Have you been there yet? Well, you will. Forget the temples and the elephant treks or safaris. If there’s one thing that absolutely everyone who visits Samui is guaranteed to do, it’s to drop-in at Fisherman’s Village. In fact most people go there a second time for a better look around, or to pick up some mementos they missed out on the first time. It’s much better at night, when all the lights come on and it turns into its own little fairyland. But it’s better still on a Friday, when it has its famous ‘walking street’.
Most folks go there by taxi, and it will automatically stop on the side street next to where the entrance arch is. And this therefore means that you’ve got a hundred-and-one distractions as you navigate the whole length of the ‘village’, from the ‘pier’ area (the actual pier has gone now) right along to the end of the strip. And that’s actually not the best of news. Because it means that you won’t pay much attention to the last few hundred yards or so – and that’s where you’ll find some hidden gems.
So there you are, strolling lazily around and taking in the sights. Popping in and out of the shops to see what’s on offer. Maybe sitting for a while with a wine or a coffee then moving on again. You’ll probably take a snack or a sandwich, too. Or even go for a proper evening meal: there are enticing eateries along this strip and they are deliberately attractive; they have to be as there’s some very stiff competition. But when you do that, sadly, you’ll be missing out on one of the best Thai restaurants that you’ll find for miles. It’s almost right at the end of the village, before the point where it runs out of road. And its name is Krua Bophut.
At first glance you might even overlook it. You’ve just spent an hour or so being dazzled by the bright lights, the jolly cheer of open-fronted bars and restaurants, and all those places which need to make a splash to grab your attention. And here is what looks like a big wooden house sitting there quietly and calmly. Sure, there’s an attractively warm glow from the windows, although it seems a bit dull compared to the rest of the walk. But what you can’t see is that there’s also a big outer terrace and, unlike nearly all of the rest of the village, up at this end there’s actually a beach, with tables out on the sand below, too.
Actually, there’s a whole lot more that you can’t see from the outside. This restaurant is special. It’s actually owned and managed (in a very low-profile way) by one of the major 5-star hotels, which you’ll come across not so far away along the beach. And that hotel selects a number of its highly-trained staff to work at Krua Bophut. All the floor staff can speak very good English. Everyone’s trained to be attentive and observant without being intrusive, and they all know when to remain quietly in the background or come across to your table to see what you need. If you have spent any time surrounded by run-of-the-mill average staff, you’ll appreciate their difference in awareness right away.
Outside there a kind of space in the wall that forms a gateway, and you’ll enter onto the outer terrace with the doorway to the restaurant on your right. You’ll usually be greeted as soon as you come through the entrance and asked where you’d like to be seated. And a word of caution here; not surprisingly the outside locations are the most sought-after, particularly the tables out on the beach. The chances are that these will all be taken, and you’ll need to have made an advance booking to secure one of these.
But heading into the restaurant-proper is no disappointment. In fact it’s delightful inside and with lots of surprising corners with antiques, curios and period European bric-a-brac. You’ll notice pressed-tin toys and faded posters from the ‘30s. There’s an old wind-up phonograph. Old clocks and collectables. There’s lots of dark timber and a Thai-style high peaked roof. But what’s so surprising is the way these all blend so seamlessly in with a Thai cultural style that’s a whole world away – this in turn is a world away from the cheap and glitzy neon and noise of the Walking Street too. And all of this creates an enjoyable and most unusual ambiance in which to enjoy your meal.
The food here is equally as unusual. There’s a full Thai menu and even with some unusual items, such as all the duck dishes. But what you need to realise is that most Thai restaurants have only around 30 standard dishes. Here you’ll find more than one hundred. The reason for this is simple – you’re given a bigger choice. Instead of red snapper only in garlic and pepper sauce, you can take it with turmeric or tamarind, steamed, deep-fried or even mixed all together into a stir fry. And there’s not just some kind of generic ‘fish’, either. Go for snapper, sea bass or barracuda, and also ask if there’s anything seasonal on the menu.
Not surprisingly seafood dishes feature prominently. You can pick and choose. Or you can do what many people do and head straight for one of the set menus. These are a set of six dishes that come under either ‘Menu A’ or ‘Menu B’. Menu A is the spicier combination with B being made up of dishes that are more moderate. (Note also that every item on the menu is coded as to its degree of spiciness.) And also note that it’s around 700 baht for these six dishes – the prices at Krua Bophut are nothing like you’d expect from a 5-star restaurant.
In keeping with this there’s an excellent selection of wines, not only New World offerings but some classic labels, too. Even the house wines are of a high standard – it’s more effective to present quality wines by the glass in this way, which many restaurants don’t find it cost-effective to do. But then this is one of the best restaurants on the strip – and one you really shouldn’t miss!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7743 0030.