However, most will tell you, if asked, that brunch is in general what we call in the trade a loss leader. It is largely there to generate PR and exposure to entice visiting holidaymakers to perhaps stay with them next year whilst also to generate a semblance of loyalty from us demanding Phuket residents.
Traditionally, brunch is served up on a Sunday and is, as the name indicates, a meal between breakfast and lunch, combining both breakfast egg-based plates and slightly more substantial lunch dishes.
The offerings have evolved over time, as has diner expectation, from eggs benedict and pancakes to foie gras, lobster and wagyu beef, and refreshment-wise from a glass of bubbles to the dreaded “free flow”, a restaurateur’s nightmare. It would be appropriate for me to comment at this point that the occasion of brunch has also morphed into an event at which one must consume as much as possible, both food and drink (preferably high-end), within what is an incredibly short window of opportunity.
So when the somewhat debonair general manager of The Surin, Claude, invited me for brunch, if I am truly honest, I was far from excited. Yet another mundane buffet with in excess of a hundred other diners, queuing for a slice of roast beef which had been cooked the day before and/or an equally lengthy line awaiting their choice of fried/poached/scrambled. The first indication that this would be far from the reality came when he said, “We only host brunch once a month, and on a Saturday.” Really? I was intrigued…
Arriving at The Surin, I make my way to the Beach restaurant, a cool pavilion sitting oceanside with stunning views. Seated and on surveying the environs, I notice that the space is quite intimate, and on asking Manuel, the hotel manager, he informs me that numbers are limited to 50 diners. This ensures a desired genteel atmosphere of calm exclusivity.
The focus here is definitely quality over quantity. I experience a neat touch; whilst enjoying the cool music provided by a DJ and considering arising from the table at which I have just sat down, a smartly attired and effusive staff member presents me with an array of delectable morsels to begin my gastro experience and whet my appetite. Clever idea Khun Claude!
The same charming staff member also shares with me a short menu from which, in addition to the quite extensive buffet, I may choose appetisers, mains and desserts which are prepared “à la minute” and brought to your table. In fact, for the monthly changing offerings, including oysters, Saint Jacques, homemade ravioli and a decadent pan-seared foie gras with local figs, I may remain seated!
Having determined that in the interests of our readers I should visit the buffet, I am accompanied by Executive Chef Alberto who walks me through the live cooking stations where he indicates both Western and Thai specialties. A regular feature of the brunch menu is the signature surf and turf which consists of tender New Zealand lamb chops with Atlantic lobster and a velvety béarnaise sauce. Another house special, which by request will never be removed from the menu, is an unctuously sticky double-braised Black Angus beef cheek with mashed potato.
Alberto also believes in surprising the diner with new dishes in addition to those that remain; examples would be Patagonian king prawns in a soon-to-feature risotto, a tasty lamb gigot and a pork fillet samunprai. Good reasons to return; my kind of food!
Ordering several dishes from the menu whilst occasionally visiting the buffet is, for me, an ideal combination. Enjoying the setting, occasionally interspersed with very brief exercise as I wander, requesting a further few slices of hand-carved melt-in-the-mouth pata negra – absolutely perfect!
Stand-out dishes for me are the earthy truffle risotto, a yellow curry of local grouper and a stellar Black Angus Tomahawk with morel mushrooms surrounded with ribbons of rich meat jus. To finish, there is a tempting selection of cheeses, or alternatively there is always a hot dessert prepared and brought to you at table; classics such as cherries jubilee or crêpes suzette accompanied by your choice of homemade ice creams. Too many options to mention.
I depart the restaurant and head to reception, comfortably replete and rethinking my perception of brunch. This is a clever concept, flying in the face of what we all expect from brunch: quality products, freshly prepared and served up in a truly relaxed and intimate club-like ambience by friendly and efficient staff. I am slightly reluctant to share the price of food, as at B2,600 ++ it is incredibly good value. I fear in the rush to book for next month I may not get a table. Claude?
The Surin offers brunch monthly on a Saturday from 12-3pm on the following dates: September 28, October 19 and November 16. Reservations essential.
+66 (0) 76 316 400
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who, following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly restaurant column.