By Maciek Klimowicz
Taste Bar & Grill could be reviewed in just a few short words – ”In Phuket since 2006”. After all, how many friends do you have, who’ve been here that long? And how many such restaurants do you know? I bet not many, and chances are that those are some of your best friends. And some of the best restaurants on the island.
Anyone who’s been in Phuket longer than for a brief holiday, knows that our beautiful place under the sun is a transient one – people come and go, and so do businesses. The culinary landscape of the island also changes perpetually, with new restaurant joying the scene and other falling into oblivion. Those that manage to stay open beyond a season or two, must be doing something right.
What is it that Taste Bar & Grill does right? Initially the restaurant occupied a premium spot in Surin beach. Beachside location, lots of foot traffic, spectacular sunset – no wonder the business succeeded, right? Just partly. While those things certainly helped, Taste was given a chance to prove that their formula is about much more than just the location. That chance came in the shape of a total wipe-out of the beach promenade businesses in Surin, perfumed with brutal fortitude by the military government. Taste was forced to move to a new address, across the street from Tesco in Cheng Talay, away from tourists and natural landscapes. And yet it survives to this day. More than survives, it thrives. How?
“It’s not really any secret, we simply care for each and every customer,” says Taste’s owner, the self-taught chef Martin Ostlind, and continues to express his absolute devotion and passion for the job. “For me cooking is like an addictive video game, I just keep coming back to it, to improve and try new things.”
To prove his words, he produces his specials menu. “This is my space to experiment, there is always some project going on, something new cooking. it’s a great excuse for locals to keep returning to try my new dishes,” he says.
And they do. As we sit and chat over a plate of maybe the best crab cake I’ve ever tried in Phuket, chef Martin keeps shaking hands and nodding to returning customers. Whether it’s an elderly couple sipping cocktails at the bar (“We make our cocktails strong! “proclaims a chalkboard sign), a group of friends sharing crunchy flatbreads with a variety of toppings, or a family of four dining at a table entirely covered with plates of entrées and tapas, everyone seems to feel at home in the dimly lit interiors of Taste, decorated with just the right amount quirky art (the silver lama at the entrance is not to be missed!)
“Our menu is not designed to fit any one particular person” says chef Martin. “A lot of people open it and start scratching their heads, because they cannot figure out what kind of restaurant we are. Is it Mediterranean cuisine, a BBQ? Yes, there are elements of those things, but it’s more than that,” he explains.
What this “more” constitutes is hinted in the restaurant’s name – Taste. As long as it tastes good, you might find it on the restaurant’s menu. Some products are sourced locally, but many come from around the globe. “We import great meat from Australia, salmon from Norway and other, because we look for produce of absolutely best quality!” exclaims chef Martin.
He then continues tell me how they peel their own crabs, make their own bread, mince their own burgers and make their own ice cream, but with each dish that lands in front of me – the Spanish style Gambas, double braised calf cheek, a lamb steak with a potato gratin that is not short of divine – I feel less words are necessary. For chef Martin each dish comes with a story, but for me they all speak for themselves, with their flavours.
And then, somewhere during our conversation, chef Martin proclaims his affection for our island “It’s our home and we’ve been here so long. We love Phuket,” and as I dig into the home-made, Belgian beer sorbet, I finally grasp what the secret of Taste Bar & Grill is – yes, they love Phuket…and Phuket loves them back.
Find out more on tastebargrill.com. To book a table please call 087 886 6401 or +66 87 886 6401 (Phuket, Thailand), email: firstname.lastname@example.org.