Samui Wining & Dining
Exploring the world of Poppies Samui – great food and drink, and some mystery too.

Exploring the world of Poppies Samui – great food and drink, and some mystery too.Whether you’re in the mood for a snack or are famished, looking for Thai cuisine or international, there’s one address on Samui that visitors and island residents alike return to over and over again. It’s a place that’s stood the test of time – Poppies Samui. Visit and you’ll pick up on the family vibe, eat and you’ll be seduced by the sheer freshness and flavour of the food. Poppies opened in 1994, and is still just as popular as it ever was. That’s a long time in Samui’s history. You’ll still find Poppies in its original location, at the south end of Chaweng Beach Road, and it’s just as much a leader as it was back then.


Poppies is quite unforgettable – in the best of ways, and also the most unexpected, too. The approach to the restaurant is eye-opening, to say the least. If you come in the evening, staff will show you a hidden passage. A door in a wall opens to reveal a tiny windowless room with a bookcase. Nothing to see – until the bookcase, a secret door, is swung back to reveal an enigmatic passage that takes you all the way down to the restaurant.


It was used, and still is, to bring food and whatever’s needed to the restaurant, without disturbing the guests. It runs the entire length of the resort, and is an adventure in itself. It’s lined these days by paintings that depict the Poppies story, from when it was first an empty piece of land all the way through to when it became a beautiful garden, dotted with cottages.


James McManaman, the affable General Manager here, oversaw the opening of Poppies, and knows what each of those pictures represents. Basically, it’s a story of love and devotion, with many of the staff staying for years. Like many of the guests, they seem to have fallen under the spell of Poppies. All this may seem irrelevant if you’re in search of a great meal,Exploring the world of Poppies Samui – great food and drink, and some mystery too. but everything plays its part. It’s a bit like dining with a family that welcomes you in and serves you the very best. The staff know their restaurant intimately. Have a question about the way you’d like your food and they’ll know just what to do, passing your needs and wishes on to the culinary team. They’re brilliant at giving their guests a wonderful time.


Continue on down the passage and a chef will appear, bearing amusebouches. Just one of the small grace notes that Poppies is famed for. Another comes after your meal, when you’ll be given a complimentary shot glass of Kahlua.


If secret passages aren’t your thing, don’t worry, because the usual approach to the restaurant, through the garden, is every bit as good. Winding paths, a pond filled with carp and masses of tropical greenery make this walk seem like something that’s stepped out of a fable. It’s also highly relaxing, a feeling that will only deepen the longer you spend at Poppies.


Dine in the main pavilion made of Burmese teak, a smaller sala close to the sea or outside on the terrace right by the beach. Whatever your choice, you’re guaranteed a relaxing, laid-back time.


The menu consists of the best of international and Thai cuisine. In restaurants that serve both, it’s often the case that one or other is underrepresented or just, well, not as good. Not at Poppies, though – both cuisines are equally delectable. In addition,Exploring the world of Poppies Samui – great food and drink, and some mystery too. the menu has had some 25 years of refinement. Thousands of hours of thought have gone into it, and the results speak for themselves.


Thanks to Poppies having a Thai chef and an international chef, there truly is something for everyone, whatever you’re hankering after. Top quality abounds in the international menu with a gamut of steaks, seafood and vegetarian dishes, all guaranteed to be every bit as delicious as the Thai side.


If you’d like to try something special, not seen too often on Samui, try the ‘kantoke’ menu. A kantoke is a traditional style shared meal. The word actually means ‘tray’, and the meal is named after its container. The tray, when it arrives, isn’t a rectangle of aluminium but an old-style circle of rattan; it contains beautifully decorated china bowls, each with a different Thai treat.


You can opt for the four regions, vegetarian, royal Thai and seafood kantokes. These contain, variously, delicacies such as Northern spicy sausage and chilli pepper dip, penang red curry,Exploring the world of Poppies Samui – great food and drink, and some mystery too. sea prawns with garlic sauce and steamed curry crab meat soufflé with coconut milk – and that’s to name just a few items from these kantokes. So far, so tasty. There’s even an international-style kantoke. If you like those, you’ll also appreciate the ‘pinto’ set meal. A pinto is a kind of carrying device for food which is cooked and then placed in a duo of wooden containers. Here at Poppies, the pinto is put to great use with a selection of the best of the nation’s food being presented in the containers.


If you come on a Saturday evening, you’ll find there’s a further treat in store for you. A stage is built over the swimming pool, and guests can watch a series of traditional Thai dances with live music. The performances evoke the highly exotic past of Siam, more so with the bright colours and traditional clothing of the dancers. It’s definitely something that’s worth catching. Dancing isn’t the only event; at the same time, there’s a handicraft fair, with products such as buffalo skin and carved soaps.


Poppies is one of the most beautiful restaurants to be found on Samui, and with food and drink that showcases the best of Thai and international cuisine. This is one place that’s not to be missed.


Dimitri Waring


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