Samui Wining & Dining
Whai 's in a Name?

When it comes to restaurant names, you don’t need a sense of humour, but it helps!


20Pukeura is a tiny township on New Zealand’s South Island. It’s actually a Maori name, and it’s pronounced ‘Pookie-ura’ – ‘Pookie’ for short. And when Peter and Justine Salter decided to open up a pub next to the local highway, naturally enough they named it the ‘Pookie Pub’, after the town. Except that, unfortunately, it’s actually written ‘Puke Pub’. Mind you, they do seem to have an out-there sense of humour, because the pub’s restaurant only sells one item – roadkill. It specializes in local ‘wild food’ and ‘Roadkill of the Day’ heads the menu – as in, ‘you kill it, we’ll grill it.’ There are also Bambi Burgers. Plus Volvo Venison, Headlight Delight and Gag ‘n Bag. But the Puke Pub’s speciality is possums. Salter serves his possums in pies, or cooked up into a dish called ‘Guess the Mess’. And they’ve won prizes, too. In the national ‘Wild Food Challenge’, the Puke Pub came in third, with ‘Baked Back Legs of Possum served with Mint Sauce’. The dish was bashfully named ‘Chicken of the Forest’, because it looked just like chicken drumsticks.

      I suppose that you’d have to consider the Puke Pub some kind of theme restaurant. It certainly seems to have an integrated concept, even though I’m not entirely sure quite what it is! But, when it comes to names, we need to move a bit further west before we find ourselves neck-deep in silly ones. I think it’s because America is just so big, and it has so many millions of restaurants, that the spirit of competition urges their restaurateurs to all go just that bit further. Well, I think that’s the reason!

      Whatever it is, California has more than its fair share. Take the restaurant that’s next to San Francisco’s Greyhound bus terminal, for example. It’s called, somewhat tongue in cheek, ‘The Terminal Lunch’. And, heading down to Venice Beach, we come across the enigmatically titled, ‘Mo Betta Meat-E Burga’. Soul food, move over! But my particular favourite here is the Mongolian restaurant that’s in Los Angeles, which is presumably run by a person of the Jewish persuasion. The name? Genghis Cohen.

      And if you’d expect New York to have one or two flippantly-titled eateries, then you’d be right. ‘Billy’s Slurp ‘n Burp’ quite tickles my fancy. As does the similarly-themed ‘Squat and Gobble’, which I’m glad is food-related. But I have to smile at the downtown fish ‘n chip shop that’s named ‘A Salt and Battery’, because that’s almost elegant, if not hugely original.

      Which leads us straight into puns, and when it comes to punned-up restaurant names, there there’s a positive plethora of them. Skipping daintily across the length and breadth of the USA – and that’s no mean feat – we discover seafood restaurants with names such as ‘The Boston Sea Party’, ‘The Contented Sole’,

      ‘Maine-ly Lobster’ and ‘Wholly Mackerel!’ Plus, of course, more than a few simply named ‘Something Fishy’.

      ‘The Melting Pot’ is a restaurant chain that specialised in fondue dishes, and a chain of sandwich shops bears the title, ‘Lox, Stock and Bagel’. There’s the Italian restaurant, ‘Pastabilities’, and the little diner hidden away in Yellowstone National Park, ‘Off the Eaten Track’. ‘The Crepevine’ sells ... well, guess what, and the same goes for ‘For Heaven’s Cakes’.

       And when it comes to Asian puns, then The West just abounds with them, although there aren’t that many in Asia itself! Let’s get the ‘wok’ ones out of the way first. ‘Wok Stock and Barrel’; ‘Wok and Rolls’; ‘Wok Around the Clock’; ‘Wok’s Happ’ning’; ‘Wok it to Me’, and so on and so on. Yawn. And the Thai eateries abroad are equally as shameless. You’ll come across ‘Thai-Tanic’, ‘Thai Foon’, ‘EN-Thai-Sing’, ‘Thairiffic’, ‘Beau Thai’ and even ‘Thai a Yellow Ribbon’. But I rather like the one that’s named simply ‘Pad Thai 5 Dollar’. No prizes for guessing what they sell there!

         But, before we bounce away in another direction altogether, my favourite Asian name-pun of them all - the food court at Sydney University has an unpretentious little Japanese restaurant and sushi shop. And its pleasantly mischievous name is ‘Miso Honi’.

         In line with all this, but perhaps running at a bit of a tangent, is the sometimes bizarre effect of taking a name in one language and waving it about in a different country. You know, a bit like what happened when Mazda produced its MR2 sports car. It was fine everywhere else, but they had to change the name in France to the Mazda coupé MR. Because ‘MR2’ in French translates to ‘em-air-de’ – Merde. Which is not a nice word at all.

         And, in the same egg-on-face department, and remaining in France, let’s take a look at the Avignon café that was called ‘La Bouche des Gouts’, meaning ‘The Mouth of Flavours’. This was strange enough on its own, but when said out aloud, it’s also a double-entendre for ‘la bouche d’egouts’ – which means the mouth of a sewer pipe. Not exactly a savoury choice for a restaurant name!

         But it’s when we take Asian names, and particularly Chinese or Thai ones, and peer at them with Western eyes, that the fun really starts. Take, for instance, Thailand’s holiday spot of Phuket. Saying that aloud with Western phonetics usually raises at least a smile. As does the Chinese eatery in California that’s called ‘The Poo Ping Palace’. Or, indeed, the chuckle-worthy restaurant in New York that has ‘Fooking Chinese’ emblazoned above its doors. And what exactly we are to make of San Francisco’s ‘Zhu’s Fagty Rot Hot-Tot’ is anybody’s guess!

         In Thailand, the problem of transliterating the sound of Thai words into an English spelling is often fraught with mishap. No so long ago, over in Bang Por on the north coast of Samui, a pretty young Thai lady with the cute name of ‘Peas’ was befriended by a dashing Western man who set her up with her own restaurant before returning home. Proudly she set about fitting and furnishing it, and finally hung up the name of her choice on the name-board outside. It took several months before the first tourist popped in for a bite, and casually brought up the subject of the restaurant’s curious name. A few days later a new sign was hung to replace the previous one that read – ‘Piss House’. Yet another example of a curious, if not hilarious, restaurant name!


Rob De Wet


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