Samui Wining & Dining
Drop into W Retreat’s laid-back daytime scene – it’s one of the most delicious spots around!


‘W Retreat’ in Mae Nam isn’t a place that you’ll stumble across. It can’t be seen from the road. Not the ring-road, anyway. But it’s easy enough to get to, and the chances are that you’ll probably have driven close to it two or three times already. Heading away from Chaweng in the direction of Nathon, go through the traffic lights in Bophut. It’s almost a dead straight road all the way but, at the borders of Maenam, right next to the landmark of Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa on the corner, the ring-road kinks to the left in a sharp 90-degree bend. You can take either the next on the right after the bend, or the one after that; each runs into the other, forming a U-shaped loop off the ring-road, with W Retreat right in the middle.

        If you’ve never had the pleasure of dropping in to a ‘W’ before, you may be in for a surprise. This is a luxury brand, part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group, and there are now 45 such Ws located in some of the most languid and sensuous parts of the world. Each of them is designer-architected to reflect the vibrancy and atmosphere of their particular location – a blend of cutting-edge design with local influences. And what this means is that, as you enter the reception area of Samui’s own W, the clean lines,

hyper-modern styling and vast spatial statements – not to mention the breathtaking elevated panorama across one of the most impressive infinity pools on the island – will take your breath away.

        For a visitor to the resort there are several elements that are alluring. One muchlauded attraction is their fine-dining contemporary Japanese restaurant, Namu. And it has to be said that both the menu and ambiance here are sublime. This is a blend of traditional and modern Japanese fare and represents some of the best evening dining on the island. But if you’ve had the joy to experience these aspects at night, you won’t be aware of just how close it is to the beach. And it’s both Namu, plus the beach, that are the focus of this article, as few people are aware that there’s a wonderfully relaxed daytime niche to be enjoyed here too.

         Picture this: you’re whirred through the twists and turns of the resort’s charming little ‘side streets’ in a golf buggy, to alight next to a high sun-drenched wall bearing the sign ‘Namu’. Walking past this, the vista opens out into a beachscape. But this one’s special and there are very few like it on the island. Instead of a long, straight, flat expanse of sand, W is perched in front of a little spur of land. The beach kinks around this, making this area seem private and exclusive, with the rest of the island hidden away and out of sight. Cheerfully bright beanbags and day beds are scattered in the shade under the palms that fringe the sand. Several groups of sturdier tables and chairs appear next to a sign stating ‘Beach Grill’. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the imposing-yet-hugelyfriendly figure of Robert Conte, the resort’s Director of Food and Beverages.

          “The whole focus is on relaxation and enjoyment,” he told me. “The food is simple and it comes in baskets as befits a beach setting. It’s a great place to meetup, or to drop in to catch up with your emails. It’s a weekday thing, and Beach Grill is open between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm. But then, on Saturdays, it’s a bit more special. We have a DJ and we ramp-up the vibes a bit. There’s our ‘Drunken Fruit’ selection; whole fruit that’s been steeped in alcohol for 48 hours – pineapple colada, orange mai tai, way out watermelon, and others. Plus the fact that Namu is open to serve orders on the beach, and that’s quite something by itself!”

          Glancing through the Beach Grill menu, I found myself agreeing - yep, simple food yet solid enough. But all these things are relative. There are three different beef burgers listed and three styles of hot dog, with simple little descriptions – ‘New York Style’, ‘Chicago Style’ etc. Robert cocked an eyebrow at me, “. . . do you know what a NY-style burger is? Well, it’s the way they sell them on the pushcarts in New York. Burgers that come with red pepper, onion, garlic, cinnamon, chilli and ketchup. But many people prefer the ‘Pulled Pork Shoulder’.

          It’s been marinated for four days, then cooked sous vide for 12 hours. It comes with mustard and vinegar, but this is offset with coleslaw, and the tang of the vinegar dances perfectly with the sweetness of the ’slaw.”

          Relative or not, the fare at Namu is anything but simplistic. And sitting on a sundappled beach surrounded by water of four hues of balmy blue gives the flavour compositions of the contemporary Japanese cuisine a completely new dimension. Try nibbling at the ‘Hamachi Sashimi with Leek and Chili Mint Dressing’. This dish usually comes with soy and wasabi. But the fish oil is refreshingly cut by the use of mint and leek, endowing a normally standard offering with a snap and a twist that’s unique.

          In fact, although it’s lovely to stop by for an hour sometime in the week, it’s well worth making a special afternoon of it on a Saturday. As well as the ‘simple’ fare of Beach Grill and the sublime specials of Namu (available beachside every Friday, Saturday and Sunday) there’s a full menu of Thai offerings as well as vegetarian and Euro-style comfort foods too, courtesy of the resort’s all day restaurant, ‘Kitchen Table’. From 4-6 pm there’s 2-for-1 specials on margaritas. And if you’ve got a boat, or if you captain one, pull over, drop anchor and shout. You’ll be served by the most literal ‘pool boys’ on the island, who’ll swim out to you with your food and drink! And when they’ve also given you a 25% discount (with the captain eating free) then you, not to mention all the landlubbers too, will begin to catch on to exactly what is meant by ‘The W Factor’!


 Rob De Wet


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