You’ll find Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort fronting onto the ring-road, not so far from the traffic lights near Fisherman’s Village. This strip, running maybe a kilometre northwards, is special. There’s lots of space here between the road and the beach, and the plots of land are effortlessly spacious. In fact, if Samui was in Europe, this is where we’d find the grand Victorian mansions; opulent, elegant and refined. The big difference being that instead of mature oaks and elms, here you’ll see a landscaped riot of lush tropical foliage beneath the gigantic trees that tower above.
Like all 5-star resorts it has a restaurant to match; in this case two. As you come through from the reception area you’ll come down a few steps and see the cool and shady High Tide, the resort’s all day restaurant on your left. But if you keep following the path through the greenery and past the constant murmur of the water features, you’ll emerge close to the beach and Anantara’s signature fine-dining restaurant, Full Moon. The word ‘anantara’ itself comes from ancient Sanskrit, and literally translated means ‘water flowing without boundaries’. But apply this to a selective and exclusive group of hotels which are under the umbrella of the famous Minor International Group, and it translates into ‘sheer quality’.
It’s always a temptation to describe a restaurant by its location or décor. And, yes, it’s elegant, simple and modern in style, on two floors and with an open-sided aspect that faces the sea. All very pleasant. But this says nothing about the attitude. The quality of service and attention to detail. It says nothing about the degree of customer care, or how deeply it’s ingrained into every aspect of the dining experience. And immediately let it be said that the staff here are second to none – their English is excellent and the balance of their friendly, open interaction and their professional competence is just right.
To give you just a glimpse of the ethos here, certainly there’s a sommelier to help you. But there’s also a salt ‘sommelier’ – the ‘salt guru’ – to recommend which of the five different sorts of ground-at-the-table rock salt best complements your meal. Or there are the live at-table preparation trolleys for dishes such as the carbonara or the Caesar salad. Or the presence of an award-winning cocktail mixologist.
The menu is described as ‘Koh Samuian-style Char-grill cuisine’. In practical terms, for most diners this means that the char-grilling here has been taken to the extremes of the art, and then perfected some more. For example, in many cases it’s a complex and integrated process, with selections being seared according to taste and then, where appropriate, this being continued on the broiler. None of the fare is marinated before grilling, the sauces coming in separate small dishes. This is a statement in itself, as the meat has to be absolutely prime, and at the peak of freshness to be prepared like this. And in keeping with the overall ethos of care at Full Moon, you’ll then be offered a choice from four different meat/steak knives, according to your need!
And into this heady blend a new face has recently appeared. New, that is, in the sense that this is his first involvement with Full Moon, and even with Samui. Certainly this doesn’t apply to his experience, as it’s exactly what you’d expect from an internationally-accredited executive chef at this level. He’s Australian born, has previously been in charge of top restaurants around the world, and his name is Martin Kindleysides.
“I was always aware of cooking and food,” Martin told me, “because I grew up in that environment. My mother was the manager of a Chinese restaurant, and I’d usually be in there after school. I use to be mesmerized by the chefs working with the Chinese cleavers and woks. It just seemed like a natural progression to go on in that direction when I finished school.” Martin began a four year chef apprenticeship under his brother (who is also a well-known chef in regional Australia), and soon after finishing this he moved on to Sydney, and worked in fine dining restaurants before eventually finding himself working for international 5 star hotels.
“When I wasn’t in the kitchen I was reading all I could; the biographies of legendary chefs, the history of famous restaurants or how different trends or cuisines came about, and sourcing different ingredients to experiment with my approach to food,” Martin explained.
Martin moved on to one of the largest hotels in Australia, the Four Points by Sheraton Darling Harbour, and worked his way up to executive sous chef. But after three years there it was time for him to evaluate his career. He then ran the kitchens in his first executive chef position in a boutique resort and winery, before getting a job offer at the Perth Sheraton. But by this time he was curious about working abroad. He moved onto a western executive chef position in South Korea, experiencing and coping with the language and cultural issues.
Over the next six years, Martin worked as executive chef in prestigious hotels and resorts in The Philippines, Bangalore and Mumbai, where he was Director of Culinary at the St Regis Hotel, and responsible for the establishment, organisation and management of ten associated outlets. Martin and his wife, Saet Byul, had recently celebrated the birth of their first child and were looking around for a less hectic location. “When I found out about the opportunity at Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort I was eager to take on the role, and join a well-known luxury brand,” Martin continued. “It’s very different on Samui. But the laid-back atmosphere is deceptive; it’s just as demanding but in a different way. I’m now getting used to it and settling in, but my first real appearance will be at the forthcoming Wine Dinner.”
And so this will be a doubly-decisive date! The quarterly Wine Dinners at Full Moon have become a firm favourite on Samui’s gastronomic calendar, and this one is happening on March 17th. It’ll feature a 5-course dinner put together by Martin, and this time hinge around a selection of pairings from an excellent range of Australian wines, in his honour. Do look out for this or call to enquire, because these dinners are super value, at around 2,200++ baht person – and that’s another star feature!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7742 8300.