I last met Bart 25 years ago, when we were both in the midst of establishing our hospitality careers, neither sure whether they would eventually be deemed a success or not. So, when Bart reached out to me regarding his recently opened outlet in his trio of Ninths, it was with anticipation that I looked forward to meeting up and experiencing this new addition to the fold.
Bart took over The Ninth Floor a number of years ago, followed this a couple of years later, with The Ninth Glass, a more casual bar and bistro in Surin and now he informed me he had acquired a site in the Boat Lagoon and named it the Ninth Degree.
Arriving for lunch, I am never really sure whether the host will join or leave us to their staff. I am delighted to say that remained. Seated, I observed that our effervescent host looked depressingly not much different from our last meeting, many years ago, whilst I have indeed aged considerably with the inevitable loss of hair and put on weight in all the wrong areas!
At a rustic table overlooking the many monstrous boats moored in the lagoon, the restaurant has been given a much needed makeover, lending it a bright Mediterranean ambience.
Bart orders a number of dishes for us and I see the latest menu includes a tapas platter of sizzling prawns, chorizo and arancini, a classic croque monsieur, fresh New Zealand oysters and a tempting, antipasti sharing plate. Main courses include a mix of Thai and European dishes; an intriguing khao soi salmon, a signature tom yum risotto, a timeless stroganoff and Mexican nachos with chilli beef, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. Truly an international menu that has something for everyone.
The lunch calls for something pink and our host chooses a stellar example. Over the course of the next few hours we chat incessantly, catching up on the past; enjoying tapas, a 9th Floor recipe of lamb ragout, gently braised, low and slow with a sprinkling of goat cheese, a moreish salmon khao soi and a refreshingly different salad of oranges, fennel, olives and onions.
Bart informs me that business has initially been very positive, which based on the quality of what we have experienced at lunch, I am not surprised. We end on a home-made Belgian waffle and a flourless chocolate cake. Both impeccable.
Time has flown past and I must depart but we won’t be waiting a further 25 years for our next catch up as I have a lunch penciled in for my next visit to Phuket. Whilst, the third Ninth is definitely a valued addition to Bart’s burgeoning empire, will there be a fourth?
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.