Beyond the plastic tables: top spots in Phuket for a smart meal

Thailand’s love affair with food is just as strong in the south, where local cuisine is dominated by seafood and spice, mixed with flavours from India, Malaysia, Indonesia and beyond. While its street vendors will always tempt with freshly-grilled fish and spicy noodles, an upscale dining scene is emerging in the Phuket area that is beginning to turn heads all the way up in Bangkok. Here’s our pick of the island's top six tables for a flashy feast.

hao Soi Gai, Dee Plee, Anatara Layan, Phuket. Image by Minor Hotel Group

Khao soi gai, Dee Plee. Image by Minor Hotel Group

Dee Plee, Anantara Layan, Layan Beach

Perched on a hillside overlooking picturesque Layan Beach in Phuket's far northwest, Dee Plee is the island's newest haute-Thai restaurant. Spanning a culinary tour of the kingdom, its comprehensive yet accessible menu features everything from beautifully presented khao soi gai (curry noodle chicken thigh with egg noodles, crispy noodle, pickled cabbage, shallots, dry chili oil and lime) to perfectly wok-fried local lobster, and a degustation menu for curry lovers. Complimented by chic design, attentive service and a killer cocktail menu, Dee Plee does Thai worth upgrading your flip-flops for.
Address: Anantara Phuket Layan, 168 Moo 6, Layan Beach Soi 4, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket
Contact: 0 7631 7200; phuket-layan.anantara.com/dining
Opening hours: 6pm-11pm daily

Breeze at Cape Yamu. Image by Breeze at Cape Yamu

Breeze, Cape Yamu. Image by Breeze at Cape Yamu

Breeze, Cape Yamu

Still designed around the freshest local ingredients available, the ever-evolving modern menu at neighborhood restaurant Breeze now has a delightful French twist courtesy of new head chef, French-born Valerie Roger. Think green papaya salad with pomelo, rose apples, radish, basil, mint and lime dressing, followed by roasted scallops, sautéed endives and radicchio flambéed with brandy, snowpeas, orange and mint – all served on a communal table overlooking Phang-Nga Bay. Including a spread of more than 20 small plates, Breeze’s Sunday brunch menu is arguably the island’s best.
Address: 228 Moo 7, Paklok, Cape Yamu, Phuket
Contact: 08 1271 2320; breezecapeyamu.com
Opening hours: Wed-Sat 12noon-10pm; Sunday brunch 12pm-4pm

Oyster with pearl, Aziamendi, Iniala Beach House, Natai Beach. Image by Aziamendi

Oyster with pearl, Aziamendi. Image by Aziamendi

Aziamendi, Iniala Beach House, Natai Beach

Technically it’s in Phang-Nga, just over the border of Phuket Province, but it seems rude not to include southern Thailand's first – and arguably the nation’s best – proper fine dining establishment in this list. Overseen by three-Michelin star Spanish chef Eneko Atxa, Aziamendi specialises in degustation menus combining traditional European techniques with the best local ingredients. With signature dishes ranging from a ‘bonsai tree’ with edible bark to suckling pig with pumpkin noodles, it's next-level dining.
Address: Iniala Beach House, 40/14 Moo 6 Baan Natai, T Khokkloi A Takuathung
Contact: 09 4005 0654; iniala.com
Opening hours: Lunch 12pm-2.30pm Sat-Sun; dinner 6.30pm-10pm Thu-Sun

Massaman lamb, Blue Elephant, Phuket Town

Massaman lamb, Blue Elephant. Image by Blue Elephant

Blue Elephant, Phuket Town

Housed in a beautifully restored Sino-Portuguese mansion, this Phuket classic is the epitome of elegant Thai dining. Try ‘a little of everything’ on the set menu, from exotic buffalo satay to tender massaman lamb and a selection of chef Nooror Somany Steppe’s creative desserts, or simply play it a la carte – it's all superb. The vast wine list includes a couple of good local drops (try the Thai Shiraz), and if you loved your meal you can learn to recreate your favourite dish by signing up for a class at the lauded Blue Elephant cooking school (which also has a branch in Bangkok).
Address: 96 Krabi Road, Tambon Talad Neua, Muang, Phuket Town
Contact: 66 7635 4355; blueelephant.com
Opening hours: Daily 11.30am-2.30pm; 6.30pm-10.30pm

Fresh gnocci, La Sirena. Image by Sarah Reid

Fresh gnocci, La Sirena. Image by Sarah Reid / Lonely Planet

La Sirena, Point Yamu by Como, Cape Yamu

Located poolside with stunning views across Phang-Nga Bay to James Bond Island, the all-day restaurant at Phuket’s new Como outpost is now giving Patong’s longstanding Acqua a run for the island's best Italian. La Sirena's lavish breakfast spread including homemade cereals, yoghurt and vegetables is followed by a lunch menu focused on simple but smart woodfired cuisine. Highlights from Australian executive chef Liam O’Brien’s extended dinner menu range from melt-in-your-mouth Phuket lobster cappellacci to aromatic Ligurian stew and suckling pig with roast fennel, lemon and oregano jam. Save room for an Illy coffee, dolci and formaggi. Nahmyaa Thai, Como's street food-inspired Thai restaurant, is also well worth a look-in.
Address: Point Yamu by Como, 225 Moo 7, Paklok, Talang, Phuket
Contact: 0 7636 0100; comohotels.com/pointyamu
Opening hours: Breakfast 6.30am-10.30am; lunch 12pm-2.30pm; dinner 6.30pm-10.30pm daily

Pomelo and Thai basil salad, Suay. Image by Sarah Reid

Pomelo and Thai basil salad, Suay. Image by Sarah Reid

Suay, Phuket Town

Tucked away in a lush garden in the backstreets of Phuket Town, this more casual local favourite plates up zingy Thai dishes with an international twist. Snag a table on the verandah, order a 'lychee kiss' cocktail and ask charming owner/chef Tammasak Chootong to recommend his best. Suay standouts include the grilled sea scallops with spicy fruit salad, squid and chilli salsa, and the Thai desert to rule them all: mango sticky rich spring rolls, flamed mango and black sesame ice cream.
Address: 50/2 Takuapa Rd, Talat Nuea, Muang, Phuket Town
Contact: 08 7888 6990; suayrestaurant.com
Opening hours: 5pm-12pm daily

Tip: Many Phuket restaurants, including some of those profiled in this article, alter their opening hours (or close entirely) outside the Nov-Mar busy season.

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