Bars and sunsets
While Bang Rak is far from the pinnacle of Samui's food scene, plenty of options will keep you sated. Central Bang Rak has a typical cluster of tourist fare on offer, but walk a bit further and you'll find some better selections.
At the far western end of the beach, just before it peters out to nothing, is Lae Lay Esan Restaurant, which does a solid range of Thai food both on a terrace and down on the beach, where you can squelch your toes in the sand through dinner. Both spots enjoy good views across the water to Ko Pha Ngan. Dishes include standards like pad thai and tom yam, along with haw mok (steamed fish curry), crab in curry powder and steamed fish. Prices are moderate.
A little closer to "town" but still overlooking the beach is Bangrak Beach Club, which has a very well placed swimming pool overlooking the beach and is a good spot for a sundowner (just a drink, not a meal) if you don't want to head out to the bars at the eastern extreme. Closer still to town, but off the beach, you'll find Antica Locanda, a highly recommended to us Italian-run restaurant with pizzas from around 200 baht, pastas 300 baht and mains mostly from 400 baht. Almost next door is Green Leaf, which does a mix of Thai one-plate dishes through to curries, soups and some Western fare, including pizzas. We made do with a simple plate of noodles and had no complaints. You can get away with a meal and a drink for under 200 baht. Green Leaf is attached to Dream Field Resort, which is also well worth a look for a room.
Worth a look in central Bang Rak is Secret Garden, which offers solid Western fare and regular live entertainment -- see their excellent website for a calender of activities. We enjoyed our lunch here: the Secret Garden XXL Cheese Burger (380 baht, diet dashed again) left us stuffed. While the menu does have some Thai food, Secret Garden is mostly all about Western and bar food. With plenty of finger snacks like Dutch bitter balls (140 baht), calamari (170 baht) and French fries (120 baht). Sandwiches and wraps (from 180 to 320 baht) and pasta (from 290 baht) will keep the Thai food-adverse travellers sated, if a good deal poorer. Dinner is likewise Western heavy, with salads (from 220 baht) through to a tenderloin (for a whopping 750 baht). In the evening, the bar is a bit of a hang for Bang Rak's local expat scene, which may not be to everyone's taste, but the food is good.
A little further to the east you'll hit Samui Pier Resort, which does a good Western breakfast (100 to 240 baht) and they also have a decent kids' breakfast menu, with a few cereals (80 baht), nutella toast (80 baht) and so on. The coffee (50 baht) here is good. Lunch and dinner is a bit of everything, with pizzas and pastas from 240 baht, steaks from 360 baht, burgers from 220 baht and one-plate Thai dishes from 150 baht. While we only had breakfast and a couple of coffees here, we did like it a lot, especially the staff, who were particularly friendly and encourage you to just laze around -- we wish we had had the time to.
Further east again, around the Anantara pier, you'll hit an incongruous mix of Massimo's Italian, some sketchy bars and a meat pie shop (of all things). Massimo's does antipasti for around 150 baht, pizza from 210 baht and typical meat and pasta dishes between 200 and 300 baht. Despite them claiming to be the best pizzeria on Samui, we didn't try it, but it is conveniently located for this end of Bang Rak -- and they deliver!
In the same area and dead opposite the Anantara pier is a Thai rice soup place that does good traditional Thai bag coffee, which is handy if you've had your fill of Nescafe 3 in 1. We had breakfast here for a bargain 60 baht.
Keep going and you'll reach the one stand-out for Thai food we found in Bang Rak: Khao Hom, which sits on the off-beach side of the road and has an extensive Thai menu, including some good southern Thai curries. If you ask them to give it to you spicy, be warned, they will! Most dishes are under 200 baht. We tried a spicy southern pork curry and the gaeng som here also comes highly recommended. They're known for their Samui specialities (the owners are locals) so you can ask for recommendations if you'd like to try something more unusual. It is a bit of a walk from the centre of Bang Rak but worth it.
After Khao Hom, the offerings drop off a bit until after the Seatran pier and Bang Rak's wet market (opposite the junction with the airport road), where the beach curves around and delivers good sunset views. A cluster of bars and restaurants along here are designed to take in the sunset, with Tamarina Bistro and Bar (formerly Big Buddha Cafe) easily the flashest place for a drink and bite to eat -- but just take a stroll and try any that appeals.
While we didn't try it, Amala, the fully vegetarian restaurant at Prana Resorts, comes recommended.
Antica Locanda: T: (077) 245 163; open daily 13:00-23:00; http://www.anticasamui.com/.
Green Leaf: T: (081) 924 7029; daily breakfast to dinner.
Khao Hom: 34/35 Moo 4; T: (087) 413 4084; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Massimo's: 3/1 Moo 4 Bang Rak; T: (083) 967 2496; open daily 14:00-23:00; https://www.facebook.com/Massimos-samui-Italian-Restaurant-207837116054983/.
Secret Garden: T: (077) 245 255; open daily breakfast-late; http://secretgardensamui.com/.
Tamarina Bistro & bar: T: (077) 423 635; http://tamarinabistroandbar.com/
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Ko Samui