Over the last 30 years or so, the island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand was ‘put on the map’ amongst the backpacker set as the home of the infamous Full Moon Party. For most of this time it sat in the shadow of its somewhat larger neighbour Koh Samui, which evolved into a destination for well-heeled travellers given its airport offering direct connections to a handful of southeast Asian cities.
In the last few years the Koh Phangan has begun a transformation of sorts. While the music scene and parties linger on in the traditional corners of the island, a whole new side of life has emerged, most notably, on the culinary side.
Thankfully, the island has thus far managed to hold the fast food chains at bay despite its rapidly increasing popularity. Instead, a whole array of dining options has emerged in response to the new wave of visitors coming to the island who are seeking something other than its notorious party scene.
With so many great restaurants on Koh Phangan, our list of nine quickly jumped to eleven and yet there are so many others that could qualify. And so here, after much discussion, deliberation and delight we share with you the 11 best independent restaurants in Koh Phangan.
What do we mean by independent ? Well, there are certainly some good dining options to experience within the hotels and resorts on the island, but for those who have opted for private accommodations, our list focuses on restaurants outside of resorts.
PLEASE NOTE THAT HOURS OF OPERATION INDICATED DEPENDING ON THE SEASON AND DURING THE TIME UNTIL THE BORDERS ARE OPEN FOR TOURISM.
1. Signature seafood & grill
Chef Q, as he is fondly known on the Island, opened Signature Seafood & Grill in Sri Thanu two years ago and in that time, it has become a regular fixture for those fond of impeccable seafood, steaks and sunsets.
Quentin (Chef Q) was inspired by his love of travel and passion for different cultures when he created the broad menu at Signature Seafood & Grill, utilizing the freshest ingredients to create homemade dishes accompanied with a good selection of quality wines.
When I asked Chef Q what his signature dish was he suggested ‘The Seafood Tower” – ‘it’s a big success with locals & tourists, people love seafood that is looking fresh and local’.
The quality of steaks, rib eye, black angus, wagyu on offer, sets the restaurant apart from their peers. Chef Q imports only the finest meat from Argentina, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and serves only the freshest lobsters, oysters and local fresh fish available.
With an enviable Thongsala location right on the beach, steps from the pier and shops, Signature Seafood and Grill’s fine dining, top notch food and service make this a must-visit stop.
2. L'Alcove Bistro on the beach
Karine and Melanie, two charming women from France, had a desire to share their French culture when they opened L’Alcove restaurant and bungalows seven years ago. Situated in the middle of a coconut grove on the beach at Hin Kong bay, they have created an ambient restaurant offering French fusion food and terrific live entertainment, Fridays and Sundays each week.
When I corresponded with Karine and Melanie they suggested the cheese and delicatessen platter or L’Alcove’s entrecôte as their signature dishes. All of the delicious treats from the French kitchen are presented in their menu of delicious wines, cheeses, delicatessens, roasted duck legs, and salads. As well as an offering of local Thai fusion delights.
L’Alcove is arguably the stand-out establishment in Koh Phangan for it’s selection of wines. The ladies told me that “Our bottles are kept in a wine cellar – Bordeaux vintages from Margaux, St Estephe, St Émilion as well as Chablis, Sancerre and many others”. More than 60 wines are available by the bottle and 16 by the glass.
During live entertainment evenings, musicians, singers, dancers and fire artists perform making the experience a beautiful way to see out the end of another island day. As the sun sets over the bay, you’ll feel a sense of bliss in Koh Phangan’s own little piece of France
3. Rolling pin
Opened in 2018 this spot ranks amongst a great list of Italian restaurants on the island and was our choice for Top 11 as the pasta here is second to none. Chef Andrea is a classically trained artisan pasta maker, trained by the highest level pasta master in Italy and has worked in restaurants in Italy and in New York. Everything is hand made on site by Chef Andrea using no machines and employing long lost traditional artisan techniques.
About Rolling Pin’s signature dish, owner Meemi said “Our speciality is handmade artisan pasta. I would recommend any of our fresh pasta dishes with your choice of sauce to come with it.”
Rolling Pin also offers a selection of dry pastas to be taken away and cooked at home and specialized artisan bread and cakes.
4. Sati Pot
This is one of our absolute favourites for its incredible Persian flavours in an informal and relaxed space. It’s best to book ahead to be sure to secure a spot. We had a beautiful conversation with Azadeh, owner and manager of Sati Pot as she shared her and her husband’s concepts, desires and recipe secrets with us. There was no denying that Sati Pot is definitely her labour of love and everyone who walks through the doors cannot help but feel it. Established 3 years ago with her husband Saman, it was their first foray into opening a restaurant. Tragically Saman passed 1.5 years ago however Azadeh feels her husband’s support for her and her staff in spirit daily as she continues to thrive.
Sati Pot is more than just food; it is a Persian experience. “all recipes are from different parts of Iran – North, South, East, West” says Azadeh. “We try to keep the place not as a restaurant but more a Persian experience through the ambience, the decoration and of course the food. Persian food is all about balance – we use many spices, many different tastes and dressing but everything is in balance. When you eat the food you still feel like you are eating healthy food but it is not bland, it has flavour and taste, it is not just simple vegetable and plant based food on a plate.”
