Posts tagged “chilled

Cococabana Review – Caustic or Candy?

Review:

Cococabana is a tough one.  It’s in a fantastic location in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong’s South Side, and you can’t help but feel relaxed when you arrive.

However, the success of the dishes can be erratic, the service usually haphazard, and the price is fairly steep. But, if you hit the right dishes, and make sure you deal with the manager or the head waiter or JP himself then you can look forward to some of the best times you have had in a restaurant in Hong Kong.

cococabana

Phot from Coco's website

It is super chilled. My favourite time to come is during the week at lunch time (especially if skiving off work, or taking clients new to HK, it always bowls them over).  There are usually a couple of regulars, it’s great to get stuck into the wine and feel like a naughty child, and to sit on the comfy cushions in the shade looking over Deep Water Bay is truly satisfying, and can only induce a feeling of being at peace with the world.

Food: French Mediterranean.  JP has Corsican blood in there somewhere, not just French! For me, his Nicoise salad and Bouillabaisse in particular are outstanding, and I very much enjoy the bacon wrapped goat’s cheese with honey dressing, as well as the John Dory. I tend to stick to his seafood dishes and have more luck there than the meat.

Drinks:  He has an eclectic wine list, that veers to the expensive, but if you do know a bit about wine (as fortunately my partner does), then you can pick something good at the lower end and if JP is around then he is happy to guide.  I also really enjoy the homemade lemonade.

Ambience: On top of the public changing rooms at Deep Water Bay, doesn’t sound very sophisticated, but it’s all white table cloths, big banquettes and huge cushions.  It can get very hot and sunny during the day, so always ask for somewhere in the shade if that’s your need.  The view over the beach and Deep Water Bay make it quite an idyllic spot for Hong Kong island, and you quickly start to ignore the traffic noise and tune into the French muzak. A lot of French people eat here which adds to the Med vibe, and it’s always got a holiday atmosphere because you are on the beach.

Service:  The service here can be staggeringly bad. Disorganised and careless are words that spring to mind.  However, it can also be efficient, and it’s always friendly, with apologies and make-ups quickly forthcoming if you tell management your frustrations. They certainly know they aren’t faultless.

Price: Set-lunch $298 per head, set dinner $398.  If you want more than one course then I would suggest going for the sets as they are much better value.  A la carte can see main courses up to $298 a pop. A bottle of wine is going to be at the very least $300.  For two people I usually spend a minimum of $1000 for supper including drinks, and usually that at lunch because I get carried away on the vino.

This may surprise many of you, given my usual rants on bad service especially, but overall, I do really like Cococabana, despite it’s obvious faults. I think as I’ve been a Southsider before and been here at many different times of week and day I’ve seen it at its best and worst, and have come to enjoy it immensely.

Some people hate it, some people love it and I can understand both points of view.

If you stick to seafood, kick back and know to keep on top of your waiters then you will have a great time and will end up returning and falling into the latter category.

Resotel – Super chilled hideaway on the River Kwai

Review:

The Resotel is hidden away on the River Kwai about 40min past Kanchanaburi.  I love this part of Thailand, so jungly and quiet.

So jungly you can barely see the bungalows

The hotel is a mish-mash of little bungalows in the jungle with a great swimming pool, restaurant, spa, lovely gardens and a river deck you can hang out on and while away the time reading a book.

resotel river kwai caustic candy deck

The usual (and fun) way to get to it is by boat which you pick up 1km down the river where there is a car park. You can drive round the long way though fording the river further up, but unless you have mobility problems then I wouldn’t bother.

We aren’t talking 5* here, but it’s clean and charming and a lot better than the other hotels I’ve stayed at in the area including the Royal River Kwai and the Oriental Kwai (both were fine, just didn’t have a patch on the Resotel, and their locations aren’t as good). There are around 90 bungalows in total, but as they are spread out through the gardens you don’t realise there are so many.  There is also a cultural centre with meeting facilities and a mini-mart, but these are at the back of the plot behind the main building, so you don’t need to even see them unless you go looking for them.

Now, I don’t know what they do to the food here, but it is just delicious. It’s very typical Thai food, all the old favourites, nothing fancy, but it’s executed perfectly. I love it.

They have fantastic masseuses and a sala for the purpose up in the eaves of the main building which is open to the river (Go for the Herbal Massage, which mixes traditional Thai massage with the use of a big ball of herbs to gently knead your body, it is unbeatable).  The main building is a huge teak edifice which is open to the elements – it’s lovely to sit in the evenings on the terraces and listen to all the wildlife.

The concierge is very helpful and they will organise trips for you, and private cars to take you to and from Bangkok if you want.

This hotel is part of a group that has some other interesting looking accommodation in the area, including staying on river rafts with no electricity, and staying in posh tents near Hell Fire Pass.  I’m intending on trying both of these next time I’m up.

Price: Varies by season and who you book through, but it’s about US$100 a night for a double bungalow, or US$130 for the best bungalow which has a river view and a jacuzzi. Do book ahead as it’s a popular place, especially now the Russians have found it.

Note for the feeble pansies:  You are in the jungle so you will get big spiders, plenty of mozzies, geckos of all sizes, snakes and the odd monitor lizard. If you’re scared of wildlife, just suck it up and get on with it.  This is a great place to stay.

River Kwai – brilliant long weekend from HK (if you like driving).

As you may gather I’ve got a bit of a penchant for Thailand, and often go for long weekends.  I love going up to the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi for a couple of days not only because it gives me a chance to drive for more than an hour and not hit either a border or the sea, but also because one of my favourite hotels is up here and it happens to have one of the best Thai restaurants in the whole of the country (believe me, I’ve been to plenty…)

River Kwai Caustic Candy

Here is the itinerary:

Fly to BKK, pick up your hire-car and head west. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Sai Yok, which is about an hour past Muang Kanchanaburi. It is worth pushing on through to Sai Yok, and avoiding the temptation to stop off in Kanchanaburi itself.

Stay at Resotel (more info here) on the River Kwai  - do book ahead as it’s quite small and is popular with the Russians in particular now for some reason.

Now you are ensconced in your hotel there are loads of things to do.  Erawan has some lovely waterfalls, you can go to the fascinating, eerie, and beautiful Hell Fire Pass where all the POWs, Thai and Vietnamese slaves were forced to build the Thai/Burma railway in WWII. You can go and visit the elephant camps, hire bikes and just cycle around, visit the labyrinth of reservoirs up around Srinakarin and go fishing, take river trips, or  just generally mooch around in your car exploring up to the borders of Burma. Lots of things to do for a 2-3 days.

The restaurant (and the spa for that matter) at the Resotel is particularly good, it is without doubt one of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at in Thailand.  There are also loads of road-side stalls and restaurants all over the place and you can pretty much guarantee having a good if basic meal at any one of them, no matter how rustic they might look!

It’s a super chilled area of Thailand, it has beautiful scenery and it’s really quiet.  The roads are almost empty and are a joy to drive on.

On the drive back to BKK you do have to be very careful when you close in on the BKK ring-road if you don’t have sat-nav, as it is easy to miss the turning to get on to the ring-road that will take you back to the airport.  If you miss it, turn back, DO NOT get involved in driving into Bangkok. If you miss the ring road and follow the airport signposts they take you straight through the centre of town and it will take you an extra 2 or 3 hours to get to the airport – as you can tell, I didn’t turn back…