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Setting sail on a memorable stay at The Boathouse Phuket   by Amy Bryant

October 2019

Although this is my maiden voyage at The Boathouse, the beachfront boutique hotel is far from unfamiliar to me. Its stellar reputation for fine dining and unbeatable hospitality precedes it. News of my staycation is met with excitable envy from friends and colleagues who too have heard that The Boathouse is the place to be.

Tracing the history of the hotel, I discover that it wasn’t initially a hotel at all. It was both a dwelling for fishing boats and a popular restaurant. Rooms were added in answer to diners’ demands to stay the night, and it became affectionately known as “The restaurant with rooms.” Celebrated architect and artist Mom Tri Devakul later designed The Boathouse you see today, putting the hotel firmly on the map since 1989.

The Boathouse has held onto its roots, despite restorations, modernisation of its décor, and the rapid development of the neighbourhood surrounding it. Nods to its nautical past can be found at every corner, and the hotel retains a calm, noble presence on a busy road of souvenir shops, massage parlours and bars.

The restless neighbourhood is forgotten the moment the sliding glass doors close behind me and I’m greeted by Siriluk Watthaisong, one of the hotel’s affable reception staff. As she diligently checks me in, my attention is drawn down the corridor behind her where I spy the sea – a sight that doesn’t get any less thrilling with age – and the excitement for my stay truly sets in.

Pair leads me up to the top floor and into the luxe environs of the Hideaway Suite. And hide away I very well might, as my spacious lodgings have everything I could ask for. A plush king size bed takes centre stage, sprinkled with violet orchids and a handwritten welcome note from General Manager Eric Weber. The warm greetings extend to the 49-inch flat screen TV which lights up with a personalised message across a tropical screensaver.

Separating the bedroom and bathroom is a relaxation lounge complete with a cushion-clad chaise longue, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, flattering lighting and a wardrobe with towelling robes and slippers. Needless to say, I immediately commandeer the space and it becomes the walk-in wardrobe/dressing room I’ve always dreamed of.

The Boathouse team have left no stone unturned when it comes to the bathroom space. Indoors are twin washbasins, a deep rectangular tub complete with a colourful bath bomb and salts, and a lavish rain shower. Amenities, including mosquito repellent, are dispensed from refillable ceramic containers to the benefit of the environment and the aesthetics of the bathroom too.

Remarkably, this en suite has an en suite of its own. Outside stands another rain shower nestled behind carved wooden panels and next to pruned flowers and foliage. It boasts a spectacular, although worryingly expansive, sea view. Pair senses my mix of fascination and fear for my modesty and assures me that the terrace has been carefully designed so that any al fresco bathing will be totally private. I take her word for it.

A brief rainy season downpour affords me time to unpack my suitcase, settle in and nibble on fresh fruit, tom yum nuts and sweet treats from a well-stocked kitchenette, while watching undeterred bodyboarders take on the swirling surf. There’s no time for room envy at The Boathouse as all 39 rooms and suites face oceanward, meaning all guests, from the Deluxe Room to the Penthouse Suite, enjoy these same views of the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.

As the sun makes a mid-afternoon return, I take the opportunity to stroll down to the crescent-shaped infinity pool that looks out across Kata Beach. Nestled in a quiet, rocky corner of the beach, the pool area has an air of exclusivity and privacy despite being only a few steps away from the sand. The enviable location is topped off by a pool bar, parasolled sunbeds, hammocks and a mini-spa offering traditional Thai massage. I stay until golden hour, watching the sky morph from blue to orange to red and the shadows of beachgoers stretch further and further as they bask in the last of the sun’s rays.

The day departs and dinner time arrives. My reservation was pencilled in at the point of check-in at the advice of The Boathouse staff and, upon arriving at the restaurant, I can see why. The place is abuzz with hotel guests, regular patrons and tourists who have travelled from across the island to top off their stays in five-star style. Somehow the attentive staff manage to treat each and every guest as though they are the only ones there.

Food and Beverage Manager Pinyo Thippimas greets me at the entrance and walks me to my table at the front edge of the outdoor terrace. Guests can also eat in the main air-conditioned dining room by the restaurant’s open kitchen, in a private villa or on the rooftop sunset lounge, but I remain convinced that I’ve secured the best seat in the house. I’m as close to the sea as it’s possible to be without getting wet.

Pinyo runs me through The Boathouse’s award-winning menu of classic western and authentic Thai dishes where handpicked, locally grown produce and freshly-caught seafood meet prime cuts of imported meats. Having worked at the The Boathouse in various roles for a commendable 28 years, Pinyo knows the hotel, dare I say, as well as the very man who designed it. I take him up on his recommendation of ‘Saturday Wine and Dine’, a four-course set dinner with a dynamic menu that changes each week. Two hours of free-flow can be bolted on for a modest price.

A Thai-style lemongrass chicken salad arrives to start – the chicken juicy and flavourful, the salad light and zesty. My dining companion opts for baby squid seasoned with salt and pepper and accompanied by an aromatic but not overpowering garlic alioli dipping sauce. A crumbly four cheese tart comes next. Cheese carries a hefty price tag in Phuket and, as a result, has more or less dropped out of my diet, so this feels like a particularly indulgent treat. A mass of rocket leaves on the side is a welcome, tangy addition. For mains, my fellow diner keeps it local with grilled seabass fillet in a creamy yellow curry while I choose the hearty western classic, beef stroganoff with jasmine rice. Neither of us is disappointed. Topping off the meal nicely is a rich coconut crème brûlée, a tropical twist on a European favourite, served with shortbread.

With each course comes a queue of premium beverages, arriving one after the other from a cellar that harbours over 600 labels. Knowledgeable staff share a little of each drink’s history and geography with me. A nice touch.

Dining at The Boathouse is a high-end, yet homely, experience which reflects its 30+ year journey from locals’ favourite to something of a culinary institution. Think modern twists on classic flavours and carefully presented yet generous portions. You’d think that Executive Chef Jonathan Bruell and his team would want to keep over three decades of gastronomic success a closely guarded secret, but they share all during their immersive cooking classes, which I make a mental note to return for as I take a nighttime stroll along the 1.6-kilometre stretch of Kata Beach. A haze of lights from the neighbourhood illuminate the way but not enough to pollute the sky, which is dotted with stars.

Returning to my room, I notice more of the subtle nautical touches that bedeck the hotel. Coordinates etched into wood-panelled walls, staff in Breton-striped polo shirts, the porthole-style window between the bedroom and bathroom, rope-lined mirrors – all thoughtful motifs of the hotel’s storied past. Seafaring dreams await…

After a restful sleep and a brief stint in the hotel gym working off last night’s four courses, it’s time for breakfast. I take my time to graze on the buffet – an all-out affair of freshly baked breads and pastries, seasonal fruits, charcuterie, cheeses, cereals and more.

Check-out is imminent so I take in the last of the sea view and reflect on what has been a magical and restorative 24 hours here. On an island that is constantly reaching into the future and pushing for more – more revenue, more storeys, more tourists – institutions like The Boathouse, which stay in touch with their history and actively celebrate it, become increasingly important. May it continue for 30 years more.

  Photo gallery : Setting sail on a memorable stay at The Boathouse Phuket