Samui Wining & Dining
A World Within A World

Discovering the tranquillity of The Library its unique restaurant, The Page.

 

17Koh Samui. An island of contrasts. A jewel set in a placid sea, bestrewn with coconuts and fringed by a thin ring of flat land around the beach perimeter. An island where remote and unspoiled bays lie only minutes away from shopping malls and discos. A place where the frenetic energy of full-on nightlife sits side-by-side with small oases of tranquillity and calm.

Of course, it’s in the nature of things that not everything is able to exist all in one place. Well, quarks and modern quantum mechanics aside, it’s only to be expected that you’ll have to travel at least a little way outside Chaweng before you can find solace. A flat rock on an empty beach where you can settle with a book and lose yourself; undisturbed for an hour or two. Well, that’s the way it used to be. Up until 2006, that is. Because that’s when The Library appeared.

Let’s try this approach. Take yourself down Chaweng Beach Road, southwards away from the landmark of the Soi Green Mango towards that other icon of modern living, McDonald’s. Goose-step your way with one foot in the gutter and the other on the pavement which the opportunist tailors are semi-blocking, simultaneously dodging the constant flow of tooting taxis and kamikaze motorbikes. Close your ears to the crawling loudspeakers vans blaring away. Ignore the thumping beat of the DVD and music stalls. Fix your gaze resolutely ahead and to the left whilst politely declining the invitations of the massage girls. Go past McDonald’s and slow down. Look for the small white statue of a reclining mannequin reading a book on the opposite side of the road. Turn left into ‘The Library’ at this landmark.

Almost immediately the bustling world starts fading away. There’s a broad lane of high, neat bamboo fencing which opens into a big parking area. The reception area is just to your left. Announce yourself and your quest for peace and harmony, and then allow yourself to be serenely guided into the inner sanctum – and be prepared for a shock: there’s hardly anything there.

Which, of course, is all smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand. Broad rectangular lawns separate the plain white blocks of the accommodation, with an acre of clean green space between them that’s dotted with more reclining statues with books. But those minimalist studios and suites conceal the height of cutting-edge décor: what’s inside makes New York penthouses look shabby.

A further eye-slap is the swimming pool. It’s bright red. Well, closer peering reveals that it’s actually a pointillistic mix of red, orange and yellow, but ‘red’ will do – certainly that was how Tour Advisor referred to it when they bestowed an award upon it last year. And next to that is yet one more ‘page’ in The Library; The Page restaurant.

The intention here is to be deliberately minimalist; clean, simple and uncluttered, with colours kept to a unified minimum. But the entire concept is based on the universal leisure activity of reading – hence the name. Everybody reads books on holiday. Here, there are no distractions of any sort. Everything is conducive to reading,” the resort’s General Manager, Khun Jirapa Akkaraj, explained to me. “Even the restaurant is laid-out with the expectation that guests will bring a book with them.

As you might by now have gathered, the décor of this fine-dining restaurant is simple and the furniture an interplay of black and white with highlights of red dotted about the tables. Quite possibly the only thing you’ll see at The Library that isn’t rectilinear and coloured black, white, grey or red is what’s served up on the plates!

Like most ‘restaurants’ in Thailand this is more than just an open-sided room, and the dining area takes advantage of the 50-metre long terrace overlooking the sand, under the shade of a line of gigantic trees. The entire ethos here is that of comfort and relaxation and so there are the expected and regular tables and chairs, but there is also a choice of low tables with deep scatter-cushions, and even a few thickly-padded reclining loungers dotted about; presumably so you can keep on reading whilst you nibble!

There are separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, in keeping with the contemporary outlook of the resort, there’s a big section dedicated to vegetarian food as well as an extensive menu for children. Elsewhere in other similarly salubrious situations you’ll usually find a set pecking order with the chefs; there’s one ‘boss’ and all the others graduate down below him. But here it’s more egalitarian. Khun Nopparat Suaprasit is the ‘Head of Kitchen’ but he’ll be the first to declare that it’s actually a team situation with everyone working together and contributing their own particular skills. Several times a year visiting international chefs come here to hold cuisine workshops and the whole brigade is avid to learn and inwardly digest new ideas and techniques. And then apply them.

The menu is nothing short of 5-star, the service, too, although this is marginally masked by the emphasis placed on enjoyment. It’s the epitome of ‘informal’. You can flop-out full-length and eat a meal fit for a Japanese emperor, if you’re so inclined/reclined. The dinner menu is impressive and the Wagyu beef items are individually graded as to their International Marble Score (MBS). For the more bookish amongst us this simply means how tender it is: a score of more than 9 means it’s so succulent that it’s hard to get it on your fork in one piece. The Kobi Wagyu here rates 8-9.

But although the dinner period is the most alluring, with the myriad red candles and lights shimmering and dancing on the simple symmetry of the surroundings and echoed by that surreal red pool, you’re more than welcome to come along at any time. Everywhere has complimentary WiFi, so those emails home can be sent from a cocoon of tranquillity and peace. There’s even a splendid happy-hour (buy-one-get-one-free for all beverages, including selected wines) from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, when you can catch those dying rays. What a refreshing alternative to yet another day at the pool along with all those other ‘happy families’. You could even bring a book to read for a while although The Library’s library is well stocked and you’re welcome to borrow.

Everyone needs a change sometimes. And whilst some people go out on daytrips and others take to the water, the informed simply sidestep into The Library.

 


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