Samui is an interesting place. There’s lots of new development, but it’s still mostly rustic. And there’s no hi-rise construction – that’s because we’re basically a small mountain with a flat bit around the edge. That means that nearly all the restaurants we talk about have great sea views. But, no matter how you look at it, a view of the sea is . . . a view of the sea. With one exception maybe – Santiburi Samui Country Club.
Ah but yes, you may say, what about all those fabulous viewpoints up the mountain? Most of them do food! To which we’ll reply, sure! But it’s pretty basic grub: and just you try to explain to someone how to get to one of these! It’s all fine and dandy having smart phones and Google Maps, but just you try it: you’ll spend half the time turning round and going back again because your little blue dot is suddenly going in the opposite direction. Again. For the fifth time!
But Santiburi is a different matter entirely. This is one place where you don’t even need a map; although it helps if you can navigate your way to Maenam, on the island’s north coast. Soi (street) 7 is the last of Maenam’s side-roads that head away from the sea, and it’s the last one you’ll see (heading towards Nathon) before the landmark of the sharp bend with the arch and the signpost for Lomprayah Ferry. Soi 7 is where the big Thai food market sits on the corner – along with a signpost for Santiburi Samui Country Club.
And then just follow the signs. (Essentially it’s simply the first right and then the next right after that.) You’ll slowly and effortlessly find that you’re gradually climbing in a series of long sweeping bends; it’s so easy that a motorbike carrying two people will not even notice it. And you, yourself, won’t even realise just how high you have climbed in the five minutes before you find yourself on the last flat towards your destination – until you glimpse the land and the far-away sea beneath you – it’ll make you gasp! From here you will see almost the entire sweep of Maenam Bay, and if your camera doesn’t have a panorama option, there’s no way you can capture just how breath-taking this amazing view is.
And right away let me say that ‘country club’ conveys quite the wrong impression. The only real ‘club’ you’ll see is one in a golf bag because, as well as this little-known but breath-taking restaurant, this is also the only professional 18-hole tournament golf course on Samui. The club here is actually the clubhouse, you won’t see elderly ladies wearing pearls and dancing to an orchestra, and you don’t need to wear a tie and have membership to go into the restaurant.
And now the best part of all. The club opens at 6:00 am. And that either means just before the sun comes up, or just after, depending on the time of year. This month it’ll be just as the sun comes up over the horizon, revealing an entire universe of blazing gold and pink clouds above, and an infinity of misty grey-green pockets dappled on the descending mountainside below – punctuated by neat and velvety green patches of a startling hue. This is the time that the clubhouse opens, but the restaurant is a bit sleepy at this hour, allowing you lots of time to take your photos before ordering breakfast.
The breakfasts are pretty good. There’s a Euro-style set breakfast and an ‘American’ option, but don’t expect Cumberland pork sausages and Danish smoked bacon with blood pudding and fried bread. There’s also a ‘Thai Breakfast’, but as Thai’s don’t actually have a traditional breakfast, expect fried rice and a choice of tea, coffee or juice. But the best bit is the ‘à la carte’ DIY breakfast option, which fills a whole page of the menu. Mix and match eggs (cooked five different ways) with choices of bacon, sausages, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, toast (etc., etc.), tea coffee, juices or smoothies.
The restaurant is open all day, so it’s quite in order to stop in if you’re on the way back from an excursion or trip. There’s the expected menu of Thai food. Then there are light-bites, sandwiches and burgers. Plus a more-substantial set of offerings which include fish and chips, pasta dishes and even a German hock of lamb. The coffee is the real deal – fresh-ground. And there’s even Mövenpick ice-cream, too – by the scoop or the tub. Plus the fact that you can also catch the sunset sky at the end of the day – and avail yourself of the draft Singha beer pitchers at only 150 baht a time.
This isn’t a restaurant which is going to boast a Michelin-starred chef, and it doesn’t pretend to be, unlike some. But it is a place that’s easy to find, and has one of the best views on all of Samui – people gasp when they walk in. And it’s one of the few places where you can either eat breakfast or share a pitcher of beer, right up there in the sky, with the gods!
Rob De Wet
For further information, telephone 0 7742 1700-8.