Samui Wining & Dining
Shaken Not Stirred

Re-defining ‘the restaurant’ at Buri Rasa’s laid-back The Beach Club.


Shaken Not StirredIt’ll take you a while to get used to it. Things aren’t the same as back home. To start with you probably won’t even notice it. But after a while it’ll suddenly hit you. The lifestyle here is different: it’s hot, there’s hardly any rain and ‘rooms’ are what you keep to safely lock away your possessions. Here, nearly everything goes on out in the open. Well, almost, as there’s usually some kind of roof over your head to shade you from the sun. It’s a far cry from the world of double glazing and central heating. And what’s affected the most because of all this is the way you eat your food.


On Samui, ‘restaurants’ are mostly under the stars. Sure, there’ll be a ‘room’ of sorts, but it’ll be open-sided and probably host the kitchen, too. But most of the tables and chairs will be outside amongst the tropical greenery or nestled snugly together on the sand. What else, on a tropical island paradise! There are lots of ways to do this, some rustic and some chic. But The Beach Club at Buri Rasa cuts new ground.


Buri Rasa is one of Chaweng’s better-known establishments. It has a long-standing reputation for both quality and friendliness, from the elegant bungalows and smiling staff to the superlative Californian Fusion Cuisine of its betelnut restaurant. But that’s only a part of it. ‘Dining under the stars’ is an expansive concept. And ‘The Beach Club’ effectively expands the top-notch wining and dining experience at Buri Rasa out onto the palm-fringed terraces and down onto the beach below.


The hub of it all is the busy ‘open’ kitchen, right in the middle and over to one side. It’s near to the bar that overlooks the sand and fringed by lush green grass. Terraced wooden decking forms a dining platform at the edge of the beach and the more-usual dining tables and chairs are supplemented by low tables and big bean bags. Everywhere hanging lanterns spread their warm glow and the whispering surf is accompanied by appropriately mellow ‘lounge music’. It’s truly idyllic.


Sounds a bit exclusive and out of reach, doesn’t it? In truth it’s just the opposite! It’s all highly accessible and very much open to all, as the resort’s General Manager, Bernd Schillig, explained. “It’s about creating a harmonious environment where everyone feels welcome and relaxed. Formal dining just isn’t suitable for Samui. What’s needed is something more laid-back and up-tempo. And affordable, too,” he added. “Our intention is that guests have a wide set of choices of what to eat and this obviously reflects directly on what it’s all going to cost them. People aren’t reckless with their money any more. We would never dream of sacrificing the quality, but giving our diners more menu options represents much better overall value for money for them.


The world-renowned Californian fusion cuisine of ‘betelnut’ is one of these choices, as is the option to sample it either seated ‘inside’ or down on the beach. The décor is simple but attractive, with the big wooden ceiling fans forever turning lazily overhead and two walls covered in a collage of tones and textures formed by the dozens of antique wooden shutters that decorate them. Here you’ll be elegantly located at the edge of the action and looking out over it to the sea beyond. And it’s what some folks prefer.


But at The Beach Club this is just one of the elements. In effect, there are three sorts of cuisine to choose from. Firstly, there’s the Californian fusion of the ‘Betelnut Dinner Menu’, already mentioned. Then there’s the ‘Thai Dinner Menu’. Or you can opt for the ‘Beach Club BBQ Seafood Selection’. And, spinning-off this last one, there’s an even further choice, the ‘Cold Seafood Selection’; seafood platters served on ice. Which should just about cater for everyone unless they’ve a desperate urge to eat something from Mongolia.


But these are just the basics. The offerings at The Beach Club have been carefully thought-out to provide the public – you! – with what they want. But the management team have taken things even further. And to fit into their policy of value-for-money they’ve provided you with even more variety. And this is all to do with how you elect to order the cuisine of your choice – how much of it you want to eat!


For example, the Californian cuisine of betelnut has an à la carte menu, so you’re welcome to select just one of the exciting fusion items from this. Or you can decide instead to go for one of the ‘set meals’ that are available. And this idea of ‘sets’ is the key to the ingenious approach you’ll find in place throughout.


Whether your preference is for the fusion, Thai or seafood cuisine, each one is available in several ‘sets’, some more extensive and some less so, and each priced accordingly. Each set is comprised of two courses, a starter and a main, and there are four dishes you can choose from to make up your 2-course set. Explaining this on paper, in words, starts to make it sound complicated, but it’s not. What it all amounts to is that there’s a variety of different sets (and pricing) which allow singles, couples or groups the choice of ordering a table-full of dishes or just one item. You can ‘pick and mix’. It’s an easy, logical and flexible approach and one which has proved hugely successful.


Needless to say, and as you’d expect from a top restaurant anywhere, there’s a range of both New and Old World wines available. But ‘accessibility’ is a key-word here. Due to high taxation, wine is expensive in Thailand. And so, to mesh-in with the pricing concept, there are weekly ‘specials’ being offered on drinks. These vary: sometimes a complementary glass of wine or a beer is tied to one of the sets. Or perhaps there’ll be some special cocktail offerings. Whatever it might be when you turn up it’s quite definitely a part of the resort’s philosophy to provide ‘something for everybody’.


The location is lovely, the service is splendid and the quality cuisine is hard to beat. It’s highly accessible and undeniably affordable (the listed prices are inclusive of tax and VAT). Yes, at restaurants like The Beach Club you certainly know that you’re far from home in an exotic, tropical environment.


Rob De Wet


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