A good mix of options
While it’s not the place for nightlife, Mae Nam’s low-key village has a strong selection of restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world.
Accessed off the ring road by a lane marked by a Chinese-style gate in the centre of Mae Nam village, an eclectic strip of eateries includes Austrian, Swiss, French, German, British, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and Thai cuisines. Open since 1999, La Bonne Franquette will transport you to a French street corner by way of fresh Bordeaux sold by the glass and a small but nicely done menu offered by attentive servers at tables set up along the street or indoors. Mains like tartare steak, rump and lamb shank are delicious and served with a host of sides that help to lessen the blow of the 300 to 500 baht price tags. Do save room for a framboise or citron meriguee for dessert.
Around the centre of this strip, Ma-Yom Restaurant is a simple joint dishing out home-style Thai food to a few bamboo tables for 60 to 150 baht. The pad cha talay (seafood stir-fried with fresh peppercorn and other herbs) was as spicy and aromatic as we hoped, though staff does a good job of toning down the heat at request. Continue north from here towards the beach and turn right, passing a streetside bar where a boisterous woman makes it hard to pass up a quick beer, and you’ll come to Mae Nam Village Restaurant. It serves decent breakfasts along with Thai food that competes with Ma-Yom. On the ring road, Chill Out Som Tam looked promising for som tam and other Isaan dishes for cheap, though we didn’t make it inside for a bite on our last trip.
Every Thursday evening, this same village lane hosts a walking street night market that’s similar, if a bit smaller, to the better-known one that takes over the Fisherman’s Village in Bophut on Fridays. You’ll find a similar selection of meats on sticks, Thai sweets and ice cream for munching on while you peruse the art displays and live bands.
One of Samui’s more unusual restaurants is The Farmer, a romantic upscale spot set amid paddy and green meadows complete with water buffalo, ducks and croaking frogs in Mae Nam’s western reaches. Guests can try authentic Thai as well as international cuisine made with vegetables grown on site – we’ve yet to try it but have heard good things. You can call ahead for a pick up, which is a good thing as the inland location takes some effort to reach on your own.
For a meal and drinks on Mae Nam Beach, Treehouse Silent Beach’s restaurant offers some interesting choices like chili con carne and watermelon salad with feta cheese, olives and pumpkin seeds. We tried the khao soi, and while it didn’t stack up to many versions of this Northern Thai curry soup that we’ve sampled up north, we appreciated the opportunity to taste something unexpected. Prices are reasonable and the setting, with bamboo tables set up on the sand and floor cushions spread under a pavilion, is conducive to a few hours of relaxing.
La Bonne Franquette: Mae Nam village lane; open 05:00-23:00; T: (095) 069 0344
Mae Nam Village Restaurant: Near the Chinese temple, Mae Nam village; open 08:00-21:00; T: (077) 425 151
Ma-Yom Restaurant: Mae Nam village lane; open for dinner; T: (096) 635 9022
The Farmer: West Mae Nam, south of the ring road; open 12:00-22:30; T: (077) 447 222; http://www.thefarmerrestaurantsamui.com/
Treehouse Silent Beach: Soi Rainbow, East Mae Nam Beach; open morning to late evening; T: (062) 240 4305
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Ko Samui