Samui Wining & Dining
Next time you’re in Lamai, slow down for a treat – Waterline is easy to get to
but not easy to spot!

Next time you’re in Lamai, slow down for a treat – Waterline is easy to get to but not easy to spot!If you’re staying on the island for more than just a day or so, then it’s guaranteed that there are two places you will visit. Sure, yes, you’ll possibly head off to marvel at the Mummified Monk, cool off at a waterfall, or even catch a temple or two. But every single soul seems magnetically moved to Fisherman’s Village. And then, wherever you’re staying, there’s one place more. Well, I confess it’s not actually a venue as such. But unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool pool potato, then you’ll most certainly pass through Lamai in one direction or the other – probably on your way to somewhere else. Which is a shame, because one of Samui’s unsung stars is just sitting there waiting just for you!


The jewel here is known simply as ‘Manathai’. This is not a name you’ll be familiar with. In fact, there are only three other such resorts in Thailand (all of them beachside) which bear the name of this very forward-looking Thai company. Admirably, Manathai Hotels & Resorts isn’t working to a blueprint or a tried and tested formula; each of their resorts has been designed and architected along different lines. And happily they’ve avoided falling-back on the easy option of ‘traditional Thai design’. The resort here on Samui is refreshingly elegant and styled with a smooth colonial theme. It’s imposing, spacious and thoughtfully laid out, spanning a long U-shape with old cobbled tiles in the wide central parking area, and the hotel itself presiding regally at the top end of this.


Although the hotel is all very lovely, the high quality of the accommodation and service here is not what I’m trumpeting about. Even though you might not know what it is, this imposing broad avenue is noticeable – it’s something of a local landmark, in fact. No, what I’m winding up to is what’s right across the road from it. You can’t actually see it, other than the tall wall outside. But it’s the other part of – the secret side of – Manathai. And there’s no simple way of saying what it is. It’s a very good restaurant. There’s a really pleasant pool that edges onto the beach. Next time you’re in Lamai, slow down for a treat – Waterline is easy to get to but not easy to spot!The beach that fringes this is generously-scattered with sunbeds and brollies, plus some laid-back sand-sofas with tables and brollies, too. On the other side of the pool, opposite the spacious, modern and airy restaurant area, is a low and unimposing block – and more of this in just a moment!


So what do you call this ‘thing’? It’s much more than merely a (top-notch) restaurant. There’s the pool and super beach-area, plus quite a bit more. Owners with less flair and pedantically less imagination might be tempted to slap the words . . . something-orother ‘beach club’ up on the wall outside. But not here – they’re far too savvy. So, for the foreseeable future at least, it goes by the unpretentious title of ‘Waterline’.


So now you know! The next question is of course ‘. . . so what’s it got to do with me? Why should I bother looking out for it and making the effort to haul myself inside?’ Good point. There are a lot of nice places you could go to. But this one is a) right next to where you’re passing anyway, b) has easy parking, c) super food and two sets of Happy Hours (mid-day to 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm) with everything at 2-for-the-price-of-1, d) complimentary Wi-Fi, e) a beach-massage but with air con in a room at the edge of the beach (and at a sensible price), f) a supervised kiddies play room plus playground (in that low block) with arty activities such as finger painting, batique and plaster-of- Paris fun (yes, really!).


In a nutshell: make it a shady stop-off for an hour, grab a drink in the sunset happy-hour, loaf about and do your email and Facebook. Or – make a point of heading to Waterline for a day trip. You’ll know this place is special as soon as you weave around the wall: a smiling staff member will greet you offering big fluffy pool towels. Settle by the pool or on the beach, relax for a while, then send the kids off (only about 30 feet away) to get entertained while you relax some more.Next time you’re in Lamai, slow down for a treat – Waterline is easy to get to but not easy to spot! (Note: If you come for the whole day there’s a small charge of 500 baht which can be taken in food and/or drink.) Or, come here first and do either of these things. Then come back and have a whole different experience at night.


The Executive Chef here is Khun Daeng (more formally known as Jintaporn Phialamkhaek). She’s shy and smiley, but her 5-star pedigree is to be admired, if not envied. She’s not only put together an unusually exciting compilation of adventurous international cuisine with a quirky Italian bias, but also conjured a number of exciting Thai dishes with a twist. She’s an inspirational chef. So much so, that there’s a bit of a competition going on in the kitchen. Each meal is preceded by an ‘amuse-bouche’ – a palette tickler. And the sous chefs are pushing each other out of the way to make each one better than the last. And, trust me, this is something to be looked forward to – if you glance around you may even see the chefs peeping around the kitchen door to try to catch your reaction!


The food is simply fab. But there’s the added attraction that on each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday there’s entertainment, too. Monday is laid-back on the beach with a live modern jazz trio. The next day is at the tables around the pool, featuring the female vocalist of the ‘Aria Band’. But every Thursday it’s the special treat of ‘Movie Night’ too, featuring modern classics – check the restaurant’s Facebook page to see what coming up next.


Every resort, and its restaurant, is only ever as good as each of its links. The freedom to innovate comes from the owners. The general manager – and here it’s the energetic and capable Australian-born Natalie Kamolwattanasoontorn – needs to put a shape the vision of this scope. And the staff on the floor and in the kitchen need to be sparkedup and motivated by everything that’s happening around them. And this is the reason that everyone here is putting everything on the line – very successfully – at Waterline!


Rob De Wet



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