Samui Wining & Dining
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Italian-Thai beachside dining, at Punnpreeda HIP Resort in Bangrak.

 

9Punnpreeda is a ‘boutique’ resort. This word is used a lot nowadays, but it essentially means that you’re dealing with a small and friendly venue which is privately or family-owned. Punnpreeda HIP Resort is both small and friendly. And it really does qualify for that label of ‘boutique’, as it’s all really pretty throughout. There are acres of designer-poured concrete, offset by bubbling water features and antique wooden beams and ceilings, with dramatic splashes of colour here and there. The design is thoughtful, subtle and spacious, having been carefully laid-out to create a sense of freedom and space around the 25 villas and rooms. The central path, bordered by lush tropical greenery, runs down to the edge of the compact infinity pool that’s just a few paces from the beach. And right next to it, open-sided, fresh and cool, is the resort’s signature restaurant, Chill@Hip Restaurant & Beach Bar.

    This is an Italian and Thai restaurant which has quite a pedigree. The layout and menu – on the Italian side of things – was designed by masterchef Luigi Fadda. Luigi’s been one of the island’s personalities for quite a while now, and has earned the reputation of being ‘the Italians’ Italian chef’. He’s the guy that many of the returning Italian visitors seek out each year, both at Chill@Hip and also in Luigi’s other Italian restaurant, ‘il Salotto’,

that’s located in the very popular Fisherman’s Village, in nearby Bophut. He’s been working at top hotels all over Asia for more than 25 years and is also a member of the prestigious Chain De Rotisserie, an elite group of fine wine and food connoisseurs. (And if you want to enjoy some of the finest outdoor Italian cooking around, take a look at il Salotto on a Friday, when it’s the spectacle of ‘Walking Street’ and Chef Luigi, larger than life, is out on the street in front of the restaurant putting on a live display!)

      If you’ve been on the scene for as long as Luigi has, then there are two ways you can view things. You either become firmly set in your ways, convinced that everything’s working just fine, like it always did. Or you can be restless, and constantly looking for new ways to expand and improve. Luigi is in the latter category. About a year ago he completely re-vamped Chill@Hip, pulled out all the sliding glass windows and doors from round the edges and painted it all white – walls, tables, chairs, the lot. The result was a light, bright, fresh restaurant which extended out of the original dining space and onto the beach terrace outside, and now can seat up to 30 diners.

       At the same time he revised and expanded what was already an excellent southern Italian menu. It’s neatly sectioned into soups, salads, pasta dishes, fish, meat and desserts, with an substantial range of no fewer than 23 pasta and sauce combinations. The pricing here has always been realistic, as exemplified by, for example, the ‘Rack of NZ Lamb with Garlic, Rosemary, Fresh Vegetables and Salad’, which will set you back just 550 baht. There’s a whole page of special ‘Chef’s Recommendations’, too, and the ‘Beef Lasagne’ (at only 250 baht) is of the melt-in-your-mouth variety. But Luigi has his eye firmly on the passing trade on the street outside, as well as his in-house guests.

      “We have to be competitive,” he told me. “People (our guests included) want to get out and explore and eat locally – fair enough. But when our guests are going into the little Thai restaurant right next door instead of enjoying the quality and service in Chill@Hip, plus the great beach location, we had to do something. So now, every day we are running two specials. There’s a special Thai menu of ten of the most popular Thai dishes, including the typically southern Thai delicacy of ‘Duck in Red Curry Sauce with Fruit and Coconut Cream’. Each of these items is just 100 baht, and that includes the rice. And there’s also a menu of eight selected Italian dishes, mainly pasta-based, at only 130 baht each. That’s exceptional value for money and has proved very popular.”

      He’s shrewd, is Luigi. Because he’s tagged-on a happy ‘hour’ in addition to all this, where a selected range of cocktails plus all beers are two-for-one between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. This is absolutely perfect for sitting and catching up with your e-mails via the free Wi-Fi, enjoying the breathtaking sunset and then dining in service-oriented comfort. And, if you truly enjoy a drink or two, then you can spread things out until 9:30 pm, when there’s another happy hour!

      Finally, just a word about the ‘HIP’ part of things. Khun Nuttamon Songkijworakul – usually known as Khun Mon, the very-approachable owner and Executive Director – explained to me that Punnpreeda has a ‘Highly Individual Personality’. And so it does, in both the ethos of the entire resort and also in its super Italian/Thai restaurant – and there’s no way you can argue with that!

Rob De Wet


 


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