Samui Wining & Dining
Up the Hill

Some of the finest dining anywhere – at The Barge and Nora Buri.


12-13You don’t realise just how lucky you are! Well, unless you’ve been here a few times already, that is. Because Samui is a diner’s paradise. You’ve got it all. You’ve got the usual wonderful street food that you’ll come across everywhere. The local markets plus seafood restaurants on the beach. And then you’ve got a whole selection of fine-dining restaurants, too. Not to mention respected international chefs. Yes, here on Samui there’s the entire spectrum, from street stalls to 5-star. And one of the best establishments to fall within the latter category is Nora Buri Resort & Spa.

      Nora Buri is the flagship resort of the local ‘Nora Group’. They began life in Chaweng with Nora Beach Resort & Spa, and have since added three other resorts in the same area, with the latest, Nora Buri, appearing on the scene in the early part of 2009. They are to be applauded for the insight of their enterprise; they’re not part of a multi-national chain. But they are big enough and experienced enough to provide excellent service across the board. And at Nora Buri, they have created a restaurant that serves some of the finest authentic Thai cuisine anywhere.

      Their award-winning signature restaurant, The Barge, has become

something of a Samui landmark in its own right. You just can’t miss it: it’s right across the road from the main Nora Buri Resort which stretches away up the hillside. Although from the street, you can only see the upper roofline, as the main body of the restaurant, futuristically shaped to symbolise a huge wooden sailing barge, is tiered on three levels down the hillside.

      Actually, The Barge isn’t a restaurant – it’s at least two, if not more! To explain: the top floor contains the resort’s signature and superlative Thai restaurant, The Rice Barge. This is where you’ll find yourself as you enter the building. It’s undoubtedly the most dramatic of the floors, where you’ll be most fully able to appreciate the impressive architecture, with the sonorous hand-sculpted dark woods and the spiralling roof-space. The décor is delightful, dark-toned and mellifluous, and the colour scheme is equally subtle, the earth-hues offset here and there with bright splashes of primaries. There are the usual formal dining tables and chairs, but most guests opt to sit at the low tables with the triangular cushion-rests, known as ‘mon Thai. It’s also refreshingly air-conditioned!

      There’s a broad stairway that runs alongside Rice Barge, descending down to the level below. This is a wide and open area used for parties and functions. Continuing downwards, you’ll then end up on the open-sided lower level. In the mornings, this space is used for breakfast. And for the rest of the day it’s a general dining area. But in the evenings, particularly on Mondays and Wednesdays, it forms part of a larger space where the buffet evenings are hosted. And if you’ve never had the chance to enjoy a 5-star buffet, then you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

     The whole of the area really lends itself to just such a function and, knowing the way that the Nora Group are aware of these things, no doubt was designed with just this in mind. There are several levels and areas between the raised dining area and the swimming pool And twice a week, these are bathed in warm pools of light, and filled with snowy white tables and gleaming stainless steel servers. Dining tables are dotted about in groups between the buffet tables, and the live cooking stations where the chefs wait to prepare your meat or seafood. In amongst this, and over to one side, are more rows of tables groaning under the weight of every manner of salad, vegetables, breads, hot and cold side-dishes, sauces, garnishes, herbs and spices. It is, quite literally, a banquet, where you can sit, chat, be entertained, eat, drink and refill your plate at your leisure, as many times as you wish over the course of the evening.

      Every Monday evening, starting at 7:00 pm, the scene is set for the ‘Cowboy Steak Night Buffet’. Already the excellent 4-piece house group, The Barge Band, are quietly playing all-time favourites on a raised stage to one side. Live cooking stations are preparing the several pastas and spaghetti Bolognese, as and when you need them. And in another corner, chefs are ready to cook your cuts of imported Australian beef, spare ribs, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, chicken breast and seafood skewers. Just select what you want, tell them how you like it done and it’ll be brought to your table when ready.

       It’s much the same format on the Wednesday, but with the added advantage of being able to catch the sunset with a free cocktail session that starts at 6:00 pm. This time it’s Hawaiian Seafood Night, featuring live stations preparing blue crab, king prawns, fish, mussels and squid. But, if you fancy it, there is also duck, beef, chicken and pork dishes on and around the buffet tables, too, plus an array of assorted cuts of cold meats. The Polynesian dance spectacular is the big attraction of the evening, but with the Barge Band also keeping your feet tapping between times.

         There are a couple more points that require mentioning. Firstly, children under six years are free, and 6-12 year-olds are half price – although anyone can also opt to skip the cost of the buffet and go for the à la carte menu instead. Secondly – if you phone and book you place at least 24 hours in advance, you’ll also get a 15% discount. A couple of huge incentives there!

         But if you don’t want to be a part of the crowd, how about getting away from it all, up on the top floor and under the stars? Or down on the beach with your toes in the sand? This comes complete with your own butler (and chef too, with the top option) in a tented pagoda, complete with flowers and candles. The Barge is offering three different options, each of them outstanding. Which is yet one more reason to get out of Chaweng and head just a little way north, up the hill, to Nora Buri Resort & Spa!


Rob De Wet


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