Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:38
Water, beaches, mountains: these are tropical elements
that bring so many people to Phuket, and while on the island visitors want to
do just as much as they can in or on the water, beside it, or within view of
too. Somehow, just about everything tastes better by the water. When the sun is
setting over a shoulder, casting red streaks across the sky and reflections
over the undulating sea, and the murmur of waves gently crashing wafts through
ones consciousness, satisfaction is so much easier to grasp.
Magazine shares this passion for dining by the sea. And since we knows almost
every table on Phuket from which one can eat – be it papaya salad or caviar -
and watch the setting sun, we shares some of favourite places with those interested.
is we account of six favourite places. But we has more: Amongst those we really
likes but has not yet included here are:
The terrace of the Phuket Yacht Club Hotel, Nai Harn
Amari Coral Beach Hotel, Patong
Albatross Café, Canal Village, Laguna Phuket
On the Rock
There’s a tumbling roar and a thundering crash just a few metres from our
table. Not surprisingly, my guests forget the food in front of them, turning to
catch one of the most dramatic dining spectacles in Phuket. Elsewhere, in the
next instant, one might expect the splintering of glass and motorcycle helmets,
but here a mighty sheet of white foam lunges up into the spotlight, freezes
momentarily, then crashes back onto the rocks.
A faint, salty spray wafts our way as my enthused guests return to the
important business of cracking seafood in On the Rock, the restaurant perched
deliciously on the rocks at the south end of KaronBeach.
Attached to the jungle-like world Marina Phuket, this restaurant has been
feeding and entertaining guests for 15 years. Having been started so long ago,
it found one of the most spectacular spots on the island.
On the Rock’s menu is dominated by Thai food and seafood, but there is a
scattering of international ideas throughout. They have an ice boat at the
entrance from which guests can choose their fish, crabs, squid etc by the
kilogram. Thai dishes will be cooled for foreigners, so those who can manage
things as hot as Thais do, should do as this magazine’s Thai staff do, and
order “for Thais”. The cooks know the rest.
While I love the drama of big waves crashing on the rocks at night during the
monsoon season, On the Rock’s ambience also has much to be recommended when the
water is calm, clear and just lapping through the rocks, just metres away. This
place is small and cosy, and over the years has built up a large following, so
book if you want to be sure of a table.
The Baan Rim Pa complex ‘Elegant’ might be the first word that springs to mind when thinking of
this now-famous complex of three restaurants; one Thai, one Japanese, plus an
Italian. All are connected by board walks, and each enjoys beautiful views over
the bay from the little hill at the north end of Patong.
My next description is ‘fun’, probably the result of my habit of beginning
every outing here at the bar of the flagship restaurant, Baan Rim Pa. This old pub-style,
curved wooden bar bespeaks class and elegance, while the fun element arrives
with the almost nightly sprinkling of odd and interesting characters who gather
here. No other bar on Phuket matches this for the title of island meeting
place, particularly if you like meeting expat residents wrinkled and cursed by
worlds of experience.
By the bar is a finely-tuned piano with a New York expat - also thoroughly etched by
experience - at the keyboard. Tommy Doyle came to play a season on Phuket donkey’s years ago
and, like so many others here, still can’t leave. Without space, I will but
mention the founder of this exceptional multi-levelled, multi-choice, night-out
experience, Tom McNamara. Best you find his bar, and he’ll probably find you.
There’s a big decision between bar and table, unless you’ve already decided on
your national cuisine for the night. Each of the three restaurants has a native
cook controlling the kitchen, and the food matches the exceptional ambience.
But unless you’re willing to wait late for a table, be sure to book, for this
is one of the best-known of the island’s restaurants. If you want to be
well-versed in Phuket’s great dining experiences, this is one of the starting
Beach mats on Rawai
This favourite place to eat is one where you literally get sand between your
toes. And your food rests just a couple of inches above the sand. And you, the
diner, sit on it. This is really relaxed, real Phuket style.
The dining mats on the sands of RawaiBeach are crowded on the
weekends, and virtually deserted during weekdays. That’s a good sign for those
wanting to ‘eat where the locals eat’, for this is almost exclusively a local
eatery. Thus the quiet on working days.
