Samui Wining & Dining
Dropping In

For a change of scene, why not try Nora Beach and their theme nights!

 

6-7Nora Beach was their first. If you’re new to Samui, then you won’t know the name. But this was a resort that raised eyebrows. Up at the northern end of Chaweng Beach Road, a grand resort appeared, bearing the name ‘Nora Beach Resort & Spa’. It was imposing, and with a broad swathe of land that was terraced down the hillside to the beach. A few years later, the group built another two properties in Chaweng, hotels this time. And then, only a year or so back, they added their sumptuous 5-star flagship, Nora Buri Resort & Spa. This was the jewel in their crown and is one of the most prestigious resorts in Chaweng.

      Within a few years, the Nora Group had cleverly pegged a stake in the market that covered the whole spectrum of visitors from backpackers to VIPs, from comfort to opulence. But when you look around, you’ll notice one thing in common. They’re all styled with flair. The budget Nora Lakeview Hotel has contrasts of concrete and natural fabrics. Nora Chaweng Hotel has a tasteful pool area with a tumbled granite wall. The 5-star Nora Buri has the stunning award-winning architecture of their roadside stand-alone restaurant, The Barge. And Nora Beach has its entrance area. When you’re heading towards one of Nora Beach’s buffet theme-nights, you’ll only get a

passing glimpse of this as you pause at reception to ask for a buggy to take you down the hill (yes, it’s that big). But now you’ve read this, gaze upwards while you’re waiting. It’s a massive masterpiece of wooden sculptural roof work, complex and multi-layered, 50 feet above your head. But you won’t see any more of the style-sparkles until you get down to their restaurant.

      I reckon that ‘restaurant’ is a dirty word! To most of us, it means two or three rooms inside a double-glazed building, with the tables crowded right next to each other, and lots of waiters in white coats. On Samui the average night temperature is somewhere around 27 degrees or so. So not only have we never heard of double-glazing, but we’re not so keen on windows in the first place! The usual quality-restaurant here is a roof that shelters an open-sided space beneath, together with tables and chairs outside in the open. And that’s the basis of what you’ll find here at ‘Prasuthon’, Nora Beach’s seaside restaurant. And this is where the subtle styling kicks in again. Prasuthon is actually a very large space. But it’s based around two adjacent octagonal and open-sided dining areas, on several different levels, including a chunk of the actual beach itself. So not only can it accomodate up to 150 diners in total, but each of the groupings has maximum privacy, and a sense of seclusion from the others – very neatly done. You’ll come out in your buggy onto a little landing, just above the sand. It’ll be beautifully lit, with glowing floor-lights, spotlights highlighting the buffet tables and fairy lights spangling in the trees. And then you’ll be greeted and shown to your table – at which point the whole area will unfold in a series of linked and staggered warmly-lit nooks and crannies – delightful!

      Nora Beach has established an ongoing reputation for probably the best and most extravagant all-you-can-eat buffets on the island. People came from far and wide to dine here. The service and the quality and range of the offerings are second to none. Every Tuesday they feature ‘Siam Kingdom’. This is their Thai night, and features a huge range of Thai dishes, both hot and cold, and with live cooking stations preparing freshly-cooked pad Thai and barbecued skewers of pork, beef and chicken. Soups, curries and rice and noodle dishes are laid out in gleaming heated stainless steel covered servers – other dishes in crock-pots heated by charcoal – and there are countless sauces and dips and sides-dishes, too. And also meat, fish and seafood platters if you don’t fancy a totally Thai dinner. The troupe of Thai dancers appear at 8:00 pm for an hour of entertainment, together with their live (not recorded!) musicians, and all of it in the lively and rural ‘pong lang’ style that’s folksy and upbeat.

     Mark Thursday in your diary if you fancy something more international. This is the ‘East Meets West’ evening, and features mostly international dishes but with an element of Thai cuisine, too. Here the live cooking stations are always busy: you select your fresh seafood (crab, calamari, king prawns, mussels, fish) or your meat (beef or pork steaks or chicken cuts) and present them to the chefs. Minutes later, they’ll be brought sizzling to your table, cooked exactly to your preference. There’s a wide range of pasta dishes, plus a whole selection of side dishes; vegetables, potatoes, fries, mash, and so on. (But on any theme evening, you can opt for the normal restaurant menu if you don’t fancy the buffet.) And the entertainment is courtesy of the excellent ‘Mariposa Duo’, a very laid-back couple who know how to pitch things perfectly.

      Here’s a tip: get here around sunset-time. The happy hour here is exceptional – you will get all drinks at half price (not 2-for-1 as normal) and that includes all imported wines, spirits and beer. It runs between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm. And this alone is worth getting away from the beach and making an early start on your (buffet!) evening. Drop in to a theme buffet at Nora Beach and it’ll make your week!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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