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I am really not a great fan of chain restaurants. One of the things I love the most about living in Koh Samui is the vast array of privately owned dining establishments serving up culinary masterpieces from every corner of the globe and at prices as varied as the countries the dishes originate from. It seems to me that no matter how many pennies you have in your pocket eating in Samui can be a very pleasurable and nutritious experience.
Considering where to eat for a special night out last week I ran my favorite restaurants through my mind but having heard so many positive comments about the newly opened Wine Connection at Central Festival I decided to put my chain restaurant prejudice aside and go and try it out to see what all the fuss was about.
Wine Connection has been importing wines from around the world for fourteen years. They have a large selection of more than five hundred labels with worldwide wines, premium spirits, imported beers and a full range of glassware and accessories on offer.
Wine Connection has become a leading wine retail chain in South East Asia and after great success in the wine retail business they took the next step of opening F&B outlets under the Wine Connection Brand.
When I first arrived at Wine Connection I was struck by how popular it is, it was comparatively packed compared to other food outlets. Secondly I was impressed by the location, at the beach road entrance to Central Festival this is a great place to enjoy some great and very reasonably priced wines and meals while you watch the world go by. I expected this part of Chaweng to be noisy and crowded but in fact it was neither and from our comfortable seating and table outside we hardly noticed that we were in the centre of Chaweng in a restaurant that, by the time we left, had over one hundred diners in it.
The indoor seating is of course is fully air-conditioned and of course in the April heat it was very tempting to head indoors, however outdoors offers a very comfortable ambiance with cool breezes coming from discrete fans that were hardly noticeable. The cleverly constructed infinity water feature also added to the chic and trendy style of the restaurant.
We were greeted by a very friendly waitress who seated us in the location we had spotted that looked most suitable and were immediately presented with menus. I was impressed with the efficiency of the staff who had their roles clearly written on the back of their uniforms one immediately knows who to approach with their various requests.
The menu was surprisingly reasonably priced and had far more variety in terms of dishes than I had anticipated. Being a serious fan of cheese and cold cut platters I was very impressed to see the cheese and cold cut platter options and more so at the barely believable prices. As most residents know, especially those on a budget cheese and meats are often dishes set aside for a special occasion, so discovering that they are now available at price anybody could fit into their daily budget was doing wonders for my taste buds but had me fearing for my waistline. What I really loved was the make your own platter option that gives you the freedom to indulge in your own personal favorites without pushing the bits that you are not so fond of around the plate. Especially if you are sharing with a friend who you would far rather had your least favorite bits in their half of the bargain.
The starter menu offers delights such as Spanish Style Gambas, a range of really fresh salads, that judging by the one served on the next table come in seriously generous portions and great combinations such as Smoked Salmon and Feta, Rocket Salad and Duck Breast. The Duck Foie Gras caught my eye as another dish that used to be a treat but is now very affordable.
I was totally unaware that the Wine Connection catered so well for pizza and pasta lovers and saw many younger diners going for these options. Although for my more mature pallet I was very tempted by the Fettuccine Serrano Ham & Truffle Oil and the Green Fettuccine with Goat Cheese. The pizza menu has all of the usual favorites and some more specialist ingredients giving them a bit of an aristocratic twist. Tuna Steak, Grilled Salmon Filet and Seabass appear on the fish menu and Australian Tenderloin, Ribeye and Sirlion will get the meat lovers juices flowing. My heart stopped at the Braised Lamb Shank and after enjoying a few sips from my glass of house white that really hit the mark, I hastily ordered thinking that lamb takes an age to get to the table. Had I continued through the menu I would had had a difficult time deciding between other dishes such as Beef Bourguignon, Confit Duck with Orange Sauce, Pork Chop, Coq Au Vin, Bangers and Mash, BBQ ribs and fish and chips.
After what seemed like about six minutes the lamb arrived at the table. I was a little shocked at its rapid arrival and wondered what something would taste like that had been put together so quickly. It really seemed a little too quick and I was starting to wonder if I was in for a bit of a ‘boil in the bag’ type dining experience. Nothing could have been further from the truth however the lamb was cooked to perfection, the portion was way larger than I expected, the baby carrots were delicately caramelized and the mash potato tasted really freshly made. The sauce was delicious, OK it was not quite what you would describe as fine dining but it came ever so close.
I had the intention of following my main meal with a cheese platter but felt so satisfied after the lamb that even somebody as obsessed with cheese as me would have a hard time really giving it the sort of pallet it deserves so I had fleeting glance as the dessert menu, more out of interest than hunger and found Crème Brulee, Pannacotta, Triamisu, Chocolate Mousse, Apple Crumble with Vanilla ice cream, Nougat Glazier some artery blocking cakes, Brownie and Vanilla ice cream and then it hit me – Lime Pie that looked suspiciously like one of the few sweet things that tempt me (being a savory dish lover) lemon meringue pie. I could not stop myself from ordering it.
Like the lamb it arrived very swiftly and was light, creamy, filling, a bigger portion than I expected and had me making a mental note to pop down again sometime soon for a tasty afternoon treat next time I find myself in Chaweng along with one of the superb selection of teas and coffees.
Despite my reservations about not supporting a local business and heading out to a chain style restaurant I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The food exceeded my expectations, as did the level of staff service. The location was far more enjoyable than I had expected and I am looking forward to going back again.
Editors note – The management of this venue were not aware their restaurant was being put under careful scrutiny, no special service, treatment or dishes were required in order for me to leave feeling suitably impressed and more than satisfied
“Having had the lamb shank @ the Wine connection after reading about it in Samui Times I can see why the place is so popular!
26 May 14”