Rawai, right at the southern end of the island, is not one of the classic
beaches that have made this island famous, but what it lacks in postcard beauty
it makes up for in atmosphere. Several dozen local women open beach-side stalls
here, lay out their mats and begin grilling chicken and seafood to attract
passers-by. I’m one of those who can hardly pass by without stopping and taking
The food is basic, but good. Again, it’s strictly Thai, but the vendor ladies
have seen enough sweating foreigners to know to leave out the chillies. The
favourite Thai beach-side lunch consists of roasted chicken, som tam (green
papaya salad thoroughly pounded) a small roasted tuna and perhaps something
else, all eaten with sticky rice – with the fingers. It goes so well with the
The desire to impress other people is entirely human. We all do it. And when I
have a guest in Phuket whom I’d like to thoroughly impress, well, I often
invite them for drinks and dinner at The Boathouse. I mention drinks, for here
is the critical beginning of my routine – arriving before sunset, settling my
guest into the lounge by the beach, ordering a bottle of wine then watching the
colours of the skies beyond Kata beach perform their daily miracle. And
watching the satisfaction that invariably smoothes across the face of my guest.
It works every time.
The Boathouse is simply that good. It’s one of the few extra-specials on an
island full of special places. Here is a touch of real class. My last guest
marvelled at how most of the materials used in the construction were all
natural, with most being quite common. But, she observed, the result was
entirely high class. That’s not surprising - if one knows that the
owner/designer Mom Tri Devakul is one of the country’s most accomplished
architects, and The Boathouse was built as his personal retreat.
The wine cellar here has made this place special. It’s by far the most
comprehensive on the island, with offerings from little-known but distinguished
vineyards from Spain to Chile.
The food is a mix of East and West, with the same attention to detail that is
seen in the décor. The sum of these three critical elements: location (the
restaurant manager once fell off the restaurant while serving a table, but the
sand below gave him a soft landing); the best wine cellar on the island; and
excellent, almost hand-crafted cuisine means any intended visitor simply must
book to get a table at The Boathouse. And I bet you’ll be impressed.
That old saying, ‘eat where the locals eat’, works wonders right here in Phuket
too. Where do Thai businessmen and families take guests who come to visit from
other parts of Thailand?
When they want to show off local southern Thai cuisine and, in particular,
seafood, Kan Eang gets a huge portion of the business. Handling such a mandate
is no easy feat, and to do so Kan Eang has two locations and hundreds of seats.
Kan Eang 2 is the biggest and most popular, while both are located in garden
settings overlooking ChalongBay, less than one
This might be the only restaurant on the island that employs its own fishing
boat to bring in regular, live catches of crabs. The pair also offer a
selection of live lobsters and fish, and just about everything that comes from
the sea. With 247 items on the menu – virtually all are Thai, though their
soft-shelled crabs are imported from the USA - there is perhaps nothing from
the local cuisine that one can think of that’s not available.
To attract this crowd the food simply has to be good, and authentic. Their
fresh seafood grilled over coconut husks is an ever-popular favourite. There is
no condescension towards foreigners, and everyone gets exactly the same food.
Here in southern Thailand,
this often means burning hot, so tell the waiters if you don’t appreciate the
Sunset is my favourite time at either of the Kan Eang’s, watching the last rays
of the sun strike the hundreds of craft anchored off-shore, creating a
beautiful seascape as background to a genuine Thai-style feast. Lastly, and
perhaps most importantly, the prices are also Thai-style, and here again
foreigners are treated exactly the same as locals.
Half the fun of going to new places – for some people – is meeting the locals.
And for a few that includes meeting the real characters of a new place, those
off-beat individuals whose quirks of personality set them distinctly outside
the circle of boring normality - the kind of people whom others like to gather
Diver is one of those people. To make it convenient for his friends to gather
around, Australian-born Diver has opened his own bar by the sands of SurinBeach,
and indeed, a motley gathering of expat foreigners does gather here around
sunset. Diver’s real name is a mystery to most of his friends, who generally
know that this nickname came from the fact that Diver once held Australia’s
national record for deep diving. The other name his friends know is Ali Baba,
the one he took on the spur of the moment when he married a Muslim lady from
Diver’s is towards the south end of Surin’s line of concrete bars. The beer here
is invariably icy cold, for here is a real Aussie, the sunburnt type with
shorts and hairy chest, one who upholds the rough and tough, slightly
less-cultured image many East coast Americans hold of the inhabitants of that
great sunburnt island. Every monsoon season Diver regularly dives into the
broiling surf off Surin, pulling out hapless swimmers before they drown.
The beer is cold, and the conversation diverse. One can never be sure who
you’ll meet at Diver’s: hotel general managers; architects here for the
building boom, investors, retired military men, or passing Aussie tourists who
seem to sniff out the coldest beers on the beach. And characters. For the
diverse ones like Diver do attract other interesting and off-beat characters.