Samui Wining & Dining
Nice Rice

The Farmer Restaurant & Bar, set amidst Samui's only rice paddy, serves great food with a view.

 

8-9Ducks, geese and frogs. That's what you’ll hear chorusing a welcome when arriving at The Farmer Restaurant & Bar. Ask owner, Khun Lek, what she recommends on the menu, and duck is her first choice. “Everyone loves the duck,” she says. After spotting the ducks and geese foraging for snails and frogs outside, you may feel the duck is a little too fresh, but Khun Lek assures us that they buy their duck meat, and that the resident fowl never make it to the pot!

    Beach settings are beautiful. But when you've dined every day at a beachside restaurant, sitting amidst Samui's only rice paddy makes a pleasant change. The Farmer has 16 rai of land in Ban Tai, just off the ring-road along Samui's northern shore – most of which is under paddy. For anyone visiting Thailand that does not have a chance to venture north to the country's main rice-producing regions, a visit to The Farmer is a good way to experience a little of Thailand's agricultural traditions. As with most of Thailand's rice, Jasmine is the variety grown here, and they harvest twice a year. The paddies produce enough rice for the restaurant, so when you enjoy your meal and gaze over the greenery to one side, and look through the window to the open kitchen on the other, know that you're watching your meal 'happen' from start to finish.

      Browsing through the menu, you'll notice that most of the dishes are traditional Thai. Although here you'll find a few additions to the norm – for example, the massaman curry comes not only with the usual varieties of chicken or beef, but there's also mussaman lamb shank, and an option made with Kobe Wagyu beef too. There are several duck dishes on offer. Try the crispy fried duck served with a herbal sauce, mashed potatoes and salad, or the caramelised roast duck breast served with fried noodles in a honey orange sauce. Perhaps the Farmer-style BBQ duck with red curry is what tickles your fancy.

       As rice is such a feature at The Farmer, it comes standard with meals, and isn't charged extra. And this is no ordinary rice. No, here you don't get run-of-the-mill steamed white rice, but five herb-flavoured varieties, steamed in neatly packaged banana-leaf parcels. It makes quite a colourful accompaniment – there's original white, yellow turmeric flavoured, purple butterfly-flower infused, red rosella, and a green one coloured and flavoured with pandan leaf.

      Royal Thai Cuisine forms the main focus on the menu, and Khun Lek explains that these are recipes that have been passed down the generations in her family. In fact, you'll often find her cooking up a storm in the kitchen herself, where she feels quite at home. Rightly so, she's proud of the fact that The Farmer has been awarded 'Thailand's Best Restaurants 2011', as well as making it to TripAdvisor's 'Top 10 Restaurants on Samui for 2011' list too. The Farmer's curries are particularly good, and most can be adapted to a vegetarian version on request.

      The Phuket lobster makes an impressive entrance when arriving at the table, and if it could speak, it would be saying, “Look at me!” If you're entertaining guests and are out to wow them, the lobster's definitely the way to go. This 'King of the Andaman Sea' is served with a choice of Thai sauces – panaeng, massaman or green curry, or those preferring a western flavour could try it 'Farmer-style' - baked with mushrooms and a mustard and cream sauce, and served with pasta.

      If you have children in your party, lunch is a good time to visit as they can soak up farm life and feed the geese. While the young rice plants are in the 'nursery' where they sprout before being planted into the paddies, the geese are sent to 'jail' – a wooden fenced-in structure that prevents them from devouring the delicious young rice plants; much to the children's delight. Little ones who are not accustomed to spicy Thai food can try a pizza or pasta, and there's a selection of ice-creams available by the scoop which they can enjoy on the deck overlooking the fields and ponds.

      The restaurant's interior is as beautiful as the view. The look is modern-Asian, with colonial elements. Cement-screed floors and walls, a palm-frond ceiling with large wooden fans, rattan tables and chairs, soft greens that mirror the surroundings, and bamboo farmers' hats and artwork on the walls, create a look that is cool and calming. Those preferring to sit outdoors will enjoy the bar and deck overlooking the pond and paddies. At night fairy lights and lanterns turn the paddies into a magical place, and create a romantic mood. In fact, The Farmer is an ideal venue for hosting small, intimate weddings or other events, an alternative to Samui's popular beach weddings.

      As a favour to its guests, the restaurant offers a free transfer service from the Nathon to Bophut areas. Guests staying beyond this, pay only 300 baht per trip for up to 10 people in the minivan.

      Anyone looking for a taste of rural Thailand should try a trip to The Farmer. With its extensive menu, efficient service and unique setting, it's sure to be one of those 'days you'll remember' on your trip to Samui. And be sure to look out for the fattened ducks and geese...

 

Rosanne Turner


 


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