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Phuket Lifestyle: Feeding the gypsy in you

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PHUKET: If you’re passing through Cherng Talay, heading down to Surin or Bangtao beaches, you’d have to be blind not to notice the startling yellow and pink building on the left hand side of the road – opposite Tesco Lotus.

This is Gitano Restaurant & Love, the latest incarnation of the innovative couple, Miguel Kirjon and Lin Prachakrich. Miguel and Lin, here in Phuket for 17 years, have had other Gitano branches before, in Phuket Town, Patong and Pa Klok. They are presently planning one in the Boat Lagoon, but this particular Gitano creation perhaps best personifies their runaway creative impulses.

Is the inside décor less conservative than the ‘look at me’, almost shocking exterior? Er, not much.

The same yellow and pink theme runs throughout. There are trippy, glazed ceramic floorings, 3D acrylic paintings (sporting what appear to be boobies), hand-painted lampshades, brightly colored furniture, a central aquarium, and over in the corner a semi-partitioned kids’ play area, complete with the Disney Channel on a large LCD TV, books and games.

Oh, and a naked mannequin’s torso stuck to the toilet door, thrown in for good luck. It sort of comes as a surprise that the wait staff doesn’t turn up on rollerblades, wearing fluorescent Darth Vader outfits with flashing helmets, but hey – that’s life.

Still, Gitano makes a welcome difference from the somewhat predictably average Phuket eatery where rocking the boat is the last thing on the designer’s mind. Here, you can feel inebriated without a drink having passed your lips and that – when you stop and think about it – can only be a good thing.

But what about the food at Gitano? This is Lin’s domain and she balances a one-page Mexican-tinged menu against several pages of photo-illustrated Thai dishes.

Anyone who has dined over in Patong knows that a dreaded photo menu means gulping down the aperitifs and heading for the next, photo-menu-less restaurant. But, Miguel’s pics pull the trick off smoother than olive oil on aluminum roll-out paper.

We opt for a balance of Thai and Mexican dishes, starting with a pretty neat chile con carne with a great enchilada pollo complemented by a panaeng gai grob – crispy chicken in a clever mélange of what tastes like penang and massaman curry.

It has to be mentioned that attention to detail is paramount here. The square white plates and quality wine glasses are conducive to making the evening feel special, even though Gitano has no pretensions to fine dining, and the plate on which my grilled white snapper, mango salad and fried potatoes is served could easily carry a full round of Guinness pints in a backstreet Dublin pub.

That said, even though the other dishes were prepared to perfection, the snapper was slightly overdone with the unusual result that I paid more attention to the delicious salad and tasty potatoes.

Prices range from reasonable (a lunchtime set menu with a glass of iced lemon tea for 95 baht) to extravagant (a Billecourt Salmon Brut Reserve NV Champagne at 4,990 baht), with a lot of dishes floating around the 170-200 baht region.

But what this place does more than anything is cater to families with its amusing and cool design, kids’ facilities and youthful outlook. It’s the mixture of almost childish euphoria, coupled with eclectic art and original creativity that makes Gitano Restaurant & Love stand out as a great place for fun-loving families and people looking for a great place to eat in a decidedly wacky atmosphere. Oh, and the food’s pretty good too.

Gitano Restaurant & Love are open daily from 11am to 10pm.

Tel: 081-892 2419 or visit gitanolove.com.

— Sam Wilkinson

 

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