Phuket is famous for its fresh seafood and, come supper time, you won’t have to walk far to find a restaurant with a big display of lobster, crab, prawns, and fish just waiting to be cooked to order. The inside scoop on the seafood joints along Rat-U-Thit Road is that they make their money from one-time customers -- so neither the food, nor the service, needs to be that good. You can try one if you like, but you have been warned. For a seafood restaurant that consistently gets the thumbs-up from its customers, try the long-running Patong Seafood or Savoey Thai on Beach Road – both are very popular with tourists so don’t expect a sleepy scene. Fresh seafood is priced by weight, and other dishes range from 80 to 600 baht.
The beachfront area around Loma Park on Patong’s north side has several reasonably priced spots where you can dine with a sea view. In the building next to the park that houses Maximum Fitness, Wai Thai No. 6 is a friendly place with a big menu of popular Thai dishes, pizza, pasta and burgers, all in the 70 to 250 baht price range. Nothing fancy here, with plastic chairs, plastic tablecloths and tattered umbrellas, but the portion sizes are large and the sea breezes refreshing. For something a little more stylish, but pricier, try Sole Mio next door. Just back from the beach across the road is the Raya Seafood Market, where you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood dishes – best to go in the cooler evening hours.
Sea Hag is a long-running favourite found just a few steps back from the beach road. Food is predominantly Thai and the standard is excellent -- try the wingbean salad! Prices, by Patong standards, are moderate, with most dishes in the 150-250 baht range. If you want to try one Thai place only, this should be it. Excellent service.
If red meat is more to your tastes, Harry’s and La Boucherie do a fine steak dinner. Harry’s describes itself as an American steakhouse, but it’s a lot more than that with pizzas, fajitas, Scandinavian dishes, Thai food, and a kids’ menu. La Boucherie has a more specific focus -- premium beef cooked a la France. Prices are moderate.
One of Phuket’s most scenic dining areas is along the coastal road in Kalim, just north of Patong, with Baan Rim Pa, Joe’s Downstairs and Da Maurizio among the best known places to dine. Baan Rim Pa is first off the rank and is arguably the most famous of the three, preparing Royal Thai cuisine in a sumptuous setting overlooking the bay -- the succulent duck curry is to die for. Dinner music is provided by their resident pianist and saxophone player, and their wine cellar is award-winning. Unless you too are royalty, you can probably only afford to eat here once. Joe’s does modern continental food with a focus on meat and tapas, and Da Maurizio is Italian. Any one of the three is a worthwhile choice for a splurge, though we liked Joe’s the best. Baan Rim Pa, however, has the best view.
For great views that won’t blow your budget, try Pan Yaah Thai Restaurant. Its big menu of authentic, reasonably priced Thai food has attracted locals and visitors to its wooden-decked cliffside perch for many years. Massaman curry, hor mok (spicy fish mousse), fresh steamed fish, tom yam prawn soup and chicken satay skewers are among its best dishes. Good for a casual lunch or dinner at sunset. Parking is available in front and across the road.
Pantai Seaview Restaurant and Coffee Shop is a cheerful and relatively cheap spot on the Kalim shorefront serving up a mix of Thai and western food with Southern Thai and Phuket specialties, including nam phrik kung siap (shrimp chilli paste and fresh vegetables), mostly in the 100 to 200 baht price range. Run by a local Muslim family, the restaurant is halal, and booze free. It’s an ideal spot for enjoying breakfast with a sea view.
Rat-U-Thit Road is packed with restaurants, both locally run shops and big chains including Hooters and the Hard Rock Cafe (not to be confused with the Rock Hard a go go on Bangla Road). One local dining spot is Dang’s, a traveller’s favourite serving up Thai food. It’s packed day in, day out for lunch and dinner. Serving sizes tend to be large -- more than we’d normally eat -- making this a good choice for those after a really filling meal. This is also a good place for solo travellers to meet others; if Dang’s is full, try No. 6 restaurant two doors down, another small yet popular open-air shop with a similar menu.
