Despite the implications of the recent crisis, sadly still with us it seems for a few more months, I have been particularly struck by how this coastal suburb continues to grow, attracting a number of burgeoning new cafes and restaurants, yet still maintains its wonderfully rustic foundation.
Rawai has always been a popular destination for foreigners seeking to settle, characterful, slightly more price friendly than the more exclusive west coast and still far enough away from the booming nightlife of Patong, yet still relatively close to Phuket town. I myself was recommended to this area by a former hotelier and long-term resident of Phuket and have not once regretted my decision. My only sadness is that I am currently only able to visit for a week or so every month, but even with the present challenges, on every visit I remind myself, of how Phuket still manages to offer such a multitude of dining choices at all price points.
On my visits, I almost always have a tight and rather hectic schedule with little opportunity for flexibility. I must confess that I have driven past today’s venue for lunch, one of these old hidden gems many times on the winding road to Nai Harn beach and whilst it has been on my list to visit, I had never managed to squeeze it in. That is until now.
Fortuitously, Olivier, the proprietor of Shakers, reached out to me and I now find myself heading there for a long overdue lunch. I am warmly welcomed by Olivier himself, a Belgian national and a long-term resident of the island. Shakers has actually been around in Phuket for quite some time; in fact, since 2003 when it opened its doors in Patong. After establishing a loyal following, relocated to its present site in 2014. The name, perhaps a nod to Olivier’s former skill as a specialty barman or in today’s language, mixologist; he previously won many awards including the highly prized golden shaker.
Seated on the terrace, I am somewhat pleasantly surprised, particularly in the current climate, to find the restaurant fairly well occupied despite the time of day and encouraged to overhear several of Olivier’s compatriots, ordering without even looking at menus, indicating their regular patronage. This is always a good sign.
My partner and I choose a number of dishes from the truly lengthy menu which covers both Thai stalwarts and a lengthy selection of western favourites including comfort dishes such as meatballs in tomato sauce and chicken schnitzel and pizzas and pasta.
There are also a number of daily specials scribed on a wall mounted blackboard indicating the offering, dependent on the day; all you can eat BBQ, ribs and unsurprisingly, mussels and fries. Of course, Sundays feature roast beef, lamb or pork served with all the trimmings. If you can’t find something to satisfy your appetite on this menu, I really don’t know where else you would go!
Whilst we await our order, I survey the surroundings, whilst quite simply furnished, is both cosy and comfortable, the terrace bright and airy, the restaurant slightly more formal. Pool, darts and live sport are evidently popular. I recall that on several occasions, whilst driving past, I have observed it as particularly well patronized and a lively spot in the evenings. My partner has chosen from the Thai dishes on offer, a Tom Yam Kung and a Spaghetti Khee Mao with prawns. I have selected a Patong pizza and a burger; we share all.
The Tom Yum, spicy with juicy prawns, the noodles equally tasty. My burger hits the spot, tender and perfectly cooked, the pizza, a thin and crispy achievement with onions, salami. cheese, and tomato. I liberally drizzle it with home-made chili oil.
To end, the dessert menu does not disappoint, continuing the trend of offering many choices. Whilst tempted by Belgian waffles, for obvious reasons, I fear I will be unable to do them justice, so go for a simple crème brulee. It is lusciously creamy with a crunchy topping; an undoubted success.
I thank Olivier for his kind hospitality and as I depart, the short journey to my apartment, I reflect. When I do finally relocate to Phuket full time, I will certainly be returning to Shakers much more often, perhaps even becoming one of those regulars.
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly restaurant column.