Samui Wining & Dining
FINDING TREASURE

Eating is just part of the fun of dining at The Sea’s lovely Café Lebay, on Bang Por Beach.

14-15

 

It’s true. It’s easy to miss things. And I don’t mean lost loves or childhood puppy dogs. No, they somehow, hauntingly, stay with us. Read ‘miss’ as ‘not notice’. And if you’ve ever driven around Samui you’ll know that all of your attention is on the road ahead. That’s why you can cruise past some stunning beaches, great restaurants and fantastic resorts and never know they’re there.

        Samui’s northern coastline, especially the stretch between Mae Nam and Four Seasons Resort at the crest of the hill above Nathon, isn't nearly as well known as other parts of the island. But Bang Por has quiet beaches, picture-postcard views of Koh Pha-Ngan and some excellent restaurants and resorts.

      One of the latter that stands out from the crowd is The Sea. It was originally built as luxury condominiums and villas for sale to potential investors. However, late in the day, it was turned into a boutique resort. And each of the 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites and villas are furnished as private residences would be, complete with full kitchen facilities. And the three-bedroom villas have their own private pool, garden and decking area. All the rooms are much larger than you usually find in other resorts and it’s perfect for families and for couples looking for privacy and quiet relaxation.

       Their restaurant, Café Lebay, is fully air-conditioned and sits at the front of the resort. It’s used mainly for breakfast, which runs from 7:00 am until midday, and for some lunchtime respite from the noon sun. Most diners though, whether during the day or in the evening, prefer the tables around the pool and on the beach. And a private area on the soft sand can be arranged for romantic dinners for two.

       Leading the team in the restaurant is Chef Took. She was born and raised on Samui and has over 20 years’ professional experience in several of the island’s best known resorts, including Centara Villas Samui and Samui Cliff View. It was helping out her mother from an early age that sparked her interest in the culinary arts. Many years ago, her mum ran a restaurant on Lamai Beach and that was her childhood playground. Chef Took’s knowledge of local ingredients, markets and key suppliers is a huge advantage for The Sea, and Resort Manager, Khun Yongyuth Singnon, couldn't be happier. “Very few top-class restaurants on the island have a female in charge. And even less have a Samuian. And for locals, it’s a small island, everyone knows everyone else and Chef Took not only knows all the key players at the markets, but many of them are family friends. We never have to worry about the quality of our produce, it’s guaranteed. And when she takes guests that are enrolled on a cooking class to the morning market in Mae Nam, they get treated like long lost friends.”

       Her menu is a mix of classical Thai dishes and modern International creations. The Sea attracts guests from all around the world and of all ages and many of them spend the majority of their time in and around the resort. And they dine frequently at Café Lebay. Chicken satays and shrimps with lemongrass sit comfortably alongside Greek and salmon salads and baked mussels with spinach and cheese. All the favourite Thai dishes are on the menu, made with recipes that are generations old, albeit with a few modern twists of presentation. There’re also plenty of pasta dishes and enough grilled steaks, duck, chicken, lamb, pork chops, salmon and fresh tuna to satisfy the hungriest appetite.

       And this month, as a promotion, Chef Took has three very special set-menus based around apples grown in Chiang Mai. The menus range from just 999 baht ++ per couple (not per person) to 1,299 baht ++ per couple, and tables on the beach will need to be reserved. Apples were one of the first fruits to be cultivated in the north of Thailand under the auspices of The Royal Project, an initiative of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej to help develop sustainable agriculture. During his reign, the King has promoted more than 3,000 projects in rural areas and they have gained recognition worldwide for their success in eradicating opium poppies and improving the well-being of the people. Thai chefs are always keen to support such projects by creating menus around the produce. Not only does it show the utmost respect for probably the world’s most revered monarch, but the fruits and vegetables grown are known to be top quality both domestically and internationally.

       Chef Took has created signature dishes for her cooking classes but you can also request special dishes, such as one of ‘The Apple Lover’s’ menus. All the cooking takes place in the actual kitchen, not in a temporary set-up outdoors. You are part of a real working kitchen and some of the other chefs will be alongside you preparing lunches. It’s about as hands-on as it’s possible to get. And if you want to spend the day at the resort you could also spend an hour or two being pampered at their acclaimed Vara Spa after lunch. And then take a mixology class with bartenders Khun Aek and Khun Khuen. They get you serving behind the beach bar making cocktails, spinning bottles and turning on the charm. And then you can order one and get one free for yourself during happy hours from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm.

       The Sea is much more than a boutique resort. It’s a home-from-home where you can relax, learn something new and experience a very different kind of Samui than that of those who simply cruise on by.

 

Johnny Paterson


 


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