She went on to say “everybody says that our food is like their mother or grandmother’s food – you never have bad food from your parents or your grandmother because they always do the best for you. We do the best for our clients- everyday we cook like we are cooking for ourselves and our beloved people and people, they feel it in our food and this is what the high quality of Sati Pot is all about”.
Their signature dish is ‘King’s Rice’, a Lamb Shank—Slow cooked in Saffron and yoghurt sauce, served with special rice mixed with crushed pistachio and almonds, caramelised onion, paprika and raisin, comes out from the oven with crust on top. This is just one of the many outstanding options to be had. Although Persian food is usually predominantly meat based, in keeping with the clientele of Koh Phangan, Azadeh and her team have modified some recipes to include vegan and vegetarian options. A great stand out feature of Sati Pot, is that they never use anything that is frozen or pre-cooked, everything on the menu is cooked fresh everyday and she says “fresh food everyday because your body can feel it”.
5. Chana Masala
Opened two years ago, the vegetarian husband and wife team both had a love of Indian food and wanted to have the authentic Indian food taste in Koh Phangan. This desire for the genuine flavours of India led them to finding four experienced Indian chefs for their kitchen. We caught up with the owners recently and they told us a little more about Chana Masala – “We selected our team, with good hands and good hearts, and they use authentic Indian recipes only.”
“We only focus on the authentic and delicious taste of food, using high and fresh quality of ingredients, NO MSG, we cook every dish fresh, when ordering and set the atmosphere that you will really enjoy, sitting relaxing with us. Most of our customers love the food and they say it is the same as they like to eat in India or even better. We never compromise on the quality. What we serve to customers is also what we give to ourselves and family to eat too because we and our child eat here everyday also.”
There are many popular dishes to savour at Chana Masala from the Paneer Butter Masala, Palak Thali Set to the Idli Set. The Indian flavours that Chana Masala brings to the island, particularly considering the many stand-out vegetarian restaurants in the area, makes this truly a top notch choice on the dining scene.
Founder and Head Chef Khun Thanaporn, known locally as Lek, was just three years old when he made his first expedition on a long tail boat. Lek was born into a local Bantai fishing family, his father was a crab fisherman and his mother sold the crab meat at the local market. His mother and aunties were known in the area as fantastic seafood cooks. It is these family recipes that he grew up with and that he offers his guests today.
Chef Lek presents his menu with a modern touch while still maintaining the family philosophy of using only fresh local ingredients, never any MSG and closely following family traditions. There are two must try signature dishes on the menu. The first is the yellow curry crab, Lek’s mother’s traditional family recipe, a nod to his childhood. The second is Lek’s own seafood curry, a variation on his mother’s traditional yellow curry crab recipe. Created using his own secret curry paste, not red, not yellow but something you can only find at Fisherman’s.
Lek’s wife Amanda is responsible for maintaining the restaurant’s impeccable emphasis on service as well as creating a very sophisticated, handcrafted cocktail and wine list. With an interest in mixology, Amanda offers one very interesting, fat-washed bacon cocktail called “smoked not shaken” that must be experienced.
Fisherman’s has without question some of the best seafood you’ll find on the island. The original restaurant was first established fourteen years ago while seven years ago, Amanda and Lek moved the restaurant to its current Bantai location. It is an idyllic beachfront establishment encompassing natural materials and using converted family fishing boats as seating – all hand-crafted by Chef Lek and his father. The rustic decor creates an intimate, soft ambience that compliments the unforgettable dining experience at Fisherman’s.
7. Sirtaki Taverna
As the only Greek specialty tavern on Koh Phangan, Sirtaki does not disappoint in bringing a little piece of Greece to the island. Connoisseurs of meat dishes and seafood lovers alike will not be disappointed with the menu selection. They are famous for their original recipes of fish, a moussaka to die for and octopus and calamari that melts in the mouth. The taverna’s very friendly, low-key service, big plate servings and authentic flavours are an absolute delight. Their brand new Thongsala location delivers a true Greek aesthetic such that you may even forget where you are.
When I spoke to owner and chef George, he told me his ‘must try’ suggestions on the menu are his grilled octopus and the moussaka. He told me that he only uses the freshest produce, everything is made from scratch daily and he never sacrifices using the best olive oil that he imports himself from Greece. His recipes are special local recipes from the Greek islands of Hippocrates, which offers a different flavour and taste experience compared to other parts of Greece. George told me that he wishes that everyone who visits his restaurant could enter like they are entering their own home. For him, each person is more like a guest of the family, than just a customer.
8. Belgian beer bistro
Another beautiful dining experience by Chef Q and his team is located right on Ao Chao Phao Beach. A little bit of a quiet achiever, you cannot judge the Belgian Beer Bistro by its cover, given that it is rumored to have the most incredible kitchens on the island. They produce well-known European specialties, that may leave you feeling like you never left the continent.
