Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for lunch at Maenam Cheer on Maenam Beach.

21It’s amazing that I still get recommendations from friends about restaurants that I’ve never heard of. Given my job and my love of food I’ve probably been to more restaurants on Samui than most people. And yet there are still some right on my door-step that I don’t know anything about, let alone dined in.

Maenam Cheer restaurant is on the beach and I pass the sign on the road for it several times a day and yet hadn’t made it down there to eat in all my years here. It’s a beautiful spot and I’ve walked past here many times; the wooden bridge across the river mouth looks antiquated but it’s clearly well-built as it took my weight no problem. During the rainy season and when the tide is high it can be tricky to cross the river where it meets the sea and there’s just something about old wooden bridges that invite you to test their sturdiness. The turn-off on the road is between ‘My Bar’ and the Police Station as you’re coming from Chaweng/Bophut and there’s a large sign for it. Just follow the rough track for several hundred metres and the restaurant is right in front of you, to the left of the bridge.

There’re great views of Koh Pha-Ngan from Maenam Beach and at times it appears as if you can almost reach out and touch the opposite shoreline and it’s a view I never tire of.

Khun Surat Promjan and her family own and run the restaurant. Opened about four years ago, it quickly gained a loyal following from locals and expats around the area. And as they have eight bungalows on the beach for rent (starting at just 500 baht per night), lots of tourists have come to know and frequent it. Well spaced-out tables inside the restaurant and more on the beach means you get peace to enjoy the setting and the food. Over the years they’ve added to the English-written menu to include Western-style snacks and meals but it’s their Thai food that most people come for. The restaurant’s open on three sides so you can fully appreciate the vista around the bay. And you’ll notice that just beside the kitchen they have a fresh-juice bar. All the shakes and juices are made to order and I’d recommend the chilled watermelon as a refreshing start to your meal.

They open the restaurant at 8:00 am for breakfast (last orders 10:00 pm) with omelettes at 70 baht, eggs on toast with ham and cheese at 80 baht and plenty of other choices including pancakes with honey and jam that are particularly tasty. Flipping through the menu you’ll see a whole page of appetizers such as spring rolls, satays and soups (60-100 baht) and another page of snacks, sandwiches, burgers (50-120 baht), 15 pasta dishes (70-100 baht) and salads (50-80 baht). There’s another dozen or so Thai-style salads (70-90 baht) and I often like to have a spicy seafood salad on the table but if you’re not keen on chilies then just ask for one without.

When it comes to main dishes, you’ll find that each stir-fry, fried rice, noodle or curry comes with a choice of either chicken, pork, shrimp, mixed seafood or vegetables. Priced between 50 and 90 baht there’s sweet and sour, Thai coconut curries, green curry, panang curry and my favourite, the stir-fry, fried chili with basil leaves. Noodle dishes like phad Thai and raad na abound and they have some very good soups including the famous tom yum goong and the creamy, non-spicy tom ka gai. As you would expect, whole fresh fish is available all day, although you will have to ask what’s on offer as it changes depending on what’s available at the market or what the local fishermen have brought round. Typically there will be snapper and seabass and a whole range of crustaceans which are priced by weight and always good value for money.

Our photographer, Khun Krit, and I went along at lunchtime and we opted for three dishes – which was far too much as it turned out. As is customary in Thai restaurants, all the food tends to come out together and we spent 20 minutes spooning a spicy prawn soup, a green curry, fried cashew nuts with mixed seafood and some rice onto our plates. Thai food is meant to be shared which is why you’ll always get a separate plate to place your food onto. It’s polite to just take a few spoonfuls onto your plate at a time and if you’re on a big table with a group it isn’t considered rude to stretch across the table.

Beers start at just 50 baht, wine by the glass is 120 baht as are cocktails and they stock all the usual soft drinks. The service is prompt and we felt very welcome and a good lunch can be enjoyed for around 70 baht per person, although it’s worth spending a little more simply to try different dishes. Maenam Cheer restaurant is brilliantly situated, Khun Surat and her family are always pleased to welcome you and their food has stood the test of time and is great value for money. That’s four very good reasons to stop by and I can’t think of one reason not to.


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