Orchid Garden is a big, family-friendly restaurant that has something for everyone. Many Thai dishes including grilled seafood, lobster and curries come in generous sizes, while the Western dishes are even bigger: fajitas, pastas, burgers, pizza and all-day breakfasts. There’s also a kids’ menu and high chairs for the wee ones. Dishes are mostly in the 150-250 baht range. White tablecloths, high ceilings and a cocktail menu add a bit of class to this otherwise simple place.
Pum is a small spot that fills up fast. Service is competent and the meals simple, so this is better suited for a quick meal rather than a long banquet. As you’d expect, the food is good, though no pork is on offer. A range of cooking classes is available, from learning a single dish for 500 baht to a five-hour session for 3,500 baht, which includes five dishes and a trip to the local market. Each class comes with a cookbook so you can try it again when home. Ask at the restaurant for more details.
On the road just behind Jungceylon mall, Banzaan Market is a real, thriving fresh market for locals as well as a great place to visit. Set in a clean, brightly lit plaza over two levels, the main floor is chock full of fresh meats and seafood, vegetables, fruit and flowers. Unless you’re on the hunt for a whole pig’s head or some live lobster, you’ll be seeking out the vendors selling prepared snacks and takeaway meals including fried chicken with sticky rice, spring rolls, grilled fish, curries and soups, and all those colourful Thai sweets that will satisfy your sugar fix for the week. If you really want that live lobster, however, or any other fresh seafood item, you could buy it then bring it over to the attached Hemingway’s restaurant, where they’ll cook it up for you as desired.
For quick and easy eats, Beach Road is dotted with fast food outlets – some are open 24 hours for late-night snacking. More chain restaurants reappear at the Jungceylon shopping centre -- but we much preferred our meal at the Food Haven foodcourt. Each of the dozen stalls here specialises in a regional Thai cuisine, so this is a good opportunity to try some northern Thai eats if you won’t be headed up that way. Prices are cheap (50 baht and up) and cooling down in the mall’s air-con is absolutely free.
You’ll find more mid-priced family-friendly restaurants in the Sino-Phuket build of the mall and the surrounding area, including a Wine Connection outlet with lunch specials on pizza and pasta plus a big stock of wines by the bottle, and Irish Times Pub, a popular spot for Sunday roasts and for catching international sports events on the big-screen TVs.
Of course, the best way to fill your stomach on the cheap is with Thai street food. It’s delicious, clean, and likely a lot fresher than your hotel’s buffet. All day and well into the night vendors along the beach and Bangla Road sell sweet corn, fresh fruit, skewers of barbecued meat, and other Thai snacks. It’s standard practice that they charge foreign tourists more than they would a local, so it doesn’t hurt to ask the price in advance – and there’s no point getting wound up about it.
For something closer to a full meal, the semi-permanent food stands along Rat-U-Thit Road have a wok and burner and will fry up your choice of meat with rice or noodles for around 50 baht. A small night market springs up near the junction of Rat-U-Thit and Hat Patong roads and is a great spot to sample the best known Thai street foods. Must-tries are som tam with sticky rice, barbecued squid, fried bananas, and any seafood.
Most of the sois around central Patong, both off Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee and the beach road have a roving motorbike food stall. These are the gateway to cheap, good Thai food. The entire kitchen, including gas bottle, is actually attached to the motorbike and the chef sits on the bike seat while cooking away. They’ll mostly do simple fried food on rice, but they seemed to be quite capable of more complex dishes too. Servings are large and delivered in styrofoam boxes that you can eat from on the spot, the footpath, on the beach or back in your hotel. Prices are very reasonable, at around 50 baht for a very filling meal.
Bars & entertainment
Patong is infamous for its nightlife and there’s certainly no shortage of places to wet your whistle. Bangla Road is the heart of the action with more than 100 bars running along it and its sois all the way from Thaweewong Road to Rat-U-Thit Road. The Aussie Bar on Soi Easy is more about sports than go-go dancers, but Soi Gonzo, Soi Eric and Soi Seadragon fall into a sleazier category.
Soi Crocodile is, for reasons that will be obvious when you see it, better known as Soi Kathoey. Many of the bars are indistinguishable from each other and little more than a shopfront with a walk-around bar, some stools, and a pool table, and staffed by between three and 30 friendly young Thai women who’ll happily chat and pour you drinks from dusk till dawn. Some hate it, and others travel across the world to get here.
Patong’s two Irish pubs -- Molly Malone’s and Scruffy Murphy’s -- are notable for their lack of hostesses. Good, if overpriced, pub grubis found here, too, and, for a hangover cure, Molly’s puts on an all-day breakfast for 295 baht. If you just want to dance there are a few discos but the clientele tends to run more toward young Thais on holiday than Western tourists -- try busy Tai Pan (free champagne on your birthday!) or the more intimate Banana Disco. The sprawling Seduction Nightclub on Bangla Road puts on regular themed parties and DJ nights, with semi- or once-famous DJs such as Fatboy Slim occasionally coming to play.
Above the Starbucks on Thaweewong Road, Coyote morphs into a Latin-themed lounge once the sun goes down, with live music most nights of the week and happy hour specials on margaritas. If hard rock is your taste, you’ll love Rock City on Rat-U-Thit Road with its live music and tribute bands, found just opposite Bangla Road.
Baan Rim Pa, Joe’s Downstairs & Da Maurizio: 223 Kalim Beach Rd, Patong; T: (076) 340 789; www.baanrimpa.com; daily 12:00-24:00.
Banana Disco: 96 Thaweewong Rd, Patong; T: (076) 340 301.
Banzaan Market: Sai Kor Rd, Patong.
Coyote: 94 Thaweewong Rd, Patong; T: (076) 344 366; coyotephuket.com.
Dang’s: 188 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, Patong; T: (076) 344 306.
Food Haven Foodcourt: Jungceylon Shopping Centre, Patong; T: (076) 600 100.
Harrys: 110/2 Soi Big One Thaweewong Rd, Patong; T: (076) 340 418; F: (076) 343 035; daily 08:00-23:00 harrys-phuket.com.
Irish Times Pub: Jungceylon Plaza, Jungceylon Shopping Centre, Patong; T: (076) 366 085.
Jungceylon: 181 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, Patong.
La Boucherie: 3 Sawatdirak Rd, Patong; T: (076) 344 581; daily 17:00-02:00; laboucherie-asia.com.
Orchid Garden: Rat-U-Thit Rd, Patong (at Soi Kepsap); T: (076) 340 375; orchidgarden.biz.ly.
Pantai Seaview Restaurant and Coffee Shop: 322/3 Prabarami Rd (Route 4233), Kalim Beach; T: (076) 510 168, (080) 891 8051; daily 07:00-23:00.
Pan Yaah Thai Restaurant: 249 Prabarami Rd, Kalim, Patong (opposite the Indochine resort); T: (076) 344 473.
Patong Seafood 98/2 Thaweewong Rd, Patong; T: (076) 341244; daily 08:00-24:00.
Pum: 204/32 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, Patong; T: (076) 346 269; th.pumthaifoodchain.com; daily 11:00-21:00.
Rock City: 169 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, Patong.
Savoey Thai International: 136 Thaweewong Rd, Patong; T: (076) 341 171; F: (076) 340 231.
Scruffy Murphy’s: 5 Bangla Rd, Patong; T: (076) 292 2590; www.scruffymurphysphuket.com.
Sea Hag: 78/5 Permpong Soi III, Soi Wattana clinic, Patong; T: (076) 341 111; seahagpatong.com; daily 12:00-16:00, 18:00-24:00.
Seduction Nightclub: 70/3 Bangla Rd, Patong; T: (076) 345 711; seductiondisco.com.
Wai Thai No. 6: Beach side of Maximum Fitness building, Thaweewong Rd, Patong.
Wine Connection: 195 Jungceylon Plaza, Jungceylon Shopping Centre, Patong; T: (076) 366 091.