Samui Wining & Dining
Style and taste on the same plate

Enjoy some playful plating at RockPool.

 

13Perched on huge rocks right on the edge of the beautiful blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, sits the spacious decking of RockPool restaurant. It is found in Kanda Residences, which is just a five minute drive north of Chaweng. ‘Kanda’ in Native American means ‘magical powers’, in Hindu it means ‘wise person’. It’s even been translated as ‘godly, heavenly peace’. In Thai, it means ‘beloved’. Whichever translation you choose, there is something very special about this beautiful location. The private beach is lit up at night and white fairy lights are strung around the railings on the decking. Whether you sit here or further up inside the actual restaurant overlooking the pool and bay, is up to you. In either location, you’ll be able to indulge in some good, honest food that not only tastes great, but looks stylish too.

      The person with this seemingly huge responsibility is David Lloyd, Executive Chef at RockPool. David was thrown in at the deep end when he started in mid-December last year, just before the Christmas rush. But, bringing with him a wealth of experience from his many years working in kitchens all over Europe and Australia (as well as three different Michelin-starred restaurants), David sailed through the busy festive season and settled into his new home with the minimum of fuss.

      David’s experience of being a chef and running his own London-based catering company meant he had experience of dealing with high volumes of people. 2,000 festival-goers has been his biggest event so far. But soon he sought to have his own restaurant, and started researching places and options, spending time trying to find the right place to make his mark. As fate would have it, he and his family were holidaying on Samui and were enjoying lunch at RockPool. They ended up chatting to the chef who was moving on and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

      RockPool already had a great reputation so David didn’t change much but some tweaking and updating were required in order for him to stamp his personal style on the restaurant and kitchen. He has a kitchen team of 12 who have accepted him and his new way of doing things, and they are continuously developing together into the great team that you’ll find there today.

      David has a very relaxed way of running his restaurant. He is humble and modest, even with his impressive past experience. He is always keen for guests to understand where the food has come from and perhaps why a particular dish has been combined in a certain manner. He is very open to feedback, and happily interacts with the customers and encourages discussions about food and wine. He even replies to comments on TripAdvisor, with an honest, open approach.

      He also makes sure all his staff understand the ingredients and tastes involved with his dishes so they can explain, if need be, to the guests how eat them. For instance, the different ingredients making up the ‘Miang Trio’ on the dinner menu need to be eaten together to fully appreciate the layers of flavour. If you were to taste just one ingredient on its own, you’d be confused and disappointed. Taste them together and your mouth will be forever grateful.

       Smoking at the table is not permitted in most areas of the restaurant, unless you order the Scottish salmon starter, which is served in a glass bowl filled with applewood smoke. The waiter serves the dish by releasing the smoke from the bowl revealing wild rocket, pickled mushrooms and slices of home cured salmon.

      David was born and raised in England, and admits that even though he is fascinated with the Thai people’s obvious love of food, he does sometimes miss the comfort foods of his home country. And you can sometimes see it sneaking through in various dishes on the daily featured dishes menu. Dishes such as Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese with black truffle, crispy pork belly and if you’re a fan of Scotch eggs back home, you’ll find a slight variation of them here with Thai curry paste and lime leaf mixed into the sausage meat. If lamb is something you crave, grilled lamb chops are part of the tapas menu, which means you can sample other dishes too. Cooked pink to perfection, tender and tasty, with mint, yoghurt and pomegranate molasses. Delicious!

         David is very passionate about his cooking and the food he serves. He appreciates style and flair in both cooking and serving, but is adamant that this has to be backed up by good flavours. What good is a dish that looks fancy but disappoints after the first mouthful? He loves playing with textures, and this shows through in some of the meals on offer. A signature dish, ‘Crackle Prawns’ found on the tapas menu, is king prawns covered in dehydrated pork skin which has been grated and used as a coating instead of the usual breadcrumbs. When this dish is brought to your table, if you listen carefully, you can actually hear the crackling sound. Your first bite will be a savoury, crispy crunch followed by a tender, succulent prawn. The yuzu mayonnaise served on the side adds a creamy element which complements the crunchy prawns perfectly. Other items on the dinner menu have great colours and textures which bring the dishes to life. Pickled purple shallots, Parma ham wafer crisps, potato tubes and even ice globes are used to present the dishes.

         RockPool is open from 7:00 am and last orders in the restaurant are taken at 10:00 pm. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner here - classic, simple dishes made from quality ingredients. As much as David would like to source everything locally, he is somewhat limited living on an island. He needs to import some ingredients, ensuring guests get the best produce available and uses local markets when he can. He does however, use the sea vegetables and edible flowers from the gardens around the restaurant - you can’t get much more local than that.

         So if you’re after stylish food which is full of flavours and textures, but without being pretentious, head over to RockPool, book your table, sit back and relax and enjoy your meal. Unless it’s his day off, David is sure to pop over and say hello!

         

Colleen Setchell


 


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