PHUKET: Sunday is a day when many of us generally have a lie-in, followed by a lazy morning pottering around the house, until thoughts turn to lunch. Dreamy thoughts of a traditional Sunday lunch… you know, the ones we used to have ‘back home’, with roasted meat, potatoes, peas, gravy and all the trimmings. But it’s already late Sunday morning, we live in Chalong and who’s going to cook all that?
The new team at the Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC) – which recently celebrated 20 years of existence – have the answer with their soon-to-be-famous “Sunday Sessions” held between noon and 4pm every Sunday.
Award-winning chef, Kim Mitchell and his wife Amanda took over the running of the ACYC restaurant and bar 10 weeks ago and have been keeping a low profile in order to train up their six staff before launching the Sunday Sessions three weeks ago.
Kim knows exactly what a Sunday lunch should taste like having spent 35 years as a chef.
“I’ve been cooking since I was 17 and have had five of my own restaurants. My last job was as a chef in Arlie Beach, in Queensland, where we won the ‘Best al fresco dining’ award two years in a row,” says Kim in a relaxed Australian drawl.
Relaxed is also a word synonymous with this idyllic setting. The tide is out and a gentle sea breeze wafts around the well spaced out tables.
“This spot is absolutely beautiful. I’ve always worked where people like to take a holiday and always near the sea; Tasmania, Melbourne and a salmon fishing resort in Vancouver to name but a few,” continues Kim.
The restaurant is not only becoming known for its Sunday lunches but also for its extensive menu of both western and Thai food and one of the most complete breakfast menus I’ve ever seen.
Starting at 8am, on any day of the week, patrons can order anything from classic bacon and eggs (any style) with grilled tomatoes and toast (150 baht) to French toast with grilled mango and maple syrup (140 baht) to grilled polenta – whatever that is – and cheddar bread with scrambled eggs (160 baht) and there is even Vegamite available, for those who are really homesick.
“From my experience of travelling and living overseas we all crave ‘a taste of home’. Here you have to adjust the food to suit the venue, so this is not really an upmarket venue but everything is homemade, even my mayonnaise. I love food and we only use the best ingredients; New Zealand lamb; Thai pork, locally sourced fish and seafood –except for the New Zealand mussels which taste better,” says Kim before disappearing into the newly furnished kitchen to bring out another two plates which happen to be for us.
We ordered the cooked-to-perfection lamb plate served with baked potatoes; crunchy green beans; steamed carrots and peas; cauliflower cheese and roasted pumpkin together with mint sauce and gravy. The generous portion (350 baht) was just right and well presented. We wash it down with a 2010 Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (1000 baht) leaving just enough room for their homemade desserts: apple crumble for my lady and a chocolate brownie (packed with walnuts) for myself (120 baht each).
In the afterglow of such a delicious meal I finally catch up with Amanda, who, after serving her last customer, is chatting with an Australian couple a few tables away.
“We’re very happy here. It’s a peaceful spot without much passing traffic but, we do have many local regulars already and the Big Buddha is looking down on us so we feel very blessed.
“We’re confident we’re on the right track. A customer I’d never met before shook my hand recently and said ‘Thank you for a touch of Australia in Thailand’.” says Amanda.
The other Australian lady sitting at the table nods her head and adds “I just had the steak sandwich – it’s just like at home… even the chips”.
“I want to make this a fun place to come to, it’s open, there’s always a cool breeze and we have regular live music and trivia nights. We’re going to do a Christmas Day lunch here with turkey, ham and all the trimmings.” beams Amanda.
Throughout the meal guitarist and singer, Edwin, has unobtrusively serenaded us with impeccable versions of songs from Simon and Garfunkel; Sting; Neil Young; REM; U2 and Van Morrison, among others. The food and the music bring back fond memories from the past and looking around I notice that there are a fair number of older clients in evidence, although kids are also present, and have their own sand pit and play area. Around the bar several club members swap tales about their boats, which are seen bobbing within view and the place is busy but now crowded. Amanda and Kim are right, this really is a beautiful spot and I shall return to find out what polenta is.
The ACYC restaurant and bar is open every day and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am to 9pm (click here for map). For reservations call Amanda on 0908 908 993 or visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/aochalongyachtclub.
Everyone is welcome and there is a 10 per cent discount for ACYC members.
— Marc Mulloy
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