With a few surplus moments. I wander towards a spectacular Olympic-plus size, azure blue pool, which I am informed by attentive staff is one of the longest in Phuket. I have no doubt this is indeed true! I make a mental note, my first but not my last, to return to this oasis where I may recharge my batteries by swimming in this tranquil setting, whilst enjoying the unobstructed views out to the Andaman Sea; truly a relaxing oasis.
My buggy has arrived and as I settle in for the short journey to the restaurant, I look up and can see that the hotel rooms are in fact all situated along neatly layered terraces on the face of the hill, cleverly ensuring all offer 180-degree sea views.
On route to the summit, we pass both the spa and also a cosy club lounge with plunge pool, a first for me and my second mental note, a must-visit on a future stay.
We round the last corner and as I disembark and climb a flight of short stone steps, I turn around and take a moment to enjoy what must be one of the most stunning views in Phuket. If I were enamoured and seeking a venue to pop the question, this would certainly be high up my list. The Sunset Grill is perched atop the cliff and as I am welcomed, following the combination of the adventure of the short trip and the heart-stopping views, my anticipation, is as high as this hilltop dining room itself.
The contemporary furnished room has floor to ceiling windows which on a clear night afford some of the most breathtaking views available in Phuket. Jazz playing in the background, a slightly nautical cruise theme pervades; quite enchanting.
I am greeted by charming staff who offer me both the a la carte menu and a gastro degustation. They are also on trend with a creative vegetarian tasting menu, offering several dishes which even interest me, a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore. There is also a carefully curated selection of grape libations, from around the world, available by both bottle and glass.
My starter arrives; one of my personal favourites, a wonderfully innovative foie gras dish with a delicate balance of balsamic and unusually so, liquorice dust. The complex flavours and textures in this dish are almost perfect, the juxta-positioning of the decadent, creamy and rich foie gras lobe countered with the ever so slightly acidic balsamic layered with an aftertaste of aniseed is superlative.
This is followed by Chef’s signature recommendation of cold cantaloupe melon soup, scented with Thai basil, the non-veg option featuring crunchy parma ham. Following on from the luxuriant liver, this is a wonderfully light and refreshing continuance.
Main course follows; a tender wagyu beef tenderloin with anchovy mash which with an ever so slightly salty and rich fishiness, surprisingly for me, works well. Steak and anchovy has always been a classic marriage but I was a non-believer till tonight. The dish is accompanied by fresh asparagus, forest mushrooms and a sauce of green peppercorns.
Chef Mario Caramella, originally from Milan joined the Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort in late 2017 as Executive Chef and is certainly pushing the culinary boundaries on the evidence so far this evening.
He now recommends another signature dish of Quail; roasted French quail wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with foie gras truffle potato cream; can I manage another rich in cholesterol dish? I am heartened, no pun intended, by an article I recently read which stated that whilst foie gras does contain a high level of cholesterol, in fact not all the fat contained within is harmful, equally it has a much-reduced impact on blood cholesterol and eating it in moderation is not damaging to one’s health. So, I continue with this small bird, a contradiction in itself, tiny yet unexpectedly a real taste bomb, the meat absolutely jam-packed with flavour.
I round off our evening with a flambéed Baked Alaska and a Sabayon with berries and passion fruit; but honestly, despite their evident yumminess, slightly struggling to finish both.
As I head back down the hill, I regret not having booked an overnight stay, perhaps even in a Club room, so I may have relished my continental breakfast whilst languishing in the luxury plunge pool followed perhaps by a few lengths of that wonderfully grand pool (especially needed after the double dose of foie gras!) and then feeling satisfied with my albeit one off exercise regime, even partake of brunch, before making the journey home. Ah… to err is human…there is always a next time…
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 will contribute a monthly restaurant column.