Chef Q is famous for his mussels (done in ten different ways) and homemade Belgian fries, which you can wash down with one of the bistro’s fifty choices of Belgian beers. When I spoke with him, his mussels were his ‘must try’ menu suggestion along with his many tasty burger variations. He also mentioned that each of the 8 Belgian beers on offer at that bar are all served in their own unique glasses.
In addition there is a wide menu selection of French and Belgian comfort food such as roast lamb, homemade Belgian fries, steaks, sausages and cheese, as well as a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options. A new special menu is created by Chef Q every Wednesday and Fridays are well known for their lobster nights.
9. Il Barracuda
Francesco has a very strict daily routine…By day, he travels far off the coast in his boat, drops his anchor and after a 10 minute meditation to slow down his breathing, he dives into the open ocean, swims down as deep as 30 metres. There, underwater he can wait up to 3 minutes for the right fish to come by. Francesco will be careful with his choice of size, age and numbers in his catch, to keep the balance of the species intact and ultimately avoid overfishing.
By night, Chef Francesco heads the Il Barracuda Italian Fish & Pizzeria team and serves his catch, in fresh dishes such as fish carpaccio or exquisitely grilled seafood. When I spoke to him recently Francesco also made a point of mentioning that it is a family business, his grandmother(!) is on-hand everyday, managing the restaurant floor alongside him.
Francesco’s must try menu suggestions are his queen fish carpaccio and his BBQ barracuda, possibly the freshest you will ever get.
A crowd favourite since opening seven years ago, there is no place on the island with better prepared barracuda and an authentic pizza oven which produces the most superb pizza (for non-fish people). A great location with natural, rustic decor and a simple yet creative menu makes it our choice for one of the best Italian restaurants on the island.
10. Bliss café
Opened three years ago on Bantai beach in the lively complex of Sunset Walk, Bliss Cafe offers a natural atmosphere, a fresh breeze and some of the best coffee on the island. It is perfect for those seeking a family-oriented atmosphere in a terrific location. The locally born chefs lovingly prepare family recipes to deliver a versatile, masterful, Thai cuisine menu that can satisfy any sweet or salty desire. The team told us that the cafe specialty is their fish menu (fish toast, fish burger, fish and chips) “because we catch the fish daily ourselves”.
The expansive beachfront and children’s playground really makes this space an inviting location for diners of all ages. The unique decor, friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere will have you coming back for another look at the mesmerizing beach-scape just beyond your table, while enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Tucked away behind a Family Mart is an outstanding Italian “locanda” serving homemade bread, focaccia and fresh ricotta cheese using traditional Italian recipes from South Italy. We spoke to owner Toni, and her husband and chef Mimmo about their labour of love – Nena.
Opened two years ago, Nena is a family-owned Italian restaurant serving fish, meat on the BBQ, vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as gluten-free options.
Family muse and restaurant namesake Nena is their 86 year old grandmother. With a sixty year long career as a chef, Nena started working in the kitchen after she got married to their grandfather Carlo, at the age of 18. Together with the family’s great-grandmother Anna, they ran “Ristorante Beccaceci” in Abruzzo, Italy. Nena’s passion for cooking and her invaluable secrets and knowledge after a lifetime behind the stove is the magical ingredient. Toni tells us “the chef at our restaurant is my partner Mimmo. He is from Bari, in the Puglia region of southern Italy, which is why in our menu you have the taste of the traditional foods of Abruzzo and Puglia. We also have two amazing sous chefs, Pi Yo and Nini, as well as Nwe in charge of BBQ. They are from Myanmar, are beautiful human beings and passionate about our kitchen”
Toni told us that they “have different dishes appreciated by our customers but definitely our signature dish is the calamari ripieni. These are stuffed calamari with shrimps in a cream of chickpeas and mustard leaves. The original recipe of the calamari ripieni was made by my grandmother Nena herself at my family’s restaurant in Abruzzo”
When I asked Toni more about Nena, she said “Probably what sets our restaurant apart from the others is the story that we want to tell our customers through our menu and our place. The food that we offer is a mix between our place of origin, our tradition and family’s recipes”
Nena aims to offer a different experience in Italian food, more authentic and sometimes experimenting with new recipes mixing tradition with a more original and contemporary vision of food, using local products enhanced as well by imported ones. Their aim is to recreate the Italian flavour on a tropical island in Thailand.
As you can see, the dining scene on Koh Phangan has come a long way in recent years and in many ways it ‘punches way above its weight’ in comparison to that of other destinations in southern Thailand. It exemplifies a definite shift towards luxurious, ‘bohemian’ living in that these independently owned and operated spots retain a true authenticity, unadulterated by the corporate feel that has befallen so many other spots.
We could have incorporated so many more amazing restaurants on the island that this list could easily have been double the size. And so, if excellent food is a criteria for your next holiday, you won’t go wrong on Koh Phangan. Many of the recommendations here come from our guests at Fernblick Luxury Villa, which shares the same commitment to an unparalleled experience on this emerging gem of a tropical paradise. It’s no wonder that Conde Nast Traveller readers voted Koh Phangan as the 3rd best holiday island in Asia.