The story of Chaweng is a zippy one. Buildings go up, get refurbished, pulled down and built up all over again. The architectural giddiness and neon brightness of it all wows some, and bemuses others. However, there’s another aside to the story. A few places that are so completely, utterly different that they hardly seem to belong in the same town. Centara Grand is definitely number one in this category. Built 21 years ago, the resort is like stepping back in time. You might think you were in some stage set for a colonial film – except that everything is real here. Set back from the beach road in Chaweng, its location is ideal, but more than that, it’s a kind of iconic sanctuary in the bright heart of the town. The atrium is exactly what you’d expect of some grand old hotel, complete with a sweeping staircase, tall columns and the type of plush armchairs that look as if Somerset Maugham or perhaps Graham Greene chose them to pen a novel from. Take the stairs down to the impressive gardens and you’ll come to Palm Grove, one of Samui’s longest- established restaurants.
Given the grandeur of the resort, the first surprise here is that the prices are all reasonable, and seem to be more in keeping with a much humbler restaurant. Palm Grove consists of a sumptuous dining room and an internal patio that seamlessly leads out into the main gardens, which in turn lead down to the sea. The setting is definitely sophisticated, and is in the hands of a very adept chef, Sandro Aguilera. He hails from Barcelona, and is a maestro when it comes to cooking anything and everything that’s even vaguely Mediterranean. The style of the food at Palm Grove channels much of that vast region, with its accent on freshness in seafood and meats, as well as fruits and vegetables. Wines have been imported from around the world, and perfectly complement Sandro’s à la carte menu, which is available daily.
However, a lot of his guests don’t even look at the menu when they turn up in the evening, and that’s because they’ve come for one or other of the theme nights that Palm Grove hosts. As with everything here, the prices are a draw, but so too are the tastes. And here, rather than your standard buffet, the restaurant relies on the chefs themselves to cook on the spot, You’ll no doubt see Sandro himself, along with extremely helpful staff who make sure everything’s exactly right. While you can make your own salad, they are there to take your order for mains and dishes that are best when individually made there and then. Your order will be brought straight to your table as soon as it is ready.
The theme nights are held right out on the lawn (though inside if the weather’s looking bad) and always feature live music. The evenings all start at 7:00 pm and continue till 10:00 pm. Mondays feature zesty Peruvian ceviche and hearty Wagyu beef tacos, definitely a South American way to start an exciting week. It’s followed by the Tuesday night chef’s cooking box, consisting of Thai-style tapas and salads, with the Thai chef’s signature dishes and, of course, a selection of desserts. Turn up on Wednesday, and you’re in for a smokehouse treat, with appetizers, a farm-style salad bar, followed by an epicurean barbecue of smoked meats and fish, and some delicious signature sweets. Thursday is the night for gourmet Mediterranean foods from all over the region, and includes an acrobatic show. The week winds down for Saturday’s Seafood Market, with the accent on locally-caught fish.
Last but not least, guests may wish to avail themselves of the daily wine buffet, which consists of two hours of free-flow red and white wine. It’s also from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Visiting a top echelon restaurant that channels so much colonial charm is a must-have experience for anyone seeking to enjoy great food and drink. Whether you’ve come for one or other of the theme evenings or are dining a la carte, you’ll be in great hands and guaranteed a wonderful time here at Palm Grove.
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7723 0500.