Sabai Sabai

Husband and wife team, Juree and Torquil Chidwick, had a dream 20 years ago as university graduates to bring authentic Thai cuisine to the Midlands. They’ve achieved that – and some – with Sabai Sabai and their five award-winning restaurants

Sabai Sabai Restaurant recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, marking two decades of serving authentic Thai cuisine and service in the Midlands. The faces behind Sabai Sabai – which means ‘chill and relax’ – are owners Juree and Torquil Chidwick, the husband and wife team who first opened in Moseley back in 2004 and who now have an impressive five restaurants to their name – since adding further eateries in Harborne, Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham city centre and Solihull.

Torquil, who was born and raised in Moseley and Juree, were both straight out of Bradford University when they started their business, and knew it wasn’t always going to be plain sailing. Juree said: “My heart has always been in Thailand, and with most of my family working as chefs or owning restaurants over there it seemed only natural to open a restaurant and bring a little bit of Thailand to the West Midlands.”


Juree added: “When Torquil and I ventured into our first venue in Moseley 20 years ago there was a lack of funding available, so we had to scale back on a lot of things. There were not a huge number of Thai chefs in the UK so recruiting good chefs was pretty tricky – but luckily my mum helped! The shortage of staff forced us to be deeply involved in every aspect of operations. We wore multiple hats, from cleaning and customer service to managing finances and cooking. Every step has been a huge learning experience for us.” Enlisting the help of their families to get the business off the ground included having Juree’s mother running the kitchen for a year, while Torquil’s brother worked front of house.

Their second venture in Harborne High Street opened in 2011, followed by Stratford-upon-Avon, where they opened their third site in a Grade II listed building in Wood Street, just a stone’s throw from the RSC. Hot on the heels, the following year Juree and Torquil made the move into Birmingham city centre in Waterloo Street. Torquil said: “Over the past 20 years, Sabai Sabai has become synonymous with excellence in Thai cuisine, thanks to our dedication to using only the freshest ingredients and traditional cooking techniques passed down from Juree’s family.”


As with all independents in the hospitality sector, the couple have faced challenges along the way, pandemic closures, staffing and rising rate bills, but their passion, dedication and commitment to consistently great food and good customer service has enabled them to weather the storm and stay robust post-pandemic. Last year, despite extortionate business rates and the cost of living crisis, they opened their fifth restaurant in the couple’s home town of Solihull.

Juree said: “There have been so many memorable moments over the years, like serving behind the bar in the newly-opened Harborne just two days before giving birth to my son!” Torquil added: “My favourite time was when TV Chef Ainsley Harriot and Strictly’s Len Goodman came to film us for their BBC TV show. They were hysterically funny. The team had a great time.”
The pair have won a string of awards along the way – Juree was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the West Midlands Women of the Year Awards 2016, and Sabai Sabai was Best Restaurant at the Birmingham Awards, Best Oriental Restaurant 2016 and 2017, and was nominated again for the Midlands Food Drink & Hospitality Awards 2018.


Of their success, Juree said: My mother has always told me to follow my dream, surround myself with like-minded people and not wait for the perfect moment. Running a restaurant is demanding, you cannot ever fully switch off from work. It is not just a job it is a lifestyle. Remaining resilient and adaptable has been key to our success. For example, we introduced more take-away services during Covid and developed our own take-away app which helped us increase sales.

“We want to continue innovating and refining our offers, creating and developing new dishes and ideas to enhance the dining experience. We want to focus on our five sites to ensure Sabai Sabai remains one of the best Thai restaurants in the Midlands.”