a new restaurant in a trying time. We were worried whether people would come and spend their hard-earned money with us. We knew we had to pull on all our experience and elevate the whole Thai food experience to something they hadn’t seen before.”
For David, that meant that all the food had to be cooked from scratch every day. “I wanted everything to be fresh, nothing frozen. The only thing deep-fried is our fishcakes, the rest is cooked traditionally. We source everything as locally as we can, especially the meat and fish. We have also sourced vegan fish sauce, and use tamari rather than soy sauce, as that is naturally gluten-free. Asian food is inclusive, and we wanted to keep that essence at Easy Tiger. We serve our food family style, so everyone gets to try something off the menu. As for the menu, Scott and I annoy Kevin by regularly changing it, sometimes on a weekly basis, but if something is in season and available that week, then we want to cook with it!
“Scott is as passionate as I am about the food we serve at Easytiger. We have brought things to the menu you don’t always see on an Asian menu, such as game in a venison puff pastry or making our beef rendang on the bone, something you don’t often see. Easytiger is an Asian kitchen, not a Thai kitchen, and our food is a blend of Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, and Thai. I think that helps us stand out, and it also gives us wider scope to do what we want.”
So, what is on the menu at Easy Tiger? Appetisers include pork skewer with caramelised pineapple and peanut satay sauce; green papaya salad with peanuts, herbs, vegan fish sauce, lime juice, green beans, tomatoes, and chilli; Easy Tiger fish cakes with sweet chilli jam; and son-in-law eggs with tamarind, fried shallots, and coriander.
For the main course, you can choose from mains and Asian curries, including Khao Soi noodles with duck, egg, peanuts, chilli, and pickled cabbage; whole grilled Cornish hen with salt & pepper and a chilli dipping sauce; massaman curry with chicken with coconut milk, cinnamon, potatoes, cashew nuts, and chilli; Indonesian beef rib rendang with coconut milk, candle nuts, kaffir lime, and chilli; and red curry with roast squash, aubergine, tomatoes, coconut milk, Thai basil, and chilli.
For those with room for dessert, David and Scott have created a refreshing selection, including lychee pannacotta with mango compote; Thai basil gimlet jelly; and coconut ice cream with lime syrup.
As well as a wide range of drinks, there are also cocktails, including lychee martini with vodka, lychee liqueur, lychee syrup, vermouth, and lemon garnish; Thai basil gimlet with gin, basil, lime, soda or lemonade, and lime garnish; and the signature Easytiger martini – gin, triple sec, lemon juice, passion fruit purée, and passion fruit garnish.
“We will launch our Christmas menu soon,” says David. “The Beccles Christmas lights will turn on at the end of November, and we will start the menus then. We have two menus, a four-course set menu for £35 or five courses for £45.” The menus are generous, especially the Diamond £45 menu – with street snacks, soup, four small plates, two large plates, sides, and dessert.
I ask David what his favourite dish is, and he replies, without hesitation: “The fishcakes. They are the best in the world and so different from what you normally get in a Thai restaurant. Usually, they are flat and rubbery, but ours are round. We did a lot of research to create the perfect recipe for us, and we are happy to share it with the nourish readers.”
Scott adds: “We don’t use potato in our fish cake, it is purely fish with a blend of spices. This makes the fishcake very light and with the sweet chilli sauce to balance the warm of the fishcake, it is just perfect! We also love the beef rendang, which we slow cook for six hours before serving on the bone. Traditionally, a tight, dry, and spicy dish, we have let ours down with coconut milk and spices. It is a firm customer favourite.”
I try both dishes, and while for my delicate palate they are spicy, they are also balanced and any heat fades as quickly as it arrived. This is clever cooking, one that has created dishes you just cannot help going back to for more. With my tastebuds well and truly tickled with tantalising flavours and aromas, I know Easy Tiger is all that David and Kevin dreamed it would be – a place where those new to Asian fusion can come and explore the flavours from this part of the world while those who are already fans can be transported to some Malay beach, where they discovered their own passion for Asian food.
This is a tiger with both a purr and a bite, and the clever thing is that David, Kevin and Scott have created a menu that will appeal to all tastes. Easy Tiger; easy.
- visit www.easytigerbeccles.com
- click here for the recipe to the Easy Tiger Thai fishcakes with sweet chilli jam