Samui Wining & Dining
Tuned To Perfection
It’s what goes on behind the scenes at The Tongsai Bay resort that makes it run so smoothly.


Tuned To PerfectionThink about a car. Or a washing machine. Or any other piece of modern machinery. On the outside it’s sleek and polished, attractive and easy on the eye. But under the surface, it’s complex and convoluted, with dozens of parts all interlinked and dependant on each other. If one part isn’t working efficiently then everything suffers. And it’s exactly the same with a successful resort. And what’s under the bonnet doesn’t usually concern us. We don’t even think about it. We just get in and enjoy the drive. Or, in this case, enjoy our stay, our vacation, our meal.


Every resort has a ‘concept’, either as a theme or as an underlying policy which runs throughout. And then onto this framework are hung all the departments: guest management, housekeeping, maintenance, and so on, with the food and beverage department being at the heart of everything. It’s the life-blood of any good resort. And how it’s all approached and managed should be a serious business. Which is exactly how the management feel at ‘The Tongsai Bay’, an outstanding resort which is tucked away on the island’s secluded and unspoiled north-eastern tip, just along from Choeng Mon.


The Tongsai Bay wears the badge of being Samui’s first 5-star hotel, having been constructed in 1987. But from the start it was a resort with a difference. Not only was it influenced by Mediterranean styling but it was eco-friendly long before being so became a popular trend. The villas were built around the mature trees and not a rock was moved; with the result being that, today, its 25 acres have evolved into an unintended wildlife resort where species of butterflies, birds and tropical plants, now rare elsewhere, can still be seen. The Tongsai bay conscientiously recycles all of its waste. And it even has its own small ‘farm’ which supplies the restaurants with organically grown fresh vegetables, herbs and spices.


There are two top-notch restaurants here: the upper and airy. Firstly, there’s Chef Chom’s Thai Restaurant, set in an L-shape at the side of a series of descending open square terraces that are reminiscent of an Italian piazza. This is an effortlessly laid-back eatery with a delightful time-warp atmosphere that conjures sensations of the languid Colonial era.


And then, as a glorious contrast, down the hill and alongside the beach, there’s the lovely Po-Lad Beach Bistro & Bar, replete with swaying palms and a picture-postcard beach. This is the essence of tropical dining under the stars, with scrubbed wooden flooring, darkly-latticed tables and chairs and a plethora of natural fabrics and timbers. In the daytime, it’s a shady tropical haven and at night it shimmers and glows with a warmth all of its own.


So, that’s it, then. Two absolutely perfect restaurants. All the food and beverages that anyone could want and service with a smile to match. And a major player in making it all happen is Mark Krueger, the resort’s Executive Chef, who has a pedigree in running 5-star operations that’s the envy of many. “The F&B set-up runs right throughout everything,” he explained, “from the obvious and scheduled restaurant meals, to snacks and refreshments by the pool, in-room dining or private dining on the beach. But it spreads into all sorts of other areas, too. A packed-breakfast for guests who have to go to the airport at dawn; catering and refreshments for parties; MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events) gatherings or weddings, plus of course the endless supply of cool drinks that are needed in a hot climate. But these are the elements you can actually see. Keeping them scheduled and stocked is one thing. But what goes on behind the scenes is another set of dynamics altogether!”


And as the resort’s Food & Beverage Manager, Pi Tui, points out, running an F&B operation is the same a running a business. It’s highly accountable, needs to be efficient and, at the end of the day, has to run into profit. “Take something simple like staffing levels,” Pi Tui expanded. “Some places reduce costs by cutting back on the floor and kitchen staff. But then you’ll get dissatisfied customers, which is not the way to go. There needs to be an exact balance of guest-needs and staff to cater for these. And the staff need to be constantly trained – the cultural attitude towards the need for organisation and prompt service in Thailand is not the same as expectations in the West. And that’s without even getting into the intricacies of budgeting!”


Even something as simple as music is a vital element. Appropriate music usually enhances a dining experience. But it has to be the right sort of music and at the right volume. How many times have you found yourself becoming irritated because the same tracks are coming around a second or even third time! It’s easy for busy staff to overlook this aspect. The whole concept of entertainment is another consideration. And sometimes a tasteful show or cabaret can tip the balance.


And, talking of concepts, we’re back again to not just the restaurants but the whole ethos of the resort. Some places are renowned for compelling their staff to learn precise verbal responses to guests’ enquiries. But at The Tongsai Bay, the staff are trained to respond with a polite, friendly and spontaneous reply. And, of course, there needs to be a visual consistency throughout, not simply with matching uniforms but with also the crockery, cutlery and décor in the restaurants. These are the subtle strata that run through the heart of the resort and guide their tendrils, everyday, into everybody.


But as I said earlier, you don’t really need to know about all the workings under the bonnet of a well-maintained car when it’s running perfectly. And if you go along to The Tongsai Bay and take a test drive, you’ll see exactly what I mean.


Rob De Wet


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