Like great vintages, we have probably improved with age. He, now a leading entrepreneur in Phuket and I, finally achieving my goal of doing what I love: eating and drinking in fine establishments across Thailand. So when Bart reached out to me in my role as intrepid food writer for The Phuket News, I was delighted and looked forward to catching up in person.
The 9th Floor is located on Rat-U-Thit Rd in central Patong and has been providing international fine dining since 2006, continuing when Bart took ownership in 2015. At this juncture, I should point out that Patong is not one of my regular hangouts and, in my humble opinion, is not particularly renowned for gourmet dining.
I make my way to colourful Patong and the slightly retro entrance to the Sky Inn Condotel. Greeted by an amazingly helpful doorman who kindly beckons the elevator, I make my way to the rooftop via this vintage example. It literally chugs its way north, and on arrival at the ninth floor, I am welcomed by several of who are mentioned on the website as the angels – smartly attired, friendly waitresses who warmly and professionally accompany me to the restaurant.
I am led by Khun Tuck, the restaurant manager who has worked here for over 10 years, and am immediately struck by the views. The room itself exudes a calm sea of subdued tones of chocolate brown and the vista is quite stunning, even with a layer of somewhat British, drizzly summer rain. Large windows envelope the dining room and Khun Tuck advises me that, during the less inclement weather, the windows may be opened, adding to the drama with a refreshing early evening breeze. I am slightly disappointed, however, to have missed the sunset as I am informed it is truly memorable.
I am seated and notice that, even at this quieter time of year and on a relatively damp evening, quite a number of tables are occupied by holidaymakers. I can hear accents from Scandinavia, Germany and even good old Blighty. This is clearly a popular dining spot. Khun Tuck points out that many of the diners are regulars; in fact, almost 60% repeat clientele that visit Phuket once a year and during their stay may well visit two or three times. I am impressed. The best indicator of a good restaurant is one that generates diner loyalty.
As I enjoy the cosmopolitan ambience and the vista of nighttime Patong, I am greeted by a gentleman who introduces himself as Thomas Brack, the recently appointed general manager, who advises me that Bart has unfortunately been called away. However, Thomas then narrates his own story. He was a partner in The 9th Floor in 2006 and departed when Bart took over ownership in 2015, now coming full circle, delighted at having rejoined and looking forward to renewing acquaintance with the repeat clientele.
Presented with the à la carte menu, I see an extensive list of the classics, including dishes with Mediterranean influences and even a number of Thai dishes. I also spot some Alpine influences with a dedicated fondue section and a truly tempting Zurcher Geschnetzeltes – strips of beef, chicken or veal served with rösti, the wonderfully crisp Swiss specialty of potato fritters.
There are also a number of set menus to suit all desires and budget, including a surf and turf menu featuring the best of both: a 72-hour sous-vide cooked Angus short rib accompanied with a lobster risotto with carnaroli rice. However, I leave my choice with Thomas. The restaurant also features an extensive list of special vintages from across the globe to perfectly accompany these classics.
My appetiser of buratta and vine-ripened tomatoes arrives with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, pesto and balsamic. Beautifully presented, it is a refreshing and light yet flavoursome start. I follow this with scallops with a light char and a pearlescent centre, surrounded with a piquant sauce and thoughtfully garnished with asparagus. I follow this with a traditional entrecôte café de paris – a carefully grilled striploin smothered with melted herb butter and served with my choice of mashed potato. Proficient staff deliver my courses with charm.
I end with a stunning hot chocolate cheesecake with crème fraîche. Whilst it does demand a 20-minute cooking time, it is indeed well worth the wait.
As I depart, I assure myself that my next visit to The 9th Floor to hopefully renew my acquaintance with Bart must indeed be sooner than the current 25 years! I bid farewell to Thomas, Khun Tuck and the angels, head out into Patong… and directly home to Rawai!
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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.