Samui Wining & Dining
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Make a note of The Library in Chaweng – you’ll be coming back again!


Page-118

Time passes. Things change. Chaweng’s moved on from the days when smiling hippies populated the beach huts. And it really doesn’t matter whether you cling longingly to the past or just adore the present. This is Samui today. It is what it is. And one of the facets is that its food and drink direction has been changing too. Not so long ago the whole central area of the beach road was littered with cheap places to eat, right on the street. It was cheerful enough but it surely wasn’t classy. Few of these have survived. Now there are bistros and sports pubs that offer quality upmarket food. And then there’s The Library, which is way out in a genre all of its own.

        Mind you, you may not even notice ‘The Library’, but that’s mostly on purpose. It’s actually a beachside resort, very discretely tucked away down a side-entry that’s just a burger’s throw away from McDonald’s. And it’s very cool and laid-back. Not in the party sense – it’s all far too stylish and refined for that. But the interesting thing is that this up-market example of décor and design is actually a minimalistic phoenix arisen from the ashes. Because, once upon a time, there used to be a group of little beach huts on this site; the land has been in the same family for generations. The family’s eldest

son, Khun Pang, came out of university with a degree in accountancy and marketing, and in 2007 (after three years of planning, research and construction) opened the doors on what is still one of the island’s most impressive resorts.

        Nearly all of Samui’s Chaweng-based resorts have tried (mostly very successfully) to fit the maximum number of bungalows into their plot. The result is a characteristic and attractive jungle of riotously-tropical greenery that effectively screens and blends with the closely-placed buildings. Thus, it comes as something of a shock to enter through the portals of The Library. It’s an essay in the tranquillity of space – of which there is a great deal. Everything is simply geometric at first sight - the huge rectangular lawn through the centre, the neat clean lines and tones of the suites and studios that form a fringe on the boundaries. This is echoed by the pool, the restaurant, and the glass cube of the actual library (yes, they do have one!). But it’s like Pandora’s Box. Within each of these simple cuboids, there teems a world of individualistic and quirky design elements that constantly play aesthetic games in counterpoint to the simple exterior geometry.

        Probably the best way to experience what I mean by this is to drop into the ‘Drink Gallery’. It’s outside, on the main road; a big expanse of raised wooden decking fringed by studio-shops, and with a gigantic cube of glass to the left of this. It’s a two-floor construction but – as with all that space in the resort itself – there’s only one floor inside, endowing the entire volume with a floating sense of lightness and space. The two vast inner walls are of raw concrete, with the one behind the bar-counter dominated by an immense painting of a young oriental woman’s inscrutable face. Beneath this, the bar shimmers with the stacked hues and shapes of many of the rarer blends of bourbons and ryes, these contrasting warily with the strange twists of the almost alchemical shapes of the cocktail apparatus.

          The tables and chairs don’t match: yet each is a small masterpiece of design flair, and this is what provides unity in their disparity. The cutlery is placed vertically on the tables. The cocktails here come in cans, tubs, enamel mugs, bottles and glasses of every size and shape, from test tubes to laboratory flagons. The drinks are carried over on slabs of slate or driftwood and the food is served on a whole range of different bold and chunky handmade studio ceramics. At first glance, you just won’t take it all of this in. But every few minutes you’ll spot something different and smile to yourself.

          Which is all very well, but not worth a bean if this is just window dressing and there’s nothing of substance to back it all up. Cocktails are found everywhere on Samui. And so is good food. But not like this! The food is simply exquisite. It’s gourmet quality (big portions, too) but without pretension. The cocktails warrant (and have already had) a series of articles in their own right, each being individually designed by the internationally famous mixologist, Dhasan ‘Golffy’ Prabhananda. And both of these superlative elements, the food and the drink, now come together on one great mini-menu – ‘Pairings’.

          Basically, this is a set menu with choices. It goes ‘Starters’, ‘Lead Libations’, ‘Mains, ‘Master Concoctions’, ‘Dessert’ and ‘Ending Brews’. In other words, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink again and so on! Essentially, you get to eat three dishes from a choice of seven and three cocktails from a choice of six. And to give shape to this, consider as an example the ‘Pan Seared Salmon Fillet with Asparagus, Capsicums, Zucchini and Sweet Pumpkin’ wetted by the ‘Unconventional Hickory Smoked Manhattan’ – a dynamite blend of Makers Mark, Cherry Heering and Angostura Bitters, mixed and blown into a sealed bottle with hickory smoke which comes packed in ice in a dinky little galvanised tin tub..

          But everything goes up one more notch again after dark. This is when you need to make your way through and down to towards the beach and the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, ‘The Page’. I’ve set the tone already in terms of décor, style and quality – but an evening at The Page is positively velvety. And the one thing to aim for, amongst many, is the ‘Tenderloin of Wagyu Beef MBS 9+ served with red wine sauce, cream mushroom sauce and pepper corn sauce and complemented with vegetables, salad and Parmesan cheese’. It is simply out of this world, and that amazing marbled beef is so juicy and tender that you’ll only need your fork to cut it.

          The quality and standards of eating out in Chaweng have been rising steadily over the years and you’re now spoilt for choice. But if you want to get yourself really spoilt, then you’ll head down towards The Library. Don’t forget this – bookmark it right away!

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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