Samui Wining & Dining
Get Festive – Go Up

You’ll have to look up to see the latest very cool Black Canyon coffee shop!



         It took a while, but five or six months ago, Central Festival mall finally opened on Samui. The island was cautious. A couple of residents mumbled and muttered. But just about everyone else gave it a big thumbs up. It’s not only about shopping. Firstly, it’s one of the prettiest malls you can find – airy, cool, spacious, and with an ‘island’ theme that’s complete with huge trees in a central atrium. And then, because it’s quite big, there’s lots to do and see. But the best thing is the eats and drinks, plus the socialising that goes with this. It’s one of the most pleasant places on the island to meet up with friends over a bite to eat and a drink or two. And one of the quieter stars of the show here is Black Canyon.

         You might not be familiar with this name. But to most people in Thailand it’s well known. This brand has been around since 1993. And in many ways, it marked a turning point in the evolution of Thai social history – it was the date that the Thai nation decided to nod its head to ‘The American Dream’. Back in the late 1980s, American fast food had begun to appear. And a decade later, a craze for all things American was sweeping the nation. The very first Black Canyon outlet was opened in Bangkok in 1993, themed as an 1800s saloon, complete with a bar and wall-mounted saddles. But today, things have changed and are now more stylish and laid-back.

         Today, a visit to Black Canyon will surprise you, and pleasantly so. The old fast-food menu and clichéd themes have long since disappeared. Now you’ll find comfortable, functional furniture and pastel colour schemes. This is not merely a coffee shop; it’s a diner as well. And it is probably the first of the Thai café/restaurants of this genre, originally designed to appeal to Thai people earning Thai wages. Translated into the reality of today, this means an excellent range of quality coffees and a first-rate Thai and international menu – but at hugely sensible prices. This is a national chain, and the same high standards apply across the country.

      The first of the Samui branches appeared in 2005, coinciding with the appearance of the island’s first superstore, Tesco Lotus. It was an immediate success, and over the next year quickly expanded both its staff and its menu. The holder of the Samui franchise, Khun Anchalee Keeratiwithayanon, was quick to realise the advantages of a location like this, and she added another outlet when the second Tesco Lotus popped up in Lamai, at the end of 2009. Both of these branches are equally pleasant and share the same menu. And with quality filter coffee at around the 60 – 70 baht mark, it’s well worth dropping in for this alone. But, as you’ll discover in just a moment, the menu takes some beating, too.

      This year heralded the appearance of Central Festival mall. And in there, amongst some of the big international chain names, was the island’s third branch of Black Canyon. It’s not down on the ground floor, along with many of the other food and drink outlets. Rather it’s more discreetly located, and you’ll have to glance upwards to see it on the first floor, perched overlooking the main entrance on Chaweng Beach Road. Central Festival has three entrances, as it’s situated on a wedge-shaped plot. But the entrance that attracts the majority of visitors is this one, with its broad expanse of open frontage and Black Canyon up, and in direct view, on the floor above.

      This is actually an excellent position for street watching, particularly as it has two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the esplanade below. And it’s also deliciously cool, being air-conditioned. Plus, naturally, it comes with free Wi-Fi too. But, when it comes down to it, you’re here to eat and drink. And I have to say that the actual menu itself is outstanding, bright and glossy and beautifully laid-out, crammed with photos of the dishes and drinks, and with lots of interesting facts and tales in the margins, too.

      Among full range of filter coffees (too many to list here!) there are Euro-style cappuccinos, espressos and lattes, plus good old plain black coffee. In this climate it’s a joy to suck on a cold one – in this case there’s lots of iced coffees, but also iced teas, too, with or without milk. There’s also a wide selection of chocolate-based drinks, both hot and cold, as well as fresh fruit juices, fruit shakes and smoothies made with fruit and yoghurt, plus some very delicious frappes – such as chocolate chip, chocolate glacier or the exceptional cranberry chocolate frappe.

         But, as mentioned, and unlike some of the bigger names, which offer merely a snack or two, here the menu is substantial. It ranges from American-style breakfasts, with numerous extras and options, through to both Asian and Western lunches – plus a few fusion twists thrown in to liven things up. Fusilli noodles in tom yum soup, for instance, or spaghetti with red panang shrimp sauce. If you’re after something lighter and fresher, there’s a range of salads, like the grilled black pepper salmon salad, or the signature Black Canyon Caesar salad. There’s some substantial stuff, too – just check out the meaty rib eye steak, or try a salmon or chicken steak or even a pork chop. And all of these come with either French fries or spaghetti, or with a choice of funky sauces, such as black pepper, cheese or mushroom.

         But the bottom line is this: eat, drink, be merry, and then look at your bill. Nearly all the bigger dishes fall into the 150 – 250 baht range. The snacks are less than this. And all the drinks are very modestly priced. The cost of eating here will make you positively festive! And forevermore you’ll look up to the name ‘Black Canyon’ – whether it’s at Central Festival or not!


Rob De Wet


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