Samui Wining & Dining
Stretching Out

Relaxing at The Patio, one of Lamai’s most laid-back top-end restaurants.

 

11Once upon a time . . . there were two hot-spots on the charming island of Samui. Both were relaxed and easy-going. And both were about the same size and style. There was Lamai which, although it was a big, sprawling area, had a lovely little centre, with a maze of side roads and bars and restaurants hidden around every corner. And there was Chaweng. This was a simpler layout, with one big, bold road running parallel to the beach, but with most of the night-life up around the Green Mango disco. In those days you could walk from the beach road right onto the sand, throughout most of its 3-kilometre southern stretch. In those days there was nothing to choose between these two areas.

      But time marches on. It’s anybody’s guess as to the reason but, over the next decade, everything then seemed to focus on Chaweng. Maybe because the airport was closer. Perhaps because the long and lumpy dirt-track that was the beach road suddenly got covered with nice smooth concrete. Who knows? But the fact remains that, although both areas expanded and became more developed, this happened more intensively in Chaweng. Today, some would say that it’s all been just too intense.

      Lamai has always seemed to have gone its own way and done things at its own pace. And, while there was a kind of frantic land-grab happening to its neighbour, Lamai quietly continued to expand, with a number of notable high-end 4-and 5-star resorts taking advantage of the slower pace and lower prices it had to offer. As it continued to sleepily move up-market, several of the existing bigger resorts re-modelled themselves to match. The original huts were replaced by modern bungalows and pool villas. Some even cleared their grounds and rebuilt again from scratch. The result was that, over time, Chaweng ran out of spaces to develop but Lamai kept on getting better. Today, you’ll find that there are some of the best resorts on the island, in and around this area. And one of these, right in the centre of Lamai, is Pavilion Samui Boutique Resort.

      First impressions, pulling up outside the bright modern frontage, are that this is a new resort. This is compounded as you mount the steps towards the glass cube of reception – there’s a gigantic orchid feature covering the lofty scrubbed concrete entrance that makes you reach for your camera. Everything you see inside looks brand spanking new, brightly contemporary, and tastefully put together. And yet this is not a new resort by any means – it’s been one of Lamai’s landmarks for a very long time. But it’s a sign of the times, and very much a symbol of what’s been happening in Lamai in the last year or so.

       This isn’t just a delightful resort – although you’ll find that there are 70 luxury rooms, suites and pool villas here, plus a boutique spa and two quality restaurants. The ‘Pavilion’ name extends to the five exclusive self-contained Pavilion Samui Pool Residences next door, and is also associated with several other prestige developments in the immediate area.

       The press blurb describes the styling here as ‘Contemporary Thai’. But I have to say that, apart from some of the ornamental carved wood and one or two of the more-noticeable roof styles; it’s far more ‘contemporary’ than it is ‘Thai’! Although, if you follow the path between the room block and past the lushly-gardened pool villas towards the beach, you’ll think differently when you see the restaurants. There are two here, conjoined, and dovetailed cleverly by a series of varying levels. Both are open-sided, both feature acres of rich wood, and both have impressively high ceilings covered with whirling, cooling, fans. But one is smaller and octagonal in shape, and the other is much bigger and rectangular. This is the resort’s signature restaurant, ‘The Patio’.

      There are two categories of quality chef on Samui. The first is that group of international chefs who have worked at 5-star institutions around the globe. The second is smaller and possibly even more exclusive – that group of Thai chefs who have worked internationally and have become seasoned at producing authentic Euro-style dishes with flair. The executive chef here is Khun Wasan Sontidechkul. He’s been at The Patio for the last nine years. And he’s spent more than 20 years specialising in Italian cuisine.

       If it’s any guide to his pedigree, before coming to Lamai he spent most of his professional life working for the Amari Group as a chef-instructor, touring the group’s 5-star restaurants and teaching other executive chefs how to go about preparing and cooking Italian dishes. And here, at The Patio, he’s put together what amounts to a showcase for his art. The menu is sectioned into three parts. There’s a full section of Thai platters, not only including the usual offerings but also some of the more interesting ones, such as the several duck dishes. And then there’s a section of ‘mains’, where you’ll find fresh seafood and the imported New Zealand steak cuts.

      But the star part of the menu, naturally, is the Italian section. There’s everything you’d expect. There are 11 different sorts of fresh salads, six soups (including clam and mussel), 13 different sorts of pastas (including papardelle), 11 different sorts of spaghetti plus a risotto and lasagne section. Chef Wasan makes all his pasta fresh every morning. And his pizza dough, too, to a special and secret recipe! But save yourself for the desserts. There’s crème brûlée and tiramisu, plus the star of the show, the ‘hot chocolate soufflé’. And I’m told that Chef Wasan was one of the first in this region to offer this delicacy.

         I could rave on at length about this menu – it’s one of the best à la carte examples around. But I also need to enthuse about The Patio’s theme nights. Most evenings see a different theme event held right on the sand, with alternative tables on the overlooking terrace. Monday’s are Thai Night with a two-hour dance show from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm. Tuesday sees the mix ’n’ match Pizza Evening, with fusion Thai toppings! And Wednesday features the Pasta Night, with 13 different pastas and a whole range of sauces and mixes. Saturday is BBQ Night and Sunday is Steak Night. All have live cooking stations where your selections are prepared on the spot. And every one is worth a dedicated afternoon out exploring Lamai, with dinner at The Patio as the highlight of the evening. It’s as relaxing as it gets – particularly when you find yourself stretching out on The Patio!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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