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Phuket lifestyle: In a league of their own



PHUKET: There’s a restaurant experience in Kathu that is uncannily like dining in someone’s front room; largely because it is in someone’s front room.

The restaurant in question is Royale Nam Tok (RNT) hosted by Corry Ringoet and Marc De Schriyver, (a Belgian partnership) who, after having enjoyed 20 years of success operating their Antwerp restaurant, De Tafeljoncker moved lock, stock and barrel to Phuket, built a house, installed a professional kitchen and set up business.

Yes, you read that right: six years ago Corry and Marc moved the entire contents of their restaurant from Belgium to Phuket in three shipping containers. As a result, it’s a stupendously unusual set up featuring fine dining surrounded by Flemish opulence, a veritable glittering shrine to “chic-kitsch” as Corry puts it. If you think the Tamachart Restaurant in Phuket Town is originale, as the French so diplomatically put it, this place certainly drop-kicks it into a cocked hat with ease.

This is, in effect, Corry and Marc’s house until five o’clock every day, when it turns into a high-class restaurant and then morphs back into their abode once the last customer has left. Just glancing round the place it’s hard to fully take in all the décor and ornaments in one go and I certainly don’t risk any brusque movements, not wanting to knock a 20,000 baht vase to the floor or stumble over the antique harmonium in the corner.

Speaking of things musical, just how on Earth piped-in REM sung to Gregorian monk chants blend effortlessly with Flemish period pieces is quite beyond my ken, but it does, sort of, at least after a vodka martini.

Then again, at this stage of exploring this unique restaurant, I’m so taken in by the extraordinary décor that if Hergé himself had wandered through, puffing on a made-in-Dublin Peterson’s meerschaum pipe, closely followed by his Belgian creations Tin Tin, Snowy, and a whisky-bottle-toting Captain Haddock, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. The cuisine here is predominantly “Hi-So French” with tinges of Asian fusion.

So no pommes frites with mayonnaise in sight, but there’s delicious beef carpaccio with homemade pesto sauce, toasted Swiss Gruyère, endives with Madras curry and homemade whole-wheat bread with rillettes de canard for starters that have Stephen the cameraman in seventh heaven. Marc decants a young Chilean merlot, one of the many varied choices on the happy juice list, and we tuck into an unfortunate Canadian lobster (alive, happy and well when we arrived) and homemade duck terrine served with homemade passion fruit marmalade.

I don’t know how many readers have enjoyed fine dining surrounded by Flemish-Thai décor on a hot tropical night but just in case you haven’t, I heartily recommend it to make your life that much richer. Mains come in the form of parrot fish in saffron sauce and a Black Angus beef steak followed by a cheese trolley and raspberry sorbet.

The devil’s in the details here, in the tiny silver cocktail sticks, silver serviette holders, cooled and scented towels, eclectic décor and excellent service. This all sets it apart in a class of its own, as no doubt the award-winning De Tafeljoncker did in Antwerp. After all, that move must have cost a lot of cash…

There is, quite simply, nothing else like Royale Nam Tok in Phuket and I very much doubt that there ever will be anything to match it in the future. After all, anyone who can marry classy kitsch with fine dining deserves a round of applause. Take a bow, Corry and Marc.

Even though it’s pricey there is no service charge at Royale Nam Tok, neither does the restaurant offer commissions to tuk-tuk drivers. A fittingly rich set menu will cost each diner somewhere in the region of seventeen-hundred baht. There is also an à la carte menu.

Royale Nam Tok. Soi Nam Tok (take the well-signed road towards the Kathu Waterfall, click here for map) Tel: 0872637327. Closed on Sundays.

— Sam Wilko


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