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Mae Nam Beach

Eat and meet

Mae Nam

Aside from the resort and guesthouse restaurants, there are a selection of other places worth trying out in and around Mae Nam.

Quirky About Cafe is at the beach end of Maenam's walking street, or Soi 4, which heads from the main road (with traffic lights) to the Mae Nam Pier (not to be mistaken with the Lomprayah pier). The menu is simple and well-priced. Known for its international varieties of coffee, it also serves sandwiches, waffles and pancakes, and notable house-made yoghurt. This characterful cafe has walls filled with eclectic decorations from your more interesting coffee mug for sale to a photo ‘wall of fame' and blackboard to leave a message. About Cafe is a top spot for breakfast, lunch or a coffee and to read the paper, browse magazines or do a book swap.

The half-indoor, half-outdoor thatch roof Chill Out Cafe is a pleasant change of scenery from the numerous resorts taking over the area. The name is apt and with ambient music and friendly staff, it really feels like a place to chill out. It has a well-priced Thai and European menu – in fact, it was the cheapest we found on the beachfront. It offers an all-day breakfast, plus a lunch and dinner menu, a beach barbecue in the evenings and the obligatory happy hour running 07:00-19:00. Sandwiches are 100 baht, pizzas from 160 baht and most Thai dishes 100 baht. Whether sitting indoor near the bar, half outdoor in the breeze, or on the beach, this is a place to chill and watch the kite-surfers zipping by.

On Thursday evenings, locals, expats and tourists alike gather in the street near the Chinese temple for the weekly Walking Street Market. Here you can enjoy cocktails for 50 baht, sample deep-fried crickets, listen to local bands, and enjoy authentic street food. Turn towards the sea at the Mae Nam traffic lights, and follow the loop road around towards a small pier and community stage for events. Market stalls sell clothing, including cheap knock-offs, and the best deal is probably good quality bikinis at 200 baht a set. Other items for sale include artwork, secondhand books, jewellery and fake sunglasses and watches. Sample Thai desserts such as banana in sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over the coals and coconut ice cream. Other snack food includes chicken satays with peanut sauce, various meats and fish balls grilled on small barbecues, spring rolls, pad Thai, noodle soup and samosas made by a local Indian family.

One of Samui's many authentic Italian restaurants, Caffe e Cucina Ristorante is set opposite the entrance to the five-star Santiburi resort on the Ring Road, and is undoubtedly Mae Nam's best Italian eatery. Prices are reasonable by Western food standards, and the setting is intimate and cosy. Pizzas have a thin, crisp base; try the calzone, huge and stuffed full of ingredients. The La Parmigiana (baked aubergine) is rich and flavoursome, and the menu offers the usual Italian classics, including huge portions of pasta.

The Boudoir is a small, intimate French restaurant and one of Samui's best kept secrets; rather hard to find, but worth the try. Huge portions of rustic country French dishes including fois gras, baked camembert or slow-cooked lamb shank are on the menu, which is displayed on a black board, and changes daily according to what is available or the mood of the chef. Prices are reasonable and food is prepared and served by French couple Stephan and Isabelle. As the name suggests, the place oozes sex appeal and romance, with opulent decor in rich colours, mood lighting and comfortable seating that encourages guests to linger over another bottle of wine. The owners have been known to smuggle cheeses and cold cuts back from France in their luggage, as they're passionate about authentic French ingredients. Book in advance, as they only work on bookings, and the restaurant only has a few tables.

For anyone not visiting the interior of Thailand on their holiday, experience a bit of farm life at The Farmer Restaurant close to the coast. Set amid paddy and green meadows complete with water buffalo, ducks and croaking frogs, guests can try authentic Thai as well as international cuisine, though it can be pricey – this is fine-dining in rural surrounds. The restaurant grows its own rice, and has the only paddy on Ko Samui. This is a great location for a special occasion. Most of the restaurant is open air, so be sure to visit in good weather. As it is a big space to fill, it can lack atmosphere on a quiet night. The restaurant offers a transfer service from your resort.

Just west of Maenam pier (on the beach), look for the blue- and yellow-striped lounge chairs to find Satang Bar. Those who have been coming to Thailand since the '90s will enjoy this throwback from the rasta days of old backpacker Thailand, where every bar showcased Bob Marley in both music and posters. Satang is a bamboo and wooden beach shack with just enough green, yellow and red to make you do a double take and wonder where you are. Hanging shells, clanging chimes and material deckchairs strewn out over the beach create a chilled-out island vibe. Open till late, this is a great to place to relax with a cold one. Of course, tattoos are available here too.

About Cafe 160/1 Moo 1 (Soi 4, also known as ‘walking street') T: (081) 584 4887 Open Mon-Sat, 07:30-17:00. Closed Sunday. http://www.aboutcafesamui.com/
Caffe e Cucina Ristorante 12/33 Moo 1 Mae Nam Beach. T: (018) 942 576
The Boudoir Restaurant Soi 1, Mae Nam Beach. T: (085) 783 1031
The Farmer Restaurant 1/26 Moo 4, Mae Nam Beach. T: (077) 447 222 http://www.thefarmerrestaurantsamui.com


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