Bophut Beach, and in particular the Fisherman’s Village, is one of the best places on Samui to enjoy a mellow night of eating, drinking and relaxing.
For cheap local-style food, make a trip out to Talad Sod Bophut, a large roofed market selling fresh fruits, veggies and seafood on the way to Chaweng. At the front, a cluster of stalls dish out pad Thai, jok (rice porridge), mango sticky rice, Isaan food, rad na (wide noodles in thick gravy) and steamed saltwater crab for far cheaper than at the seafood restaurants. It’s also the place to score real Southern Thai food like gaeng tai pla (fiery fish bladder curry) and pad pak sataw (stir-fried stink beans) served with rice. Most dishes go for around 40 baht, making this a great budget option for lunch.
A highlight of Bophut is the walking street market held every Friday evening along the main lane through Fisherman’s Village. Sample grilled squid, deep-fried insects, fried quail eggs and Thai desserts such as coconut sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and steamed or grilled. Thai children enjoy gelatinous desserts shaved from big colourful jelly blocks as foreign kids look on curiously. Local adults join expats and travellers for 60-baht mojitos while being entertained by street musicians. Across from the long-running Happy Elephant Restaurant, the Elephant Walk tries, with some success, to capture the feel of the walking street with boutiques, eateries and a bar on other nights.
Fisherman’s House Cafe is a great option for brunch, serving baked goods and organic Northern Thai Arabica prepared in several methods, from drip to nitro to espresso machine. The display of baked goods looked enticing, but we couldn’t pass on the “red bean”, featuring a poached egg and pan-fried tomatoes atop beans seasoned with paprika, coriander and parmesan, with a toasted baguette on the side. It’s one of several creative breakfast plates that go for more than 200 baht and can be enjoyed at streetside tables or a comfy lounge in the back.
If you’re on a health kick, head down to the Greenlight Cafe. The mostly vegetarian breakfast menu includes shakshuka (Israeli egg stew) and eggs benedict with asparagus along with lighter options like wholegrain oatmeal and quinoa. Wraps and sandwiches feature items like grilled portobello mushrooms, falafel, goat cheese and avocado, topped off with veggies from the cafe’s own organic garden. Some sandwiches fetch as much as 360 baht, but you can really taste the quality ingredients. The elegant dining area features a dragon mural on high wood ceilings along with intricate carved windows and doors.
Several restaurants set out extensive seafood displays in the village, but we suggest heading to the south end of the village lane for cheaper seafood to go with quality Thai fare at The Hut. The cosy eatery makes up for a lack of sea views with bulging plates of grilled squid, prawns or fish for around 300 baht, and stir-fries and curries for only 100 baht. In the centre of the village, The Shack is another great option with a streetside grill serving Australian and American steaks, spare ribs, king crab legs and gigantic burgers. The bar has a good selection of wines and whiskeys (Tullamore Dew anyone?) and the old-school blues and jazz made us want to stick around. Barbecued chicken goes for 350 baht and some steaks reach over 1,000 baht, but you won’t leave hungry.
You’ll also find some good eats on Bophut Beach, and not just from the vendors who row ashore to dish out grilled corn and chicken. At Free House’s large beachfront restaurant, we’d skip the burgers and pizza and go for a selection of Southern Thai fare. The kua kling pla (minced fish with chillies and turmeric was authentic, if a bit pricey at around 150 baht.
For a splurge with a starry eyed sweetie, stroll further west up the beach to Zazen’s seaside restaurant with white tablecloths and flickering candles. The menu reaches into French, Italian and Thai territory, with choices like homemade fois gras; braised ox cheek and tale with mushrooms and pepper sauce, and panang curry with lobster. Start with drinks at the Le Rouge Lounge, where you can browse the hundreds of vintages held in one of Samui’s largest wine cellars. Traditional Thai dance performances are held on Sunday and Thursday nights. If you’re in the area in the morning, we’ve also heard great things about the high tea at Zazen’s Le Salon de Ti. Reservations are a good idea at the main restaurant, and do bring a credit card if you’re short on cash!
While Bophut lacks the booming nightclubs of Chaweng, you will find a handful of low-key pubs in the village and on the beach. One good option for a classic pub experience is The Frog & Gecko, a cheerful spot offering draft beer, quiz nights, Western food and sea views from a long wood bar that draws some British expats. There’s also the Red Moon, a French-run bar and restaurant serving tapas, Australian steaks, Thai food and wines. Keep it going by heading to the east end of the village lane, where a VW bus bar and reggae shack both offer affordable drinks served by laid-back bartenders.
Fisherman’s House Cafe: 29 Moo 1 (on a lane running between the village and ring road); open 11:00-21:00; T: (077) 425 356
Free House Beach Restaurant: Bophut Beach (at Free House Bungalows, west of the village); open for lunch and dinner; T: (077) 427 516
Greenlight Cafe: Fisherman’s Village (in front of Elysia Boutique Hotel); open 08:00-22:00; T: (062) 064 7622
Talad Sod Bophut: Ring road (across from Soi Sundays); open 04:00-18:00
The Hut Cafe: East end of the village lane; open 13:00-22:00
The Shack Bar & Grill: Centre of the village; open for dinner only; T: (087) 264 6994; http://theshackgrillsamui.com/
Zazen Restaurant, Le Rouge Lounge and Le Salon de Ti: At Zazen Boutique Resort, west end of Bophut Beach; T: (077) 425 085
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