Doctor Who: Inside Lin's Thai Cafe - the Southsea restaurant with its own TARDIS
Lin’s Thai Cafe is an unassuming eatery on Elm Grove, Southsea offering authentic Thai with a traditional ambience interrupted only by the large blue police box by the till. Roger, who runs the cafe, said that customers are always curious to know how the replica time-machine came to be in the restaurant.
Despite the stark contrast, he explained that some customers barely notice the large object until the end of their visit.
As well as being a curiosity and conversation point, the Tardis is surprisingly practical. Two front-facing compartments house first aid equipment, while inside is a toilet fit for a Timelord.
It arrived at the family-run eatery in 2013, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, but Roger is keen to preserve the mystery of where it came from.
The sculptor and artist, who runs the cafe with his wife Sai Chai and step-daughter Snooki Renu Kiewbang, said: ‘We never had a toilet out the front. When it was raining, people had to walk around the back of the building to get in the back loo. People like to take photographs of it. Some of them sit down, eat their meal and then all of a sudden they discover it.’
Using the facilities at Lin’s Thai cafe is a strange feeling; while the wooden structure is not bigger on the inside, flushing the toilet does invoke the whirring sound of The Doctor’s spaceship.
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Roger is not a fan of the long-running sci-fi series. He enjoyed watching the show during as a child in the 1970s during the eras of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, but now feels it has ‘changed too much’. His family, who are from Thailand, were not familiar with Doctor Who before the Tardis was installed and were initially confused by it.
He added: ‘They didn’t know what it was or the idea behind it. I showed them a few pictures and they’re happy to go along with it. They’re very supportive of what I do, whether it’s paintings or sculpture.’
Before taking over the restaurant in 2012, Roger worked a caretaker at Portsmouth High School. He enjoys creating art in his spare time like the two large paintings and a sculpture of two soldiers which are on display inside Lin’s. He also created a large bust of Charles Dickens which is housed in Southsea Library.
Roger’s step-daughter Snooki, who also runs Snooki’s Thai Market a few doors down from Lin’s, said: ‘I think it’s unique and it’s cool. First when it was here, everyone kept asking me “what is this?” and “is it bigger on the inside?”. I didn’t know the joke. I never knew about Doctor Who before.’
Lin’s Thai Cafe can be found at 78 Elm Grove, Southsea. It serves ‘top quality authentic Thai food’ and customers are invited to bring their own alcohol.