Bringing a little South Seas Adventure to Lamai
Nearly a year ago I was interviewing Anders Eliason about the Food and Beverage operations at The New Nordic Group in Pattaya. He was heading up the F&B team and bursting with excitement about all the new developments in The Nordic Village on Pratumnak Hill. Fast forward to now and I found him once again in a euphoric state about the business of eating and drinking but in a new location with a different set of challenges.
In the summer of 2016, The New Nordic Group began to spread out from their central operation in Pattaya by establishing a couple of new projects on the idyllic island of Koh Samui. In November I was invited to see the project first hand on a familiarization tour along with a group of New Nordic managers and agents. One day after sweating in the midday sun and stomping around on the newly acquired land in Lamai Beach, we were treated to a cold beer and some lunch at a funky open air beach bar/restaurant. More than a few of us commented on how perfectly positioned and comfortable this place was. Within a month I got word that New Nordic had purchased the place and was incorporating it into the Nordic family.
And that’s where Andy comes in. New Nordic CEO Kurt Svendheim asked if he’d take on the task of giving the place a facelift and bringing it up to New Nordic standards. Never one to back down from a challenge, Andy jumped at the opportunity and has been residing on the island full time for the past few months.
When I caught up with Andy I said, “Tell me about the atmosphere first”. He grinned ear-to-ear and said, “Key West man; we are going for that laid back, sit at the bar all day, don’t even need shoes feel”. To be sure that’s exactly the vibe this places elicits. The indoor-outdoor restaurant seats about 60 comfortably. There are 100 really comfy sunbeds down on the beach with a huge patio that’s perfect for kids to play on. There’s a swimming pool for cooling off. There’s a pool table for chilling out. And the music has been changed from the ubiquitous electronica to friendly “memory music” as Andy calls it. “It’s not a dance club” says Andy. “It’s a beach bar and it calls for music that makes you feel good and remember happy days”.
The restaurant’s new name is Kon-Tiki Restaurant and Bar. The Kon-Tiki is the name of a ship made of balsa wood used in a famous expedition in 1947. A band of Norwegian sailors set out from Peru to prove that people from South America could have possibly discovered and settled islands in the South Pacific. “It’s an epic tale of adventure” says Andy. “And we wanted to channel some of that South Seas adventure here in Lamai”.
When I asked about the menu Andy got even more excited. “We completely changed things. Our menu is a traveler’s delight as we have dishes from all over the world. Naturally we have the beach food you’d expect like great burgers and pizza. But, we also have some nice Mexican inspired dishes, and pastas and delicious steaks”. Andy said they were lucky enough to retain a Thai chef who has been working in Samui over 25 years who really knows his way around a kitchen. “It goes without saying that our Thai food is fantastic” he added. “We are very generous to our customers to make sure they get a chance to taste our menu. On Saturdays we give away free barbeque skewers when guests come in for a drink. On Sunday we celebrate “Family Day” and kids eat pizza for free” Andy said. Another unique feature at Kon-Tiki is the “Build Your Own Breakfast”. Guests are given a list of about 30 items from which they choose three for breakfast for only 109 Baht.
According to Andy, the reworked bar has been the heart of their business. “Our half price Happy Hour from 6-8 PM is very popular. And the latest addition to our cocktail bar is the very popular “slushy” drinks” said Andy. “Imagine a mango flavored icy drink with a generous shot of rum or vodka. Perfect for cooling off under a shady palm tree. You can even get them to go!”
For sure Kon-Tiki looks like a place you could just hang out at. There’s a volleyball net on the beach and in the pool. Nice music, good food, a swimming pool and cold drinks. “I could chill here all day” I said to Andy. “Oh, but you must come at night” he insisted. “Every night there is a fire show that starts at 8 PM. We have five young Thai guys that do three shows a night whirling and twirling flames high into the moonlight sky right here on Lamai Beach. It is very popular and people from hotels all around come to see it over and over again”.
I had one final question for Andy and I got an unexpected answer. I said, “Andy, what is the best part about this move to Koh Samui and the new restaurant?” “That’s easy” he said. “This is the best staff I’ve ever worked with. It is a total team effort. From my Thai chef right down to my bartenders. We do the “power walk” together just like we did in Pattaya. We assemble “flyer teams” and go out together passing out flyers for free drinks to new customers. When you’ve got the right people, this is the best job on the planet!”
It was good to see Andy again and also to find a new place to enjoy his particular brand of hospitality. Kon-Tiki Beach Restaurant in Lamai Beach; Key West meets South Seas meets Scandinavian explorers. What could be better?