Samui is packed with restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets; after all, this is a leisure island where most are visitors. In fact, you’re never far from food anywhere in Thailand and the restaurants on Koh Samui offer a good choice of Thai food and international favourites, such as pizza, pub grub and, of course, seafood.
Apart from the restaurants in your Samui resort, there will usually be a choice nearby and certainly in central Chaweng, Lamai and along the beachfront. Prices of food in Thailand are very reasonable and you’ll seldom have to worry about what you’re choosing. You will be able to indulge in all sorts of fine cuisine, though wine can be disproportionately expensive. Many restaurants are open-air, alfresco, and you can even dine on the beach or snack on the street.
Poppies: One of the most romantic dining atmospheres can be found at the restaurant inside the hotel of the same name. Poppies has been established for well over 10 years and during this time it has earned an enviable reputation for creative, tasty food. Open: Lunch 11:30-17:30, Dinner 17:30-22:30, Poppies Samui, South Chaweng Road, tel: (077) 422 419, fax: (077) 422 420.
Samui Seafood Grill & Restaurant: (Thai) A magnet for fresh seafood in central Chaweng, chosen off a buffet and cooked for you. It’s your typical Thai eatery – large and lively with plenty of local music. Open: 12:00-23:30 (Lunch & Dinner); 13/1 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach, tel: (077) 429 700-9, fax: (077) 413 225.
Vecchia Napoli: (Italian) Offering reasonably priced pizzas and pastas and a good selection of wines, this is one of Samui’s longest running Italian eateries.Open: 11:00-23:00; Soi Starbucks, Chaweng Beach Road, tel: (077) 231 229 , mobile: 087 277 6493.
Tropical Murphy’s: (Irish) Featuring reasonable menus with both international staples and Thai fare. If you can’t stand another day without Irish stew, pasta, fish ‘n’ chips or a Sunday roast, you won’t have to suffer too long. Open: 09:00-02:00. 14/40 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach Road, tel: (077) 413 614,mobile: 082 256 1066.
Zico’s: (Brazilian) Has a fantastic all-you-can-eat meat barbecue and nightly performances of carnival-style dancing that guarantees plenty of entertainment, along with full bellies. Open: 17:00-01:00 (bar opens late), 38/2 Moo 3, Chaweng Road (south), tel: (077) 231 560-3, fax: (077) 422 385.
Yamato: (Japanese) excellent sushi and sashimi along with other genuine Japanese favourites. Has a relaxed, stylish and comfortable feel. Open: 15:00-22:30 (Monday closed); 46/12-13 Moo 3, Soi Colibri, Chaweng Beach, tel: (077) 413 879, mobile: 089 970 5328, fax: (077) 413 879.
Rice: (Italian) Smart, contemporary Mediterranean-style eatery with chic décor and sumptuous cuisine. Open: 13:00 to late; 167/7 Moo 2, near the Green Mango, Chaweng Beach, tel: (077) 231 934, mobile: (087) 884 4477.$
Dr Frogs: With its cliffside views, Frogs has an upscale ambience with live music and food that prompted Thailand Tatler to select it among its best restaurants for 2008. Open: 12:00 to late; 130 Moo3,Cliffside between Chaweng and Lamai, tel: (077) 448 505, fax: (077) 448 506.
Gringos Cantina Mexican Restaurant: (Mexican) Serves possibly the best Mexican food on Samui in a garden setting – there is also a nine-hole crazy golf course at the back of the restaurant. Good for families with kids. Open: 14:00 to midnight, Crazy Golf: 11:00 to midnight; 166/79 Moo 2, Central Chaweng (down a small soi, behind The Islander), tel: 081 1892 416.
Lamai restaurants on Samui
The Cliff: (Mediterranean) Best known for its fine, elevated views out to sea, along with a good selection of wine, great bar and, most of all, its commendable menu. Open: 12:00-22:00, Bar closes at 01:00; 124/2 Maret, between Chaweng and Lamai, tel: (077) 448 508.
Jungle Park: (Franco-Thai) Popular place on the peninsula at Lamai’s northern end, featuring great views, nice atmosphere, excellent menu. Good for families with kids. Open: 07:00-23:00; 176 Moo 4, Maret, Lamai beachfront, tel: (077) 418 034-7.
Rockys: (Thai seafood): Sprawling beachfront venue, with excellent reputation and, in fact, one of the top choices on Samui. It holds regular events, is vibrant and has tasty food. Lamai beachfront, tel: (077) 233 020-1, fax: ( 077) 418 366.
TawaNN: (Thai fusion) Part of the Renaissance Resort, this fine restaurant has stunning sea views and an imaginative fusion menu employing top-quality imported meats, fresh local sea-food, vegetables and herbs. Open for dinner, Renaissance Koh Samui Resort & Spa 208/1, Maret, Laem Nan Beach, North Lamai, tel: (077) 429 300, fax: (077) 429 333.
Coast: (Thai-European) Chic beachfront restaurant attached to the Lamai Wanta resort in the centre of the bay with an innovative fusion menu and expertly prepared, well presented food. Open: 07:00-21:00, Lamai Wanta Resort 124/264, Moo 3, Maret, Lamai Beach, tel: (077) 424 550, fax: (077) 424 218.
Ninja crepes: (Thai) The décor is not much to look at but this cheap ‘n cheerful Samui institution serves up delicious Thai dishes (and crepes) at super-cheap prices. Out on the ring road (near the PTT garage), Lamai.
Spa Samui Resort: Delicious, healthy food that is reasonably pricey. The menu includes salads, pasta, and burritos, and they also serve fresh juices, beer and wine. Open: 07:00- 21:00; 71/1, Moo 4, Maret, Out on the ring road, Lamai, tel: (077) 230 855.
Big Buddha restaurants on Samui
Antica Locanda: (Italian) Close to Big Buddha Pier – great choice for Italian food cooked the way it was meant to be cooked. Good value for money with daily specials and tasty, fresh pasta made on the premises. Open: 13:00-23:00, Bang Rak, Bophut, tel: (077) 245 163, mobile: 081 853 178.
The Mangrove: (French) Probably the most famous French restaurant on Samui, situated just along the road from the airport and towards the Big Buddha temple. The food is first class and represents great value. Open for lunch & dinner. Closed last three days of each month; tel: (077) 427 584, mobile: 081 370 7716.
Shambala Restaurant: (Thai-international) The island’s budget alternative, with fabulous Thai and Western food at reasonable prices. Open: 08:00-23:00; Central Bangrak (near Joy’s Pharmacy), tel/fax: (077) 425 330, mobile: 083 504 5504.
Le Jaroen: (French) Fine dining at the Scent Hotel with daily specials, including tapas. Open: 07:00-22:00; 58/1 Moo 4, Bangrak Beach, tel: (077) 962 198.
Oceans 11: (European) Fast becoming one of the most popular restaurants on the island, Oceans 11 has a small beachside dining room and serves delicious South-European fare with fresh seafood and imported meats. Extensive wine list and attentive service add up to an all-round winner. Open: 14:00-24:00 (last order 22:30); 23 Moo 4, Bang Rak, tel: (077) 245 134, mobile: 089 123 2364, fax: (077) 961 784.
Picnic Basket: (British) No-frills café serving great British fare and an all-day breakfast. Open: 07:00-19:00; Opposite the pier, Bangrak.
Bo Phut restaurants on Samui
Billabong Surf Club: (Australian) More of an experience than a cuisine highlight, but great for big steaks and a whole mishmash of menu items – pub grub to fish ‘n’ chips. Open: 09:00-02:00 (last order 24:00); Fishermans’ Village, 79/2, 1, Bo Phut, tel: (077) 430 144, fax: (077) 430 145.
Starfish and Coffee: (international-Thai) Perennially popular restaurant with a sea view serving great seafood and Thai specialities amid a striking Moroccan-style décor. Open: breakfast, lunch & dinner; 51/7 Moo 1, Central Fishermans’ Village, tel: (077) 427 201.
Shades: (international) For fresh seafood right on the beach, Shades restaurant provides a truly romantic setting, and a reasonably-priced menu. Located towards the end of the one-way system, Open: 11:00-22:00, tel: (077) 245 688.
Zazen: (international-Thai) Located in Zazen Hotel, this place does imaginative fusion cuisine and has Samui’s only Tea Bar. The food is served in opulent surroundings in a stunning beachfront setting using organic ingredients. 177 Moo 1, Bophut, Tel: (077) 425 085, fax: (077) 425 177.
Nick and Nicky’s Harbourside: (Thai and British) A curious mix of Thai seafood and British maritime themes, with pub favourites like Sunday roast. Owners are previous award winners from Norfolk. Open: 06:30-10:00 (breakfast), 11:00-17:30 (lunch), 18:30-22:00 (dinner); 157/43 Moo 1, Bophut, Fishermans’ Village, tel: 086 9700 02.
The Shack Bar and Grill: (steakhouse) A popular steakhouse with grill out front serving tasty steaks, fish, and salads with a huge selection of wine in a friendly atmosphere. Open: 15:00–23:00; 88/3 Moo 1, Fisherman’s Village, tel: (077) 246 041, fax: (077) 430 350, mobile: 087 2646 994.
Mae Nam restaurants on Samui
Roma: (Italian) Sits right on the beach in a quiet and understated environment, with tasty food and casual dining. Open: 19:00-23:00; Paradise Beach resort 18/8 Maenam Beach, tel: (077) 247 227-8, fax: (077) 425 290.
Angela’s Bakery: (international) Excellent food and offers all kinds of patisseries and a healthy line in breakfasts. Open: 08:00–16:00; 64/29 Ring Rd., Maenam, Near the police checkpoint, tel: (077) 427 396.
Choeng Mon restaurants on Samui
White House: (Thai-international) Excellent menu at one of the more serene and peaceful spots among the tourist beaches, with a lovely, exclusive beachside setting near Chaweng and Big Buddha. Open: 06:30-23:00; White House Beach Resort & Spa 59/3 Moo 5, Choeng Mon beachfront, tel: (077) 247 921-3, fax: (077) 245 31.
Pangaea: Part of Sala Samui, the restaurant blends global cusines and styles in its interesting menu, with tasty wines and cocktails also on offer. Open: 08:00–23:00, 10/9 Moo 5, Baan Plai Lam, Tel: (077) 245 888, fax: (077) 245 889.
Freud’s: Just off the beach, this new café serves yummy wraps and proper English breakfasts, without breaking the bank. Near the Bank of Ayudhya.
Guide to eating on Samui
Thai cuisine is legendary throughout the world. With its inventive use of fresh ingredients and spices, many visitors are surprised at the variety of dishes available compared with the standard fare in Thai restaurants in other parts of the world. Of course, there’s also all the street food available from pavement vendors and markets, which add to the whole culinary adventure of Thailand.
It’s not just about noodles and green curry, either; there’s something for everyone in Thailand and it doesn’t always have to be fiery hot. Once you’ve tried all the curries you can handle, do not despair, as Samui is also blessed with an international mix of eating options.
The cheaper resorts might not get your Alfredo right, but there are plenty of genuine Italian restaurants on Samui. The hotel restaurants, and those on the beach or bang in the middle of a tourist area, are likely to be more expensive. If you’re on a budget, eat where the Thais eat – you can get a perfectly tasty pat-thai for a dollar. Food hygiene is not guaranteed in these places, so be sure to look out for the ‘Clean Food Good Taste’ label from the health inspectors.
As is the trend in all tourist places, several enterprising locals have set up Thai cooking schools with fun, one-day courses available. See our complete guide to Thai food for more information.