Samui Wining & Dining
Chef Martin Selby’s straightforward approach to food yields heavenly delights at The Larder.

Chef Martin Selby’s straightforward approach to food yields heavenly delights at The Larder.Once upon a time, some people seemed to think that anything and anyone even remotely connected to British food culture wasn’t quite up to par with the French or the Italians. But now that’s all changed, and Britain is definitely a world leader when it comes to cuisine. Britain also produces great cooks, too. Needless to say, their dishes don’t have to be British in origin, nor do they have to use products that grow only in the chill, watery British climes. They’re influenced by Europe and the world beyond.


Martin Selby is a young chef who started off learning his trade in England, and has evolved a philosophy of simplicity, one that stems in part from his background and early days. He comes from Grantham in the UK, an area unfamed for gastronomy, yet surrounded by magnificent farming territory. He learned to trust his roots, even at a time when British food wasn’t exactly en-vogue, and when French styles were looked to for inspiration. He recalls that when he was first training, he really needed to have a good command of French.

“In the kitchens everywhere, you’d hear a lot of French being used – because back then so much of the food culture was to do with France. All of that started changing...” He was soon learning how to get the very best out of local ingredients and putting down the foundation for his future culinary skills. He gradually evolved a style of cooking that really manages to tick all the boxes. It’s uncomplicated and unpretentious – though brilliantly tasty. And it certainly does harken back to his first beginnings in the restaurant business. “Where I was working, people would come to the kitchen back door holding up fish or fowl for sale. It was very down-to-earth.”


He formally began his training in the prestigious De Vere Group’s Belton Woods Hotel where he experienced all aspects of food and beverage, including fine dining, sports bars, carvery restaurants and conferences and even banqueting for up to 500 guests. His boss then selected Martin to join him in a new fine dining restaurant located in Newcastle-under-Lyme, No.1 King St, a small eatery focusing on modern European cuisine. Martin was now one of a handful of chefs operating the restaurant, which soon won two prestigious rosette awards. Next on the agenda was a chef de partie position at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel on the shores of Rutland Water, and after a stint there, Martin felt it was time for something very different - travel.


In 2007, he left the UK and journeyed through New Zealand and Australia before heading to Asia and to Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand. On the hoof he learned and sampled Asian foods, flavours and produce. Martin fell in love with Thailand, and in particular Samui. He settled here, working first as western sous-chef at boutique hotel, The Library, where he worked closely with the hotel’s designer on creating menus, then received an exciting offer to be executive chef at Beach Republic. He went on to work with vegetarian cuisine at Prana Resorts and Spa, and then went to RockPool in Kanda Resort.


Martin is definitely here to stay. He speaks quite fluent Thai. Much like the way he learned cooking Martin says he just ‘ran with it’, speaking it the whole time and practicing until he was able to string together most of what he wanted to say. He’s married and has a little boy, Aran, who was born right here on Samui. He decided it was time to take the plunge and start his own restaurant, and it was thus that The Larder was created. He opened it along with his friend Damian Ahern, a food and beverage maestro, who makes amazingly innovative cocktails. The duo have a fine grasp of what works, what truly pleases and what makes their diners nod with satisfaction.


Martin describes The Larder as being a very relaxed restaurant-cum-bar, almost a gastro-pub. “It’s casual fine dining; it’s a very relaxed place and people like to stay,” he says. He mentions that when he books tables, they’re booked for an afternoon or an evening – no serial seating at all. He wants people to take it easy and not feel rushed. Chef Martin Selby’s straightforward approach to food yields heavenly delights at The Larder.“Plenty of diners come at 7:00 pm and are still there at 11. That’s how things should be, the way I like them to be.” The Larder is definitely the very opposite of one of those restaurants where the kitchen’s a white-knuckle ride, cranking out hundreds of plates an hour.


At The Larder, the dining room hums with sheer pleasure as guests tuck into a cuisine that has British touches, plenty of European ones, and even Japanese. That doesn’t mean to say that the dishes are a mish-mash that somehow works, with the restaurant riding along under a flag of convenience and aiming to please the crowds. The creations don’t need to be justified with flashy complications. The food’s without pretention. It’s simple and honest. It’s British and European fare, with international touches. You’ll find a mix of comfort food and classics that have been revived and re-invigorated, given love and attention, together with a superb wine list. Diners who live on the island come back again and again; holidaymakers go away wowed and also return. Martin manages to get the most out of each and every ingredient. There’s joy in eating his dishes. For appetizers, try Herder Rumour, or warm goat’s milk cheese, salted caramel walnuts, along with a grilled pear and gem salad, or Original Gravlax, where home-cured salmon is accompanied by softboiled quails’ eggs, asparagus and house dressing. For main dishes at dinner, Bellyfull lives up to its name: it’s 12 hour confit belly pork with roasted carrots, bread sauce & parsnip purée. Or how about Flame On? – This is char-grilled Wagyu beef rump along with rocket, stilton and quince salad. These examples give you an idea of the excellence that’s on offer – along with playfully-named dishes. Martin conveniently lists both the lunch and dinner menu on the website, and in addition there are specials listed on the chalkboard at The Larder.


The Larder is very easy to find. If you drive north of Chaweng, along the beach road, you’ll come to it about a kilometre from Samui International Hospital and right across the road from Anantara Lawana. If you’re driving, you’ll find a small car park right next to the restaurant. It’s open daily from midday to 11:00 pm daily (last orders in the kitchen are at 10:00 pm).


For a Sunday that’s a bit different from most, Martin offers a very popular Sunday roast with two different meats, served from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm. That’s not all; at the same time you can also opt to build your very own Bloody Mary with a variety of ingredients all handily placed on a central table. (After 6:00 pm, you’re welcome to choose from the à la carte menu.)


Martin’s approach to food, dining and sheer enjoyment at the table makes The Larder a very fine place to eat indeed. And last but never least; he manages to keep prices very affordable, too.


 Dimitri Waring


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