Nora is not a name you’ll be familiar with. But they’re a local group and have been on the island for quite a while. They began life in Chaweng, with the original and excellent Nora Beach Resort & Spa, but have since added three other resorts in the same area. Their flagship, the sumptuous Nora Buri Resort & Spa, is located just a few minutes’ drive north of the main body of Chaweng, towards neighbouring Choeng Mon. This is a very successful group – and the point is they’re local. They’re not part of a multi-national chain. But they are big and experienced enough to provide excellent service.
The facilities here are just what you’d expect of a 5-star resort. There are several swimming pools, the fitness centre is excellent and the spa is first class. There’s a huge banqueting hall, and the dining experience is outstanding, ranging from beach buffets to air-conditioned Royal Thai dining, with several variations in between. And so it’s not surprising that Nora Buri specialises in weddings – if you’re thinking of tying the knot then this is one place that’s a must to consider; they even have their own dedicated website just for this!
But when it comes to dining, Nora Buri excels. Not only have they established one of the best Thai restaurants on the island, but they’ve also won awards for it – and not simply the restaurant, but the entire building! You can’t miss it. It’s named ‘The Barge’, and it’s right across the road from the main resort, which stretches away up the hillside. From the street you can only see the upper roof-line, as the main body of the restaurant, futuristically shaped to symbolise a huge wooden sailing barge, is tiered on three levels down the hillside.
Actually, The Barge isn’t just one restaurant – there are two of them here. The top floor contains the resort’s signature and superlative Thai restaurant, ‘Rice Barge’. This is where you’ll find yourself as you enter the building. It’s undoubtedly the most dramatic of the floors, as it’s the place where you’ll be most fully-able to appreciate the impressive architecture, with the hand-sculpted dark woods and the spiralling roof-space.
The restaurant is in two sections, with this inner area being pleasantly air-conditioned and lined with floor-to-ceiling walls of glass. The space here has been cleverly broken-up into different levels, with the triangular cushion-rests (known as ‘mon Thai’) around the edges, and with a unique walk-in wine cellar at the far end. The colour scheme matches the woodtones perfectly: earth-hues abound but with subtle splashes of primaries to offset these. The enclosed walkway alongside leads into the adjoining open dining terrace, which is equally marvellous, with its panoramic view over the whole of Chaweng Bay.
There’s a broad stairway which runs alongside Rice Barge, descending down to the level below which is a wide and open area used for parties and functions. Continuing down to the ground floor you’ll then end up in the pleasant lower restaurant, at the edge of the sea The executive chef here is the well-known Tonny Lawrence, and more than a few of his à la carte specialities, in one form or another, find their way through into the evening beach buffet. One of the most-popular
dining choices is the ‘Barge Platter’. And the salmon with prawns combined with Parma ham can all be enjoyed, together or separately, at the beach BBQ buffet, held every Wednesday evening. And if you’ve never had the chance to enjoy a 5-star buffet, then you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise – and the Nora Group is renowned for them!
This ‘Hawaiian Seafood Beach BBQ’ night is simply superb. On the decking alongside the pool there are tables with snowy cloths, all laden down with cold cuts, plates of all the different seafood, and gleaming stainless-steel servers for the hot dishes, plus a big salad bar. The layout here is ideal for this, with several areas raised and linked together, and tables directly on the sand. There’s a live band, plus also an exciting Polynesian Dance Show, featuring some spectacular fire dancing and juggling. And, unlike many other places, the price is just 1,299 baht – and this is a 5-star beach buffet!
And if you’ve got kids, or one of your group has a smaller appetite, you can always opt to combine either the Kiddies Menu, or something from the à la carte menu, in with your buffet.
One of the finest Thai restaurants at the Rice Barge? A sumptuous Hawaiian Beach Buffet? Take your pick at Nora Buri, The Barge and the beach!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7791 3555.