Long time Phuket resident and artist, Australian John Underwood is 201cm [6’6”] big on ideas and a driving force behind the former Sole Mio Italian bar and restaurant’s renaissance.
His enthusiastic business partner, local businesswoman and entrepreneur Suriya “Aod” (pronounced “odd”) Sinsoue is 152.4 [5ft] and intent on creating a different dining and entertainment experience on the crowded beachfront.
Together they are “the odd couple”, but in appearance only.
When it comes to giving Patong Beach’s somewhat standard, formulaic bar scene a jolt in the arm, they think very much alike.
John, owner of Underwood Art Factory, and Aod met by chance through a mutual business deal and became immediate friends.
Both saw the potential for John to bring some of his artistic design magic – he has designed for many hotels on Phuket, including creating the iconic Indigo Pearl Resort “tin mine” look – to the former Italian restaurant and bar.
Aod, who is fluent in Italian, Thai and English, saw the potential to create a bar and restaurant with what she calls an “antique” look.
On Phuket for 23 years, Aod owns other businesses and was happy to step back and let John and his team give her bar a completely new design.
This has translated into a transformed, eco-friendly building, featuring colourful two-seaters made from recycled doors, more than 20 brightly coloured ceiling fans to maintain air flow in the open air bar, coloured fabric collected by John over 20 years, stressed wood walls, aged tin roofing and even an ancient looking piano straight from the honky tonk era with a piano player to match.
John’s team laboured from 2am to 8am several months to avoid interrupting the high season revelry.
Bluesy Tuesdays are music nights. Jazz veteran South Side Sam, who had played with Muddy Waters and other greats in the US, jams at the piano, attracting random passers-by to the bar.
Saturdays feature a “piano duel” between South Side Sam and Lionel Liverace on his baby, pink grand to join a long list of classical piano duos – Phuket style.
Barefoot offers more than 70 choices of Thai, international, vegetarian and Italian food.
The Barefoot Beach Shack bar and restaurant is located on Patong Beach, at the end of Soi Loma, directly across Patong Beach Road, Thanon Sawatdirak. Open 10am-midnight. Reservations: 085 619 6686 or Jeremy 087 428 5570.