Thai Mom Wins Legal Fight Over London Restaurant’s Ownership

A mother has won a legal dispute against her son in London concerning the ownership of a Thai takeaway restaurant, once acclaimed as Britain’s favourite.

Ekkachai Somboonsam, a 51-year-old chef, believed he owned Thai Metro, located in Fitzrovia near the British Museum in London.

However, a court determined that he was merely an employee and that the actual owner was his mother, Vanida Walker, as reported by The Times.

Mr. Ekkachai migrated to the UK at the age of 5 and began his career as a kitchen porter and cook. In 2000, he claimed in court that he established the takeaway restaurant in Fitzrovia using money inherited from his father.

The restaurant’s success led to the opening of a second location and the accumulation of a multimillion-pound property portfolio.

Last year, Ms. Vanida, 77, initiated legal proceedings against her son, asserting her ownership of the restaurant and stating that her son was her employee, not the proprietor.

This week, a High Court judge declared that the family-owned companies—Thai Metro, Anglo Thai, and Finfish Catering—were rightfully owned by Ms. Vanida, who also owns the property on Charlotte Street where Thai Metro is located.

The Times reported that Judge Malcolm Davis-White dismissed Mr. Ekkachai’s argument that his inheritance from Thailand funded the startup of the business.

However, the judge did recognize Mr. Ekkachai’s ownership of two other properties in the family’s portfolio, which his mother had also claimed.

Ms. Vanida relocated to London from Thailand in 1973, initially working as a cleaner and later providing Thai food at outdoor music festivals, including Glastonbury, and operating a restaurant in southeast London.

Thai Metro, established 23 years ago, was heralded as “Britain’s most-loved takeaway” by the Hungryhouse delivery website, due to its five-star ratings and high customer return rate, outperforming 12,000 other businesses.

Yet, the mother and son held starkly conflicting views about who owned the businesses, according to court presentations.

Robert Strang, Mr. Ekkachai’s lawyer, mentioned that although the business shares were in Ms. Vanida’s name, this was because his client was divorcing his first wife and aimed to prevent her from staking a claim.

On the other hand, Timothy Cowen, Ms. Vanida’s attorney, argued that she was the true investor and had taken the lease in her name because it was her business.

The judge acknowledged that Ms. Vanida testified in court that there had been “no substantial inheritance” as her son had suggested, stating his father “was comparatively poor.”

He noted that the son’s account of his inheritance “completely broke down” under cross-examination.