Samui Wining & Dining
Mellow Partners

Fine wine dinners, plus cool jazz at Rocky's.


9“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.” When Benjamin Franklin, the inventor, scientist and diplomat, said that in 1747, it was highly unlikely he was thinking about Rocky’s Boutique Resort. Which in many ways is a little sad. He was multi-lingual, multi-talented and keenly appreciated the better things of life. He would have just loved this wonderfully pretty resort on the fringe of Lamai, close to the ‘Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks’ (Hin Ta Hin Yai).

    It’s very much a family affair here, owned by Ole and Collette Larsen, with Collette liberally honing the design sensibilities she developed during her degree-course at art college. The natural landscape – idyllic enough to begin with – has been pruned and nurtured. There are huge, mature trees throughout, and it’s all a study in contrasting textures – from the antique panelling on the ceilings, to the knotty and twisted wooden sculptures that are subtly placed around. In comparison, there are bold splashes of red, with huge Chinese lanterns glowing in the trees and dominating the lofty ceiling of the open-sided main restaurant.


      There are actually two restaurants here, and each is equally as delightful as the other in their own complementary ways. ‘The Bistro’ has a bijou Mediterranean-lido feeling; cosy, warm, sunny and compactly woven into the shady area around the pool. As soon as you stroll through the greenery, around the bend and onto the terrace, you’re absorbed into a cocoon of relaxed well-being: it’s noticeably tranquil here. It’s the perfect environment to sit back and enjoy some of that ‘good living’ that Ben Franklin mentioned.

       And, if Collette Larsen is the guru of the aesthetics, then her comestibles counterpart is in the kitchen, his name is Azizskandar Awang, and he’s equally as sensitive and artistic in his own area of expertise.

       Chef Aziz has attracted several national and international awards and had previously worked at 5-star hotels across Asia before the Larsen team snapped him up. Possibly one of the best ways to experience the results of his creativity is to come along here on any Thursday evening. That’s when Rocky’s has their ‘Lobster Evening’ (advance bookings are a must!). Deploying only the finest imported live Canadian lobsters, Aziz offers you a choice of his preparations. Go for the ‘Lobster en Barigoule’ (lobster cooked in artichoke wine broth). Or try the ‘Lobster in Garlic Butter’. Or choose between ‘Lobster Thermidor’ or ‘Lobster a la Bordelaise’. One of the truisms about dining at Rocky’s is that the only thing that ever disturbs your peace of mind is the stress of deciding which one of the menu items to go for. Sometimes life can be hard.

      Even though both restaurants are just about as top-notch as you’ll come across, it’s ‘The Dining Room’, just across the tree-shrouded pathway from The Bistro, where the full fine-dining experience kicks in. Whereas the upper restaurant is bright, sunny, bouncy and super, The Dining Room is mellow, elegant, subtle and superb. This is where Chef Aziz teams up with Julien Valeix, who is not only the resort’s food and beverage manager, but also a talented sommelier. He’s constantly on hand to advise and recommend a suitable choice from the well-stocked cellar at Rocky’s. There are over 200 labels to chose from, both classical and New World offerings, and they are carefully selected and priced. One of the most popular sections is the ‘Set Menu’ which features either a five-course or a seven-course selection, both either being paired with a matching wine, or not. “We’re keenly aware that people today are far more cost-conscious than they were a few years ago,” Julien told me. “We would never, ever, compromise quality – anyway Aziz wouldn’t let me!” he added with a smile. “But, if you wish, you can simply opt for a single bottle of the wine of your choice, rather than deciding on a pairing for each dish. It’s up to you.”

      And I’ll just add to this that these delicious set menus feature ‘Poached Rougie foie gras au Torchon, Caramelized Perches, Walnuts, Mâche Lettuce with Brioche’ as a starter, with a main course of ‘Beef Rossini ‘The Dining Room’; grain fed Australian Tenderloin and Sauté foie gras, with Wilted Baby Spinach, Garlic Pain Perdu and Jerez Sauce’. And you’ll pay less than 1,500 baht for the 5-course set menu, without wine!

      But for some time now, in addition to all of this, there’s also been something special going on. It’s unofficially known as ‘Rocky’s Fine Wine Dinner’ and it seems to be set for the first Saturday of each month. This is where Julien comes to the fore, practising his alchemical (alcochemical?) arts and bravely daring to go where none have gone. “I go out on a limb here,” he explained. “I experiment for weeks, matching a dish with different wines. Each wine-dinner features a different set of dishes and matched wines. We do this all ourselves – many places simply hand the whole lot over and let their wine supplier choose. But even if a wine might be expensive, if it’s perfect, I’ll use it and absorb the cost. I even came across a humble Lebanese table wine that’s amazing; I like to be adventurous and surprise people!”

      But, as if a perfect pairing of food and wine together wasn’t enough, there are another two mellow partners appearing at these dinners. The name of Norman King is well-known around the island. He plays – no, he caresses – an antique saxophone that once belonged to his father. Victor Taboada, too, is well-known, but more for his Latin-flavoured guitar work. The two together become more than the sum of their parts, offering up the coolest of intertwined jazz melodies, adding to, enhancing even, and partnering certainly, both each other and the excellent food and wine that’s the essence of the evening.

      Which only leaves one thing to add to Benjamin Franklin’s observation as, sadly, he never got to experience the good life at Rocky’s Boutique Resort. Because, if he had, he would most certainly have noted “ . . . there cannot be good living without good drinking, great cuisine, and mellow partners too.” Enough said!

Rob De Wet


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