Samui Wining & Dining
That’s The Spirit!

Discover far more than superb food at Spirit House Spa Resort & Restaurant.

 

16This is going to be a difficult story to write. One reason is that, apart from the outstanding restaurant, there’s just so much to tell you about. But the other aspect is trickier. The whole place is simply amazing. So much so, in fact, that I know before I even write it that I’m going to have to sidestep round every cliché in the book! Yes, it’s breathtakingly attractive. It’s also a ‘wonderland’ with ‘hidden delights’ around every ‘leafy corner’. It truly is like ‘walking into another dimension’ and using the word ‘experience’ is simply unavoidable. It’s one of Samui’s most ‘outstanding attractions’ – it’s Spirit House Spa Resort & Restaurant, and you’ll discover it in central Chaweng, just off the Chaweng Beach Road, near the turning for Laem Din Market.

Passers-by can have no sense at all of what lies behind the warmly glowing lights of the two-floor restaurant that they see from the street outside. But that’s not the first thing that catches the eye. Because the whole place is a ruin! Seriously! Back in Victorian times the English gentry had a fondness for building ‘ruined’ castles and temples on their estates. And this is in the same genre. What you see appears to be a ruined Thai temple with crumbling brickwork and jagged walls, in the midst of gigantic mature trees. And then a split-second later it registers that it’s all kitted-out with contemporary furniture and gleamingly-modern fittings and fixtures.

Some architects or interior designers would have found this too much of a challenge and would have ended up creating something ‘tacky’. But this – absolutely everything here – has been subtly and artistically crafted. It’s ‘wonderful’, in the literal sense of the word! Australian project-engineer and developer, Paul Mcdermid, took over the daunting task of renovating and restoring this abandoned plot (the ‘ruined ruin’?) half-way through 2010. “Everything was originally transported from the ancient areas of Chiang Mai and Ayudhaya,” he told me. “Even the brickwork. Artists were even brought here to paint the wall-murals. The entire area was created to resemble a small country village and the restaurant here sits within the ‘ruined’ centrepiece of the ‘temple’.

I’ll come to the restaurant in a moment. But if you follow the path along its side, peeping through the glowingly-lit trees there’s a two-floor block that contains the luxury apartments. Continuing onwards, the path winds past a tented pavilion at the edge of a small lake and skirts the spa and sauna, partly hidden in the foliage, and with yet more accommodation at the far edge of the water. And then you’ll have a shock as you wander past a group of peasants in a dimly lit area, all working in candle-light, weaving silk fabric; and then realise that they are life-like dummies (but convincing enough to initially keep the Thai staff away from these ‘ghosts’ at night!). And, still on the circuitous path, you’ll end up where you started, back at the restaurant.

And you’ll then experience another shift in the dimensions, as it’s not only on two floors but seems to keep expanding on different levels and linked dining areas, several of them small and intimate and most of them open to the stars. The focal point is the downstairs semi-circular bar with the big rustic painting on the wall behind. Like most restaurants here it’s open-sided, with huge teak pillars everywhere, adding to both the sense of spaciousness and also the feeling of being part of the ‘village’. Reds, browns and oranges dominate and this is echoed when you climb up to the opulent khantoke room upstairs. Low tables and the triangular-shaped reclining cushions, (mon khwan) harmonise elegantly with the polished Burmese teak flooring. Lanterns and candles glow everywhere. As well as the added bonus of being able to wander spellbound round the grounds, this has to be one of the most inviting places to dine that you’ll ever see.

Which brings me naturally to the fare on offer. It’s (not surprisingly) solely Thai cuisine, and there is a satisfying variety of dishes to choose from. The emphasis on everything here is authenticity and that goes for the food, too. (But, as Paul smilingly pointed out, the ‘authentic’ degree of spiciness can readily be adjusted to diners’ particular inclinations!) How about ‘Leaf Lilies’ (mieng kham); a starter snack wrapped in betel leaves? And then maybe onto the secret recipe of the curried fish custard (hor muk)? Paul and his chefs are constantly on the lookout for different regional dishes and, as well as all the usual favourite (and expected) soups, salads, curries, stir-fries and noodle dishes, there are some intriguing items on the menu.

But the number-one place in the food-parade has to belong to the indulgence of the khantoke experience, together with the traditional music and dance that goes with it. Reclining leisurely at one of the low tables, you’ll be served an authentic five-dish spread. Start with the fried pumpkin, head for the chili dish, onto the pork dip, the fried chicken and the pork curry. And when it comes to sheer style, the tableware is Benjarong, the expensive filigree gold and enamel plates long-favoured by Royal Thai Cuisine, even down to the presentation with carved vegetables and fruit aesthetically decorating each dish. And the service is ‘royal’, too, with all of the courteous and attentive staff clad in traditional court-style silks.

Actually there are a number of ways that you can take advantage of this unique restaurant and its surroundings; one of them being to actually stay there in the accommodation. There are not many places on Samui where you can live in a shady Thai village next to a lily-lake with a ‘ruined’ temple restaurant that’s only a couple of hundred metres from the beach! And then there’s the rejuvenating and pampering programs at the spa. And there are even Thai cooking classes – any or all of these things can be mixed together in different combinations.

And the final icing on the cake of the ‘Spirit House Experience’? After everything I’ve told you, you’ll find that the prices are astonishingly reasonable. Not only that but you don’t need to wonder about where it is or how to get there; a reservation includes free transport from anywhere in the Chaweng area. The unique Spirit House Spa Resort & Resort really is altogether something special!

 


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