Samui Wining & Dining
Sky Lounge Neo

Shh, it’s a secret. Few people know that Neo at KC Beach Club has one of the best menus around!

 

20-21Just lately, for the first time ever, something new has happened. It’s all about the huge number of eateries on the island. Some cheap and cheerful, but a great many more much better. It’s common that the cheaper restaurants do good business. That’s understandable. The food might not be tip top, but that’s okay. The top restaurants, well, they do good business too – such is their reputation. But, for the first time, I’ve found one that doesn’t! It’s excellent, with fab décor, quality ingredients, an adventurous menu, a highly experienced English chef and a perfect location overlooking the sea. And it’s right in the center of Chaweng. But, in spite of this, it’s still something of a hidden gem!

      I have to add right away that this is not because of the price; it’s very reasonable. And I also need to make the point that I’m talking about dining-out in the evening. Because, in the hard light of day, it does a steady trade. The restaurant’s name is ‘Neo’, and it’s situated in the left hand corner, next to the beach, at KC Beach Club and Pool Villas, close to where Chaweng’s one-way road becomes two-way. Neo is on two levels, the lower one being open on two sides, shady and cool. The upper area, The Sky

Lounge, is floored in super-soft Astroturf, has an elevated view of the whole sweep of Chaweng Bay, and is pleasantly open to the sky. (Although there are wonderful overhead sculptural drapes that act as a weather shield if needed.)

      KC Beach Club is a relative newcomer to the Samui scene, having opened its doors for the first time in April last year. As beach clubs go it’s probably fair to say it’s midway between frantic and ultra-cool. Which makes it enjoyable without being intense. On weekdays, it’s quite low-key, with only a plinth stage and sound system as clues, and some very mellow sounds to lay-back to. But at the weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays, the pace and the volume both hike up a couple of notches. This is a popular venue to see and be seen. Where you can drift around in the pool between the floating islands, and let the beat wash over you. Often these pool parties will feature dancers, international DJs or live music. But all this winds down as the sun begins to set.

      To begin with there was an Italian restaurant where Neo is now, with no upstairs area. It was good enough, and fine for the daytime poolside trade, but it really didn’t draw the crowds at night. Of course, one of the problems with being in the middle of Chaweng is that there are a hundred other eateries within a ten-minute stroll. So the hotel guests all went out adventuring in the evening. Therefore, the obvious thing to do was to re-think the whole concept. And that’s where Executive Chef David Lloyd came into the picture.

     David is young, pleasant, energetic and creative. He’d previously worked for quite a while with top-end London restaurants before running his own gourmet catering company, which specialised in celebrity clients, mostly from the music industry. And he totally revamped and revitalised the restaurant and its menu. An upper floor was added and styled, and a separate evening dinner menu appeared. The cuisine is excellent: the beef and lamb are imported from Australia and New Zealand, plus there’s Norwegian salmon, soft shell crab and Wagyu beef. The slant is firmly International, and the emphasis on a revised classical approach. There is just a hint of ‘fusion’. But the real spirit of adventure shows itself most in the way David organises things.

      Firstly the dining area itself is one of the most comfy you’ll find, with cushioned couches and sofa beds, as well as the more-formal tables and chairs. And then be prepared to be pleasantly surprised with the presentation. The tableware is close to avant-garde, with tasteful chunky ceramics, slabs of glass and even planks of weathered teak appearing in lieu of the usual ‘plates’. And then there’s the way the actual menu has been thought out. There’s a full à la carte section, as you’d expect. But there are also several set-menu options, including tasting menus that come with or without wine-pairing.

         But where it really gets fun is the unique option for a premium-vodka pairing. There’s an extensive collection of award-winning vodkas from around the world – Chase smoked Vodka, Marmalade Vodka, Rhubarb Vodka, Bison Grass Vodka, U’Luvka, Belvedere, Ketel one, and others And each course of the tasting menu comes paired with a pure chilled vodka shot which matches each dish perfectly. This only happens once a month, when the moon is full, and there’s the unique Full Moon Tasting Menu (a special 5-course gourmet menu) – and you can also go for a wine-tasting pairing, instead of the vodka, if you wish.

         The cocktail selection has a range of interesting and original signature cocktails. Go for The Zatoichi, The Booty Shake or the Paddington. And then check out the nouveau ‘Local Flavour’ selection – blended cocktails using all fresh Thai ingredients, which recreate that essential Thai flavour. And between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm, the Neo Happy Hour at the Sky Lounge offers free gourmet sliders (mini burgers) to go with every order of a Neo signature cocktail. These whimsical and esoteric little burgers are whatever chef David dreams up at the time – maybe Wagyu beef and Onion Marmalade, or Soft Shell Crab with Spicy Ebiko Mayo, perhaps Saku Tuna with Wasabi Mayo and Teriyaki Caviar, or even a BBQ Pork Belly Chinese Bau with Plum sauce and pickled cucumber. Yes folks, the time to be at Neo is around sunset – it’s the perfect way to check it out!

         But the most astonishing thing of all is that Neo, and The Sky Lounge, are still a secret. Few people seem to know it’s there. There’s this marvellous mellifluous multitude of gorgeous gourmet goodies just waiting to be discovered. It’s first class and tip top. But now you know – it’s a secret no more. And, with this in mind, you’d better make sure of a booking, hadn’t you!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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