The power of words. Isn’t it amazing how some can immediately conjure up not just a picture but a feeling too? Take ‘saffron’ and ‘banyan tree’, for example. For centuries, these words have been evocative of the mysterious Far East and its Oriental wonders. Over recent years, however, they’ve taken on an additional meaning since the famous five-star hotel group, Banyan Tree, launched its renowned Saffron Thai restaurants in each of its resorts.
And the good news is that Samui now has its very own Banyan Tree resort with a very special Saffron restaurant. But this Saffron is like no other, as I shall explain.
Finding Banyan Tree Samui is easy, as it’s just 25 minutes away from Chaweng and only 10 minutes from the main part of Lamai Beach. Just take the turning 100 metres after the IT Complex (as you’re coming on the ringroad from Chaweng) and the entrance is another 500 metres or so further along on the left (it’s well sign-posted, so you won’t miss it).
From here the adventure begins, as you’re taken aboard an electric buggy which glides you along paths meandering through the resort’s magnificent tropical gardens on an ever-upwards journey. Which means that when you disembark high up at Saffron, you’re met by a most breathtaking view of Banyan Tree’s entire private cove (it’s recommended to come for cocktails around 6:00 pm so that you can fully appreciate the scene in daylight).
With the resort’s breakfast and lunch International cuisine restaurant, The Edge, on a level with Saffron but far away over the other side of the cove, the appropriately-named Sands beach grill restaurant way down by the floodlit waves below and the residents’ villas dotted around the hillsides, there’s plenty to take the eye and make the scene so much more interesting than just looking straight out to an empty ocean.
So now to Saffron! And the stunning 30-seat restaurant building itself is a subtle blend of traditional Thai décor, including various interesting artefacts here and there, highly polished wooden flooring, and a splendid wall of hundreds of wooden drawers (with several open at random) reminiscent of old Oriental spice stores, and thoroughly modern, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and air-conditioned comfort. Yes, Saffron really does put the ‘class’ in ‘classic’!
Although being inside the restaurant makes for a great dining experience (there are also three immaculate private rooms below which cater for groups of 10-14), having a table under the stars (weather permitting) along the expansive lantern-lit terrace is an exceptional one (so reservations of them are essential). And being high up means that there’s always a cooling sea breeze to make the tropical night air more manageable.
“… and Thai cuisine doesn’t come better than what you get at Saffron”
The main reason we go to restaurants is to eat. And even if Saffron wasn’t as extra-special as it is, it would be worth going there for the food alone. Thai cuisine doesn’t come better than what you get at Saffron – it’s as simple as that!
And here are some recommendations from each course. Starting with appetisers, there’s the Khong Wang Ruam – a selection of freshly prepared appetisers for two, including crisp rice noodle wrapped prawn, grilled tender beef satay wrapped in pandan leaf and a banana blossom prawn salad. Then there’s the Goong Sarong Beua Thod – crisp rice noodle wrapped prawn, fried pepper leaf and sweet mango chili sauce, and the Larb Tuna – spicy yellow fin tuna tartar, crisp cracker, string bean and cucumber salad. And don’t miss trying the delicious Peek Gai Thod Sauce Sriracha – deep-fried chicken wing with spicy tamarind, mayonnaise, cashew nuts, sunflower seed and sriracha sauce.
There are too many recommendable main course dishes to list them all, but here’s a couple anyway. First we have the Phad Tom Yum Haeng Goong – stir fried king prawns, galangal, lemongrass and tom yum paste, and secondly, there’s the ‘perfect’ Gaeng Phed Ped Yang – grilled duck breast, red curry, sweet basil leaves accompanied with grilled lychee and pineapple compote.
And you can stay completely with Thai cuisine when you have your dessert by going for the classic Thub Thim Krob – crispy red water chestnut in jasmine-flavoured syrup with coconut ice-cream, or you can go for an Asian version of a Western dish, Sangkhaya, a coconut crème brûlée with ginger syrup.
So, what with its idyllic location, intimate seating, unrivaled Thai cuisine, a complete wine and drinks list, and exceptionally friendly and professional service, Saffron offers a remarkable Thai fine-dining experience and comes highly recommended.
Yes, there really is a power of words – and they don’t come more powerful than Saffron and Banyan Tree.
Saffron is open from 6:00 pm with the kitchen closing at 10:30 pm
For reservations and further information telephone +66 (0) 7791 5333
Saffron at Banyan Tree Samui