Samui Wining & Dining
Why Here?

A step back in time at Spirit House is Paul Mcdermid’s vision for modern day Samui.


20New resorts and restaurants open on a regular basis on Samui. And each strives to bring something new to the scene. But creating a truly unique look and feel is never easy. And the word ‘unique’ is often over-used but in this case it’s wholly appropriate. Spirit House Restaurant & Spa Resort in Chaweng (it’s tucked away peacefully down the last side street on the right on Chaweng Beach Road before you reach the central Laem Din Road crossroads) is the brainchild of Paul Mcdermid and we caught up with him recently to find out more about his incredible concept.


JP: First of all, Paul, how would you describe the Spirit House to someone who’d never been before?


PM: It’s a very special project unlike any other on the island, or anywhere else for that matter. On first glance it looks like the site of an ancient ruined temple with spiralling Chedi monuments, lotus ponds and cascading waterfalls all set in a peaceful tropical garden. All the materials were brought down from the old capital city of Ayutthaya and a professor from the university in Chiang Mai has verified the authenticity of the buildings. Our restaurant is on two levels with several private, walled-in areas and the spa sits in amongst the gardens. And we’ve just completed eight Thai-style cottages. It’s a magical, mystical journey into the past.


JP: Tell us a little about your background please.

PM: I grew up in Auburn, a small town in the Clare Valley, a wine-growing region in South Australia though I went to school in Adelaide. In my late twenties, I began small-scale property refurbishment of heritage cottages and I’ve now been involved in property development for about 27 years. This includes numerous areas of Australia, Bali, New Zealand and Thailand. I’ve been fortunate to have had many interesting projects, including the redevelopment of a railway station, churches, schools, Woodley Winery and its adjoining silver mine, and conventional shopping centres and boutique land divisions.


JP: When did you first come to Samui and what were your impressions then and what are they now?

PM: I’ve been on Samui for six years. My first impression reminded me very much of Bali in its early days before Bali boomed and I felt Samui had similar qualities to it. Samui has come a long way in a short period, particularly in attracting the higher end tourist market. And the island now offers a complete range of accommodation styles and excels in both the quality of restaurants available and the number of world-class luxury resorts.


JP: Why did you decide to open Spirit House and why that particular name?

PM: Well I very much consider Samui my home now and the uniqueness of the project really appealed to me. The name Spirit House seemed the most appropriate name given the nature of the buildings and the surrounding environment. Spirit houses are present in most homes and businesses throughout Thailand and are a shrine to the protective spirit of a place, and in this case in seemed ideal given the spiritual nature of the setting. I was also very keen to promote an exceptional dining experience amongst the ‘ruins’ of a bygone era. And we have special packages whereby guests can combine a cooking class, spa therapies, evening dinner and accommodation if they wish. It’s also an ideal setting for wedding ceremonies and receptions and we’ve already had lots of enquiries about functions and events.


JP: How would you describe the cuisine at Spirit House?

PM: It’s almost exclusively Thai, best described as ‘Thai fine-dining’. Whilst our emphasis is on providing quality food, equally as important is our presentation and service. The presentation of the dishes is in keeping with the style of Royal Thai cuisine both in our tableware, which is Benjarong porcelain, and the decorative presentation of the food with carved vegetables and fruit adorning each plate. Completing the look is the restaurant staff who are dressed in traditional Thai court-style silks.


JP: Can you make some recommendations from the menu for us?

PM: Our ‘Wild Rainbow Lilies’ is an old, traditional appetizer with wild betel leaves, fresh sea prawns, shredded coconut, crushed peanuts, spices from our garden and a tangy sauce. And to start with I also love the ‘Golden Egg Nets’ which comprises a delicate laced egg wrap filled with chicken, peanuts, bean sprouts and a sweet vinegar sauce. For main courses, I’d suggest the ‘Steamed Coconut Pancake with prawns and scallops in a green curry sauce’; the ‘Tender Beef Fillet Thai-style with lemon-grass and black pepper sauce’; and one of the house specialities, our ‘Hor Mok’ which is a hot and spicy seafood curry served in a coconut.


JP: What skills and attributes do you need to be successful in what you do?

PM: In this particular project, initially a vision, and then patience and perseverance as there was a great deal of fine detail required to ensure the continued authenticity of the architecture and character of the project. However, most importantly for me as a property developer was the appointment of professional staff with the same personality and passion for the project as my own. I was very fortunate in this area with the appointment of my consultant, Khun Taweechai, who has played an integral role in both the refurbishment of the project and appointment of staff, and also my personal assistant, Khun Wilaiwan (Joy), who has been instrumental in making things happen and guiding me along the cultural path.


JP: What do you hope to achieve over the next 12 months?

PM: Our objective is to establish Spirit House as one of the most celebrated restaurants and spas on the island with its great food in a relaxing environment offering a truly authentic Thai experience.


JP: Finally, Paul, when you get a moment to yourself how do you like to relax on Samui?

PM: Time to myself generally involves running, and I’m a member of the Koh Samui Hash House Harriers. However I derive the most pleasure from spending time with my youngest daughter, Sari.


Johnny Paterson


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