Will and I recently got back from 9 days in Thailand, which was basically a self-guided Phuket food tour, scuba diving, beaching and sightseeing aside! Will organised the entire trip as a surprise for my 30th birthday, and despite being an absolute control freak when it comes to planning our trips and adventures, I have to say that he couldn’t have done a better job. There are plenty of things to do in Phuket, including some of the ultimate foodie experiences in Phuket that Will knew I would love, including a visit to Phuket town night market, stuffing ourselves at the best Indian restaurant in Phuket, a Blue Elephant cookery class and a few romantic dinners thrown in. It’s been tough to narrow it down, but I’ve pulled together my top 5 foodie experiences to help you plan your very own Phuket food tour.
Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Phuket
1. Black Ginger Restaurant, The Slate
If you’re looking for a romantic dinner in Phuket, you cannot go wrong with an evening at Black Ginger restaurant, located inside the Slate hotel in Nai Yang Beach on Phuket’s northern shore. This restaurant, a short drive from the airport, was the first stop on our Phuket food tour. This restaurant pays homage to Thailand and its history in its opulent, aesthetic design; upon arriving you’ll be escorted over a lagoon on a hand-operated ferry. Alighting on the other side, you’ll find yourself in a traditional mansion where you’ll be greeted by the incredibly attentive staff, before some absolutely delicious fine dining.
Will had booked Black Ginger for the Saturday night that we arrived in Thailand, as a perfect first night’s romantic dinner in Phuket. Unfortunately our flight from Sydney was delayed and we had a mad rush to get there before last orders at 10:30pm, but the moment at we arrived at the peaceful and serene Black Ginger, we relaxed into holiday mode.
Settling into an unnecessary, but not unappreciated, amount of cushions in a dark-panelled room, we were given a refreshing cool towel that smelt of jasmine, a smell that followed us throughout our 9 days in Phuket. We looked through Chef Piak’s Thai fusion menu, ancient traditional dishes served in innovative new ways, the ‘True Tastes of Phuket.’ We opted for the Set Sharing Meal for 1200THB per person, which is roughly $58, and includes 4 courses from the a la carte menu and a signature hand-crafted cocktail; we couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off our first night’s romantic dinner in Phuket. Will opted for the ‘Salted Guava Lips’; Tanqueray gin, pressed guava juice, homemade lemongrass syrup, citrus, salted plum powder and lemongrass espuma, which was quite sweet, but balanced out by the fragrance of the lemongrass syrup. I chose the ‘Arokaya’; Kristall rum, herbs extract, cucumber, sweet basil, syrup and lime juice, which was deceptively strong but refreshing.
Click here for the full Black Ginger Drinks Menu
For our starters, Will chose the Kratong Thong, diced chicken with Thai spices and sweet corn in golden baskets, and I opted for the Pou Ja, jumbo crab meat in its shell, flavoured with sweet chilli sauce. I was blown away by how ‘jumbo’ my jumbo crab meat actually was; the portion included 2 large shells completely packed with juicy fresh crab. Next was the soup course. We’re both obsessed with Tom Yam Goong, the well-known Thai spicy and sour lemongrass soup with prawns and mushrooms. This is one of Chef Piak’s signature specialities and it was delicious; a perfect balance of spicy and sour, with a generous serving of large king prawns. We tried a lot of Tom Yam Goong during our Phuket food tour, and the one at Black Ginger was by far the best of them all.
For mains, Will chose a classic stir fry of Gai Phad Med Mamaung Himmapan, stir-fried chicken with dried chilli and roasted cashew nuts and I chose Goong Makham, prawns braised with sweet and sour tamarind sauce. The mains are served with your choice of steamed jasmine, brown or pandanus leaf infused rice. I had the latter, but if I’m being honest I couldn’t really taste the pandanus leaf infusion. Finally, we struggled to fit in dessert; we were so full and the jet lag was starting to set in. I chose the Bua Loy Ma Praow Orn, rice flour dumplings served with coconut milk and coconut flesh, and Will had the I-Tim-Indigo, bright blue coloured banana, coconut milk, lime juice and butterfly pea ice cream. My dessert was sweet and creamy, but unless you like coconut, I wouldn’t recommend you choose this dessert.
Click here for the full Black Ginger Food Menu
Black Ginger was absolutely stunning; so much thought goes into every aspect of the dining experience and I cannot recommend this restaurant enough, especially for a romantic dinner in Phuket.
2. Phuket Old Town Night Market
As part of your self-guided Phuket food tour you simply have to include a visit to a Phuket night market. We were lucky to arrive on a weekend so we were able to visit Phuket Walking Street, also known as Lardyai (talaad yai), ‘big market,’ on the Sunday. This Phuket town night market runs every Sunday 4pm until 10pm on the Thalang Road. Firstly, before I get into the night market, I have to say how much I loved Phuket Old Town with its gorgeous historical buildings, shrines, temples and huge array of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. I was also surprised by how many cool, minimalist coffee shops there were – if it weren’t for the tropical weather we could have been in Melbourne!
We started our evening meandering through this Phuket night market on the eastern-side, where there’s a wooden Chinese-style gate marking the entrance. Bustling with families, couples and groups of friends, the market is clearly the place to be. Unlike my previous experiences in hectic Bangkok’s night markets in 2009, being hassled every step we took, the Lardyai Phuket town night market was much more enjoyable. There were high quality street food and boutique craft stalls lining each side of the pedestrianised street, the air ripe with lemongrass, galangal and fragrant jasmine; quintessential smells of South East Asia.
We were slightly taken aback by the array of street food on offer, so decided to start with some charred barbequed sweetcorn and a fresh watermelon juice whilst we explored. There were Thai street food classics like hot, deep-friend vegetarian spring rolls, Thai crispy fried chicken and tamarind-enthused Pad Thai, all extremely well-priced. Unlike some of the other foodie experiences on this list, you can get a full meal and try lots of different dishes for under $30. My only criticism of this Phuket night market would have to be the lack of anywhere to sit and enjoy the street food that you’ve bought, so you’d find people perched on the kerb, making navigation a challenge!
After stuffing ourselves with street food, we browsed some of the local handcrafts and I somehow managed to come away from the evening with my 4th floppy hat (totally unnecessary) and a cropped t-shirt that’s becoming a regular on my Instagram feed. It says, ‘It’s Friday, time to go make memories for Monday,’ – Will says it’s inappropriate for casual Fridays in the office, I disagree!
3. The Grill Restaurant, Amatara Wellness Resort
This was another incredibly romantic dinner in Phuket that Will arranged for my 30th birthday and a highlight of our ‘impromptu’ Phuket food tour. The Grill restaurant was located in our resort, the Amatara Wellness Resort, with beautiful views across the Andaman sea. We started our night with unique, refreshing cocktails at the hotel’s rooftop bar, Sun and Moon bar before heading downstairs to the restaurant. There was actually a private function on at the restaurant, so they had given Will and I a private dining room complete with countless tee lights and flower petals scattered all over the table, with our own wait staff, which made it even more special and a uniquely romantic dinner in Phuket.
The Grill Restaurant is better known for its international fine dining dishes, rather than traditional Thai, so we decided to opt for international dishes. Will chose a brilliantly cooked steak and I opted for a piece of fish with homemade hollandaise sauce. and we shared a variety of sides including truffled asparagus and a multi-coloured tomato salad. We accompanied our meal with some Australian Riesling. Will had asked the staff to organise a cake for my birthday with candles, expecting it to be small token dish. Instead, at least 5 staff came in singing happy birthday with a large chocolate cake that could have easily served 10 people! Good thing was we had cake to snack on for the remainder of our stay at the Amatara!
4. Curry Delight, Kata Beach
As you may have guessed from my other post, my top 5 Indian restaurants in Sydney, I love a curry and everything to do with Indian food. It’s not surprising that Will searched for recommended Indian restaurants in Phuket as part of planning our Phuket food tour. Curry Delight, located near the hipster Kata Beach, is considered to be one of the best Indian restaurants in Phuket and it’s easy to see why; fresh, spicy flavours from imported, authentic Indian spices served in a relaxed backpacker setting typical of Thailand. We’d spent the day at Kata Beach, surfing, drinking beer at the Ska Reggae Bar and treating ourselves to a Thai massage before grabbing an early dinner at Curry Delight. Curry Delight is located at the southern end of Kata Beach on the busy Koktanot Road in amongst lots of other restaurants and bars, so with its unassuming open-plan restaurant front, it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.
Curry Delight is unpretentious and welcoming, and I didn’t feel remotely self-conscious having come straight off the beach with salty hair and oily skin from our massages! We grabbed two Singha beers (because apparently in Thailand I’m super low-maintenance and drink beer?), which were about $3 each and looked through the extensive menu. Curry Delight offers Indian, Thai and European food, but as we were eating at the best Indian restaurant in Phuket we ignored the Thai and European and dived straight into the Indian cuisine.
We opted for some classic Indian cuisine including fish tikka (300TBT), chicken tikka (250TBT), palak paneer (250TBT), rice (40TBT) and garlic naan (not sure on price!). We weren’t starving, so having a few grilled starters with the veggie curry worked well. Both tikka dishes were lovely and fresh, especially the fish, which isn’t surprising considering the beach side location and both had a well-balanced spice mix. The palak paneer, always a highlight of Indian food for me, had a warm, gradual heat to it, with decent quantities of paneer and was one of the better versions of this dish I’ve had, and I’ve tried a lot! Even though we didn’t have any Thai dishes, reviews on TripAdvisor speak very highly of these as well, so Curry Delight has lots of choice, and we highly recommend ending a beach day at Kata Beach at this gem.
5. Blue Elephant Cookery School
If you’re looking for a cooking class in Phuket, you absolutely have to try the Blue Elephant Cookery School in Phuket Old Town. This cooking class in Phuket is attached to Blue Elephant restaurant, located in the antique governor’s house with its nod to Sino-Portuguese architecture known as the Phra Pitak Chinpracha on the Sathon Road. Even if you don’t fancy a cooking class, this restaurant should definitely be a feature on your Phuket food tour; the Blue Elephant brand is world-famous for its sophisticated Thai food and products, with its Master Chef Nooror being recognised as one of Thailand’s top 5 chefs. Upon arriving at the governor’s mansion, I remembered that I actually visited the London branch of Blue Elephant back in 2012 when it was located in Fulham.
For awesome Thai recipes, check out the Blue Elephant Cookbook
Back to the cookery course. They have morning and afternoon classes available, with the morning class consisting of a visit to a local market and learning to cook 4 courses, whereas the afternoon course (which we were booked in for) doesn’t visit the market but teaches you 5 courses. You get to enjoy your self-cooked Thai feast in the beautiful dining room, with a take home goodie bag including a certificate, branded apron, recipe cards and some spice mixtures from their product range.
We were very lucky; as we visited during shoulder season we ended up having the class entirely to ourselves, so we had the dedicated attention of our chef Prair and her sous chef Moo. We sped through an array of dishes, which were much more sophisticated and refined than the standard Pad Thai or too-sweet green curries you might cook on other cookery courses. We made;
- Koong Phad Prik Khing Tua Fak Yao (stir-fried prawns with red curry and long beans) with home made red curry paste
- Tom Kha Kai Sai Hed (coconut milk soup with chicken and mushroom)
- Yam Ok Ped Lychee (duck salad with tangerine sauce),
- Plaa Phaow Samoon Prai (grilled sea bass with herbs cooked in a banana leaf) and finished with Mango Sticky Rice.
The dishes you cook vary depending on day of the week, and all use premium fresh ingredients, and were absolutely delicious. I highly recommend this cookery class in Phuket as a stop on your Phuket food tour.
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