Samui Wining & Dining
It Is All In The Balance

15We visit Leelavadee Restaurant at Baan Chaweng Beach Resort & Spa where they’ve got the balance between Thai and international cuisine spot-on.

Arrive at night. Walk into the restaurant. And the space where you’d normally expect a wall is filled with clusters of distant lights. A star field as seen from the bridge of ‘The Starship Enterprise’ or maybe a distant city? Take your pick. It’s an arresting sight, something unexpected. Those lights turn out to be a lot closer than they first appear, as they’re the houses and resorts on the hills of Chaweng. Hills so steep that they appear almost vertical.

And if you come during the day, you're greeted with the spectacular expanse of the bay here, with those same hills rising into the sky and providing an impressive backdrop. But no matter when you come to eat here, you'll find that the location is exceptional.

Leelavadee Restaurant is part of Baan Chaweng Beach Resort & Spa, in the centre of Chaweng. A rather modest green sign – you have to pay attention to find it – directs you down a long driveway, at the end of which the resort begins. A path leads from the reception to the restaurant with trees and shrubs lining the way. At the end, the vista opens up to the sea right in front of you where there’s a large sala in which most of the dining takes place.

And do take the time to venture onto the beach itself – nobody will mind if you do so between courses, or even before you’ve sat down. The sands are really part of the restaurant anyway, with tables set right out in front of the dining pavilion. At night, enjoy the masses of coloured lights that give the area a kaleidoscopic brightness and, during the day, why not go for a paddle in that inviting sea?

The architecture of the sala is simple but stylish and roomy. Tables are well-spaced and you don’t need to worry that you’ll inadvertently elbow your neighbour each time you move your fork. And no chance of eavesdropping, either, unless the couple next to you are proclaiming their love for each other at full volume. Each table is its own small oasis of privacy – not something you can take for granted everywhere. And you’ll be made welcome at Leelavadee Restaurant whether it’s just a snack that you're hankering for or a full-scale lunch or dinner.

Take a while to browse the menu. The dishes are mostly a selection of the most popular Thai and international cuisine. This is simply food at its tastiest and time and time again it wins over the most jaded palates, with incredible ease. The lunch and dinner menu is the same, with the staff being very attentive without seeming intrusive; always asking you just how spicy you’d like your food to be if you are sampling one of the traditionally hot Thai dishes. It’s a small point but an important one. Too often diners can end up feeling their mouths have been seared or, on the other hand, that they may have missed out on spices they’ve been craving.

When I dined there recently with my wife, we were treated to an excellent dinner, with full marks for both taste and presentation. Plate after plate arrived with tempting delicacies, each perfectly cooked. We started with a simple appetizer, gar hor bai toei, which turned out to be bite-sized chicken, first deep-fried and then wrapped in pandan leaves (if you want to be incredibly polite, you can remove the leaves with a knife and fork, but it’s a lot more fun to unwrap them and eat them with your fingers).

Leelavadee Restaurant offers a select range of salads and we chose the chef’s bowl. When it arrived, it was surprisingly multi-coloured and turned out to be filled with a whole array of goodies. There were delicate slices of chicken, prawns, lettuce, crunchy strips of red cabbage, cheese, ham and even some grapes. A full meal in itself. The portions, by the way, are on the generous side. We also ordered steamed fish with plum sauce – you can choose yourself which fish you prefer – and this, too, was delicious. We opted for tuna and it arrived topped with steamed vegetables. We’d ordered fried rice to go with it and were most impressed by just how good this was. Though it’s one of the simplest Asian dishes to make, it’s virtually impossible to get it tasting this good.

With such excellent Thai food, you might think the International selection might lag behind. But not so – it’s every bit as tasty. In fact, it’s hard to resist some of the favourites that Leelavadee Restaurant has racked up – a whole arsenal of western temptations that are near-guaranteed to make you forget about dieting. Eight different burgers contend with delicious pasta dishes, for example, and that’s before you realize there’s a range of succulent steaks. Try the pepper steak for its juiciness, which comes with potatoes, rice or salad. And, by the way, that great British favourite, fish and chips, is also available. The wine list is excellent, too. Do choose a bottle from the Jacob’s Creek range or a tasty chenin blanc from Thailand’s very own vineyards.

For dessert, if you fancy trying something Thai, I’d recommend sticky rice with mango. Pandan is used to give the rice an extra soupcon of flavour, and the fruit, naturally, is 100% fresh. And if you hanker after something International, then picking the homemade banana cake with ice-cream is a sure bet.

Whatever your heart’s desire, there are many yummy delights awaiting you at Leelavadee. And the restaurant succeeds in producing both top-notch Thai and western dishes to the same exacting standards.


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