Krua Phranang restaurant at the Rayavadee hotel, Krabi, Thailand
Shortly after booking our belated Honeymoon to Thailand we got the added bonus of being booked into the Krua Phranang restaurant at The 5 star Rayavadee Luxury Resort. And when they say luxury, they mean luxury. Before we start to review the meal, let us try to put into words just how beautiful this tiny corner of Thailand really is. The Rayavadee takes up almost the entire tip of the stunning Phranang Peninsular, right on the edge of the Krabi Marine National Park. With beaches on all three sides (Phranang Cave Beach being one of the most beautiful in Thailand) and a breathtaking backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs, the Rayavadee is like nowhere else on earth… Just a little detour from our review, we met up with our good friends Will & Claire while we were there and you really, really must read Will’s travel blog – it’s so funny. (He simply must publish it when his finished his self-confessed mid-life crisis!)
Right, back to the restaurant and the food. After an amazing treatment at the spa (click here to read our review) we took a romantic moonlit stroll amongst the exclusive resort bungalows and tropical gardens to the Krua Phranang. It’s situated right on the Phranang Cave Beach and the clear waters of the Andaman Sea. The restaurant serves classic, traditional Thai dishes, both a la carte and set menus. The decor is fairly simple, dark wood, wicker and gold leaf everywhere, with lanterns and floating candles flickering in the soft breeze. Bird cages and massive bronze bells hang from the thick beamed ceiling. There are other nice little touches, like a candle that looks like it’s been kept alight since the beginning of time and strategically placed piles of coconuts!
We were shown to our sea-view table and given a very welcome cold towel and started, as always, with a cocktail. Saff had a Railay Iced Tea, more like a posh gin and tonic than it’s Long Island namesake. I had a Mango Sticky Rice daiquiri, which, disappointingly wasn’t as sweet as I’d hoped, but you could really taste the mango and the big scoop of ice-cream kept the drink ice-cold to the very last drop. At about £5 and £7 respectively, the cocktails were the least expensive option, especially as the cheapest bottle of wine that we could see was nudging £40!
Saff and I both decided to order from the Thai set menus. At just over £30 for 4 courses and a hot drink, they were amazing value. I opted for the more ‘meaty’ Southern Set while Saffron went for the Andaman Set which, as the name suggests, was mainly seafood. Before the starters even arrived we were offered some very delicate and lightly spiced Thai rice crackers served with what we can only describe as ‘crispy ravioli’. We later discovered that these were deep-fried powdered rice parcels stuffed with cream and minced pork.
Now for the starters proper… The Andaman Set’s PLA SEAFOOD, a mixed spicy seafood salad, contained plenty of squid, prawns and crispy coated fish tossed in a lime dressing. The THOD MAN GOONG were delicious deep-fried battered king prawn and Thai leaf bundles with a rich plum sauce (by far our favourite starter). My Southern Set started with a THOD MUN HED BAI LEB KRUT, which was basically a mushroom partially wrapped in a Chrysanthemum leaf and fried, delicious but you can’t go wrong with a fried mushroom! And O TAO, a Phuket-style oyster pancake served with a mild yet sweet chilli paste. What surprised us the most was the lack of heat in these dishes. We were given an option of how ‘hot’ we wanted our meals cooked, we went for medium, we kind of wish we’d gone for the hot option!
Next came the soup course. My chicken soup GAI TOM PHAK SIAN DONG was a watery broth with hearty chunks of chicken breast, whole cloves of garlic and a tough bitter spinach like leaf – which we weren’t even sure if it was a herb or not. Saff’s seafood and coconut milk soup (TOM KHA TALAY HED KEM TONG) was thick and creamy, loaded with chunks of tender squid and prawns. The coconut soup was a meal in itself, the only very slight criticism was the strong aftertaste from the galangal (also known as Thai ginger.)
By this time we were both starting to get full, and I can eat for England! So when eight, yes eight, main dishes and a bowl of steamed rice landed on our table all at once our faces must have been a bizarre mixture of delight and horror. I tucked into my marinated pork belly MOO HONG, by far my favourite main, it was tender and the mixed Thai spices, with a strong hint of cinnamon, had soaked right into the meat. Next on the list, GOONG LAI SUEA NUENG KING SOD, was a plate with two of the biggest king prawns that we’ve ever seen! Although one was slightly ‘gritty’ they were both simply seasoned with soy and ginger to allow the prawn’s natural taste to come through. Dish 3 (GAENG SOM GOONG MALAGOR), more prawns with papaya, this time in a ‘wow! That’s hot!’ yellow curry. Saff saying that it was a bit spicy is like saying that Pele was a bit of a good footballer. Our mouths were on fire, our tongues felt like they’d just had an electric shock (but in a good way!).
Then we tried the PHAD PHAK MIANG GOONG SIAM, stir fried shrimp and egg, this was our least favourite dish simply as the Padi oats left a very bitter taste. After that came Brocoli and chicken GAI PAD BROCCOLI, the veg was crunchy and fresh, the chicken tender in a light oyster marinade. Dish 6 (on the home straight) was LOBSTER JEAN, a seared lobster fillet coated in what appeared to be finely chopped prawns, again served in a oyster sauce. Nearly there… The sea bass dish PLA KRAPONG THOD PRIK TAI DAM was amazing. Coated flaky pieces of white fish in a peppercorn sauce – our second favourite main. Dish 8, by this time our stomachs were ready to burst. This fish dish PLA THOD KHA MIN was more sea bass marinated in fresh turmeric giving a light curry kick. But to be honest by now our bellies had gone on strike and we had to ask the ultra attentive waiting staff for another cold towel and 15 minute break before we could even contemplate dessert…
This break mostly consisted of one of the waiters practicing his English on us by saying every Premier football team that he knew and a couple of random phrases, such as ‘diamond geezer’ and ‘top banana’. They obviously air EastEnders in Thailand!
Thai desserts, as we discovered, are either pancake, fritter or mango based and always quite peculiar! We needed fruit sorbets and coconut ice-cream, but this must be just what UK Thai restaurants do to keep us happy. So when my pudding, and I mean pudding, turned up I didn’t really know what to expect. It was warm, slightly grey, had the texture of cold porridge and topped with shredded coconut. I know that doesn’t paint a very pretty picture, but it was delicious. It was called KHANOM GLUAY CLUK and was basically poached bananas and even though it was so thick (you could actually slice it) and rich I ate every last scraping! Now, Saff’s dessert SANGKAYA FAKTHONG was a different story all together… It turned out to be a slice of steamed baby pumpkin filled with set egg custard. Our confused taste buds rejected this and was taken away almost untouched.
After a coffee and a ginger tea, we were offered a buggy ride back to West Railay Beach where we caught our long tail boat across the bay to our hotel. During the 20 minute journey back we wished that we could have stayed at the Rayavadee, it was Luxury with a capital L. Then we could have sampled the resort’s other restaurants and bars and stayed in the cute bungalows overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches that we’ve ever seen. One day we’ll stay there… One day.