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Dining by the Ocean in Phuket
Written by Administrator    Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:38    PDF Print E-mail

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 it.

Dining 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.

Phuket 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. 

Below 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

Dining by the Ocean in Phuket

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.

Dining by the Ocean in Phuket  

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 Karon Beach. 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.

Dining by the Ocean in Phuket

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 points.

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 Rawai Beach 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 a mat.

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 sand-in-the-toes.

The Boathouse

Dining by the Ocean in Phuket

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.

Dining by the Ocean in Phuket

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.

Kan Eang
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 Chalong Bay, less than one kilometre apart.

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 chilli pepper.

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.

Diver’s Place
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 around.

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 Surin Beach, 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 Kamala.

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.