Twice the Pleasure – At Nora Buri Resort & Spa a creative returnee chef is serving up favourites at The Barge’s two restaurants.

Nora Buri

There have been millions of words written about food and restaurants, and the subject is still of enduring interest. What exactly makes a great dish? And how to create the right atmosphere? The two go hand in hand – but how exactly? If there’s anything close to such a thing as a formula for success, then it’s an elusive one. On Samui, as elsewhere, every chef and restaurateur is seeking to nail it down. Some have succeeded; others are still on the way. Many just give up – the goal’s too daunting. Location is invariably cited as part of any restaurant’s success story (though surely it doesn’t have to be the case), so too is expertise. Then there are all manner of smaller considerations to factor in. Blend everything together in an inspiring way and you have elements that go a long way to ensuring success.

At Nora Buri Resort & Spa, the location is already outstanding – a secluded beach, just out of town, a few kilometres north of Chaweng. It’s a beautiful place to start with. Then comes the edifice that houses both the restaurants here. It’s
an unusual building that roughly mimics one of the old-style rice barges that used to ply the Chao Praya River in Bangkok. This one, however, isn’t going anywhere; firmly anchored on the shoreline forever, it hosts guests in search of
top-notch dining. It’s a vibrant place to chill out, and over the years has acquired a deserved reputation for both its Thai and international menu.

Nora BuriIt’s simply known as The Barge building, and consists of three floors, built on the steepest of slopes. The main entrance is on the top floor. Once inside you’ll see that there are in fact two restaurants here. You’ll first come to Rice Barge &
Terrace, which offers a traditional Thai menu. It has a wonderfully air-conditioned section, where you can sit on Thai triangular cushions and enjoy the very relaxed atmosphere, or if you prefer, there’s a terrace with great views out over the sea. And if you continue down the steps you’ll discover a plethora of international fare at The Barge Restaurant, on the lower floor. Perhaps, best of all, you don’t even have to make a decision which of the restaurants to go to; it’s easy to mix menus – just tell the waiting staff you’d like to see both the Thai and international menus. Meanwhile, enjoy the nautical vibe of the place.

The food’s as impressive as the architecture, and The Barge has a long tradition of very accomplished chefs. Lately, the helm’s been taken over by a returnee chef. For some, Tonny Lawrence will need no introduction; many a returning guest has experienced his food. A sous-chef during his original stint at The Barge, he comes back as executive chef, in charge,
basically, of everything that’s going on in both the restaurants. He hails from Indonesia, and grew up in Jakarta, home to outstanding cuisine, both regional and international. After attending cooking school, he started work, and his cuisine has graced a number of high-ranking resorts in the Maldives, Oman, Indonesia and Thailand.

Ensuring first and foremost that all his ingredients are best quality and totally fresh, Tonny sets to work making dishes that are traditional favourites, along with some more creative choices. The Barge prides itself on looking after its guests, and that means that if something isn’t on the menu, Tonny and his crew will do their utmost to make it – in practical terms, that means that they’ll be able to bring your dish to your table as long as they have the requisite ingredients. They’re also used to preparing completely original menus. For example, Nora Buri puts on weddings and receptions, all of which require unique choices when it comes to food and drink. Similarly, If you would like to have an outstandingly romantic evening, then Tonny will arrange a gazebo right on the beach, and prepare a special menu – there are three
basic choices, but all can be adjusted, according to your preferences.

Nora BuriNaturally there’s plenty on offer went it comes to regular dining. The Thai dishes are authentic favourites, with choices such as gaeng poo mar, a perfectly cooked blue crab in a yellow curry, enjoyed with rice noodles. Or the pla salmon tord, which is salmon in a penang sauce, as delicate as gossamer. Great tastes are guaranteed. The international menu is similarly exemplary. Try the Barge Platter, with its prawns, salmon and smoked duck with a garden salad – a definite choice if you’re particularly hungry. You’ll also enjoy the Kurobuta pork chop, 250 g of prime grade meat, served with apple chutney, broccoli, garlic potatoes and mushroom sauce. If you’re in the mood for sharing an ample dinner, then
there’s delicious Australian beef tenderloin for two; it weighs in at 400 g, and comes with fat chips (think homemade cubes of potato with rosemary), shallots, green beans and a peppercorn sauce.

Not everyone has such large appetites and The Barge also has its own children’s menu. There are naturally all manner of snacks, side dishes and starters – browse the menu and you’ll find plenty to please the kids.

The Barge has a long list of excellent wines to suit every pocket, as well as all manner of soft drinks, shakes and smoothies. Take advantage of The Barge’s happy hour from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm and again from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. You might also want to try The Barge’s Cocktail of The Month; each month a different one is showcased.

Whether you opt for Rice Barge & Terrace or The Barge Restaurant, you’ll be in completely professional hands; Chef Tonny and his team will do their utmost to make your time here enjoyable. In addition you’ll feel right at home, thanks to the friendly style of both these riverine-themed restaurants.

Dimitri Waring

For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7791 3555.