Langkawi is an archipelago of a hundred islands off the northwest coast of Malaysia, located in the azure waters of the Andaman Sea. Thailand is so close that, channelling Sarah Palin and Tina Fey, you can see it from the swimming pool at The Datai. It’s a beautiful island and The Datai is a particularly beautiful spot, remarkably integrated into the 10 million years old rainforest. It overlooks Datai Bay, awarded by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 beaches worldwide. You can see why:
I was there to meet Will Meyrick (below), a hugely-affable Scot who was taking his considerable skills in South East Asian cuisine and letting them shine in a series of special dinners. I’ll be posting an interview with him in due course. The Datai previously Michel Roux as one guest chef, the legendary holder of three Michelin stars for 36 (count ’em) years running, while GM Arnaud Girodon doubtless has other world class names up his sleeve.
Meyrick’s dinner came on the first night. You’ll know him if you’ve been to Mama San on Wyndham Street, while he also has restaurants in Bali, KL and Jakarta. At The Datai, The Gulai House is the resort’s traditional kampong house, turned into an elegant but still relaxed restaurant.
Meyrick takes no prisoners when it comes to flavours: they are full-on and vibrant in a reassuringly honest way, not diluted for ‘sensitive’ palates. Over four courses he melds Malaysian and Indian flavours in a beautiful succession of dishes.
A perfect way to start in the form of a snapper ceviche with shredded Betel leaf, Vietnamese mint, ginger flower, ikan teri (anchovy), coconut milk and day-glo salmon roe, wrapped into herbs and greens or spooned onto crackers.
This beef cheek rendang. My days. One of Meyrick’s signatures – and his personal comfort food – is good enough to rival any Malaysian mama’s. The layers of spices and flavours are intricately woven together – every mouthful brings something different, a hint of cinnamon here, curry leaf there. It is a spectacularly delicious bowl.
The old standby of a korma is taken somewhere new with unusual additions that take it a million miles from your local curry house to somewhere much, much more subtle. Duck is the hero here and, despite the cornucopia of spices and herbs – including green chili, mint, coriander and much more besides – you can still actually taste it.
Look. At. That. Bread. It goes in every sauce, every time.
You couldn’t be in Malaysia and not enjoy crab, here done as a mud crab curry with notable kicks of ginger, fenugreek, mustard seeds and curry leaf coming through the coconut milk, all part of a glorious sauce that is fought over. With more of that bread.
The beauty at The Datai is that you’re not exactly short of other dining options. In some resorts, after day three you get cabin fever and end up heading out. Not at the Datai. Breakfast in particular is astonishing. How’s this for some extra brekkie options, in addition to the already bountiful buffet action on offer, featuring cuisines from around the world?
There was also a sensational stir-fried lobster at their Thai restaurant, The Pavilion:
And the nasi goreng to end them all at their beach club:
If you head up to this beautiful corner of South East Asia, generally either via KL, Singapore or Bangkok, there’s