Samui Wining & Dining
Popping to Poppies

A Samui legend comes up with yet another winner – at Poppies Restaurant.

 A Samui legend comes up with yet another winner – at Poppies Restaurant.Contrasts. When you come here, they swamp you. They talk about culture shock, but that’s too vague. You’ve spent 24 hours on the go. You’ve come in off the highway in the rain, struggled with bags, coats and scarves, queued, checked in, waited, and flown. And then in a few short steps, as you de-plane at Bangkok, it hits you. This is real. The heat grabs in your throat and your whole body sweats. Just a sleep ago you were all muffled up in a grey cold land. And now the sky is so blue it hurts. You’re hot, not cold. The air is thick with smells, not thin and dead. All the walls have gone, everyone’s outside in the sun, they’re all smiling – and you just can’t wait to hit Samui!

Yes, for sure, coming here is a contrast in every way. And that applies to food too. Our little island has now become a gourmet paradise, with restaurants from beach-rustic to 5-star, and every national cuisine you could want. If you’re canny, the seafood was caught last night. If you’re discerning, the Wagyu is off the scale for tender. It’s a contrast in price too, as here fine-dining costs less than a pub meal back home. And, if you plan things well, you can dine like a king every night. At which point Poppies comes into the picture.

Poppies Samui is not just an island legend - it’s also one of the most breathtakingly pretty resorts you’ll find anywhere. It was initially the vision of John Taylor, who opened the original Poppies resort in Bali, in 1980. He initially met up with co-founder David Hill on Samui, in 1985, when they were both looking for land to buy But it wasn’t until they met again, in 1989, that the idea to build Poppies Samui was formed.

Construction began the following year, and the resort finally opened in 1994. Since then it has firmly established itself as an island landmark. It was just about the first ‘boutique’ resort here, with its new concept of bungalows kitted-out to Western standards, A Samui legend comes up with yet another winner – at Poppies Restaurant. and quickly made its mark with the quality not only of its accommodation, but of its outstanding service and cuisine, too.

Right from the start, the plan was to have a top-notch fine-dining restaurant. And over the years, Poppies Restaurant has featured the talents of internationally renowned chefs, and their legacy is still very much in place today. Most hotels and resorts expect a rapid turnover of staff – it‘s normal. But it’s always a measure of just how well-managed a place is, if staff are loyal and want to stay. And so here let it be said that, when it comes to eating at Poppies, the Restaurant Manager, Khun Renu, has been there since 1997, the Executive Chef in charge of International Kitchen, Khun Suwit, since 1998 and Khun Wantanee, now ICO Thai Kitchen, began in 1994. And that speaks volumes!

You’ll want to go there at night. Things are different in the day. The contrast is keen. As that big yellow ball begins to sink, the hard, deep sky-blue softens. As the day cools, the sky turns cobalt. While it does, ever so gently the roof of the sky draws down. Things become smaller, closer and cosier. Dimensions are more compact. And, coming in off the road outside, Poppies is a joy. Suddenly you’re in a fairy-tale, with little gingerbread houses peeping through the trees, a myriad of lights in pools and twinkles, glowing and sparkling, painting the twisting tiled paths with their gleam.

The restaurant, simply of the same name, Poppies, is perched up, right above the sand. It’s only when you emerge from the twinkling greenery that you’ll suddenly realise just how very cunningly designed this place is. It’s actually on quite a small plot, but such is its layout that it’s only when you emerge next to the pool and by the restaurant that you’ll slip back into some sense of scale. Every night is a delight at Poppies,  A Samui legend comes up with yet another winner – at Poppies Restaurant.but for the highlight of the week, pop in on a Saturday. This is when they have their Thai Night. Folks come from far and wide to experience it. The traditional dancing show lasts for a leisurely two hours. Musicians playing old traditional instruments accompany the six dancers. And there’s a super crafts corner, featuring the leatherwork, soap carving and wonderfully woven basketwork of local craftsmen.

But the real eating attraction (and something you can enjoy on any night of the week) is the fabulous ‘Kantoke’. The kantoke is a Thai style of dining where half-a-dozen small dishes of different foodstuffs are presented on the same tray – a kind of sampler, if you like. But here the chefs have elevated it to a rarefied dining experience that’s almost an art form in its own right. There are five different Thai options, (Traditional, Four-Regions, Seafood, Royal Thai) including a full vegetarian offering, and each of these are for two guests and come with two starters, three main dishes and a dessert, plus rice included.

And the ‘Western’ section features a ‘Selection of Small Seafood Dishes’, a ‘selection of Small Poppies Specials’, plus the ‘Poppies Seafood Extravagance’. And this is simply stunning, with an array of Phuket lobster, prawns, squid, scallops, mussels, blue crab and tuna fillet and coming with a choice of baked or mashed potatoes or fries, and with a dessert to savour at the end, if you still have room! Enough said; what more is there? It’s the prettiest place with the friendliest staff and the most fabulous food. Which, of course, you’ll find out for yourself – when you pop into Poppies!


Rob De Wet


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