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Thai restaurant’s fish-and-chips experiment spawns new British eatery downtown – RichmondBizSense

2 minutes, 47 seconds Read
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The space at the corner of 12th and Main Street was once the longtime home to Coppola’s Deli’s downtown location. (Mike Platania photos)

What started as a way to drum up lunchtime business at a western Henrico Thai restaurant has led to a new British eatery and market in downtown Richmond.

Joy Supanya and Jon Niemiec are preparing to open The British Embassy at 1116 E. Main St., where they’ll offer English dishes and grocery items from across the pond.

The couple entered the local food scene in 2019 with their Thai Won On food truck, serving Thai staples like pad thai and drunken noodles. In 2021, Supanya and Niemiec, who are from Thailand and the United Kingdom, respectively, went the brick-and-mortar route with a location for Thai Won On on Lauderdale Drive near Short Pump.

Niemiec said not long after opening the restaurant, they started serving fish and chips as a more takeout-friendly lunch option.

niemiec supanya headshot

Joy Supanya and Jon Niemiec

“Thai food takes a while to prep, but with fish and chips it’s much more conducive to grab-and-go,” Niemiec said. “It became so popular within three months we’d equaled the sales of the Thai food. We were really surprised how popular it’s been. But it seems like good fish and chips are hard to come by in Richmond.”

Niemiec credits a recipe he formulated with the help of a childhood friend in the U.K., who had recently retired after years working in a chip shop in England.

“He very kindly gave me all his recipes and we started experimenting,” Niemiec said. “We couldn’t use the same beer he used for his batter. So I bought five cases of beer that I thought might work. The third case did the trick and we were off.”

Thai Won On later added so many other English dishes like bangers and mash, Scotch eggs and sticky toffee pudding that it now has two separate menus: one for Thai food and one for British food. Niemiec said they eventually decided the British food was doing well enough that they could open it in its own space.

Supanya and Niemiec signed a lease for Main Street spot, which was most recently home to Southern restaurant Maple Bourbon and Coppola’s Deli prior to that. Commonwealth Commercial’s Todd Buttner worked the deal.

The British Embassy will serve all the same English foods Thai Won On offers, and Niemiec said they’re looking to add to the menu. They’re also planning to have some shelves with British dry goods, beer and wine.

“There’s a big British expat community in Richmond and there’s no one location for people to go for British items. So we’ll bring some of those in,” Niemiec said.

The plan is for The British Embassy to be a full-service restaurant with a bar, and Niemiec said he expects they’ll do a lot of business with takeout.

Supanya and Niemiec are preparing to renovate the 1,800-square-foot downtown space ahead of an August opening date. Thai Won On will remain open at 3422 Lauderdale Drive and continue to serve its British and Thai menus.

A few doors down from The British Embassy is 1110 E. Main St., where longtime lunch spot Sub Central will soon be replaced by Fat Kid Sandwiches, which is relocating from Manchester.

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