Samui Wining & Dining
Picking Poppies

It’s well worth choosing Poppies Restaurant for its beachside dining.

 

11Live bands and DJs rocking the night away. That's what you hear walking along parts of Chaweng Beach in the evening. Now that's all fine and well should you be looking for a party. But what if you're not? What if you're looking for a little tranquillity, and a pleasant, peaceful dinner overlooking the Gulf of Thailand? Does that mean that you should avoid Samui's busiest beach? Well, walk along the southern part of Chaweng Beach and suddenly you come across a quiet oasis - Poppies Restaurant softly lit up for evening dining, with tables laid and glasses polished, ready to be filled with a perfectly chilled wine.

    Opened in 1994, Poppies is one of Samui's original boutique resorts, and is known equally as well for its restaurant as its accommodation. The 24 Thai-style cottages are set amid a tranquil garden complete with koi fish ponds, teak bridges and pathways that lead down to the restaurant and beach. The restaurant, built as a traditional Ayutthaya style pavilion out of solid teak, and its adjoining thatched sala, are located next to a rock swimming pool overlooking Chaweng Beach. Teak is known for its durability and considering the humidity and proximity to the sea, the building has aged well, and fits in beautifully with the tropical garden and red pitch-roofed cottages

      Speaking of durability, any hotelier on the island will tell you that it's hard to keep staff, and as soon as they are well-trained they move on. This is not the case with Poppies. At the helm of the Thai kitchen is Khun Wantanee, who joined the hotel at its opening, aged only 17. She prepares dishes in the 'southern style', and her ‘kantoke’ are a great way to experience Thai food. A kantoke is a balanced selection of small Thai dishes served on a rattan tray – perfect for sharing with someone else as you get to try several dishes. Choose from a traditional, seafood or even a vegetarian kantoke.

       And with Khun Wantanee taking charge of the Thai kitchen, that leaves Khun Noi free to head up the Western kitchen. According to General Manager, John Ens, Khun Noi has served under four notable expatriate executive chefs over the last 12 years, who have each made a major contribution to Poppies' success and reputation. And in 2009, management decided that Khun Noi was not only ready, but thoroughly deserving of the 'top job'. He's blossomed under his new responsibility and has introduced his own signature dishes to the menu. So with both head chefs being part of the Poppies team for more than a decade, it's no wonder the restaurant has such an excellent reputation for producing consistently good food.

      As John Ens says, “We aim to serve a good plate of food. If you want fish, you'll get a whole fish, not fancy foams and decorative plates. At Poppies we want guests to relax and enjoy tasty food in a beautiful setting – no live entertainment to distract from the moonlight over the bay and the sound of waves lapping nearby.” OK, so breaking their 'no entertainment' trend, on Saturday nights, Poppies hosts 'Traditional Thai Night'. Not only do they have six dancers and six musicians performing Thai dance and music, but there's also a Thai handcraft market set up alongside the swimming pool. Here diners can watch leather and soap carving, as well as other Thai crafts actually being produced and buy souvenirs too. The evening is a great way to escape 'Westernised Chaweng', and there's no doubt you're dining in Thailand as you sit around your kantoke under a teak pitched roof, listening to the unique sounds of Thai instruments.

      According to John, more than 30% of Poppies' guests are repeat customers, both those staying at the resort as well as outside diners. That tells you that the resort must be doing something right. In fact, the record holders recently visited for their 39th stay – first coming as a family with children, and now as a retired couple. And with not only the two chefs, but many of the serving and cleaning staff being with Poppies for years, it's no wonder they come back time and again; it must feel like a second home.

      On Monday or Tuesday evenings (it changes from week to week) Poppies hosts a cocktail hour from 6:00 pm, when drinks at the beachside bar are free for in-house guests, as well as diners who have pre-booked a table for dinner. This is a chance for guests to mingle not only with each other, but also with the staff. As Poppies has a live beach webcam, regular guests keep an eye on the happenings and email messages of 'wish we were there' and 'see you soon'.

      One drawcard of Poppies is that there's something for everyone when it comes to food. Those looking for traditional Thai cuisine won't be disappointed, yet there's an equally extensive Western menu. Word on the street is that the duck breast dressed with strawberry sauce and served on a bed of rocket and feta is a must-try. Travelling vegetarians will know how hard it is to find good meat-free options, and Poppies is worthy of a mention here. The vegetarian menu is vast, and even indicates which dishes are lacto-ovo and which are vegan.

      So if you've never been to Poppies before, perhaps it's time to see why so many others come back year after year, and add yourself to their ever-growing number of repeat guests.

 

Rosanne Turner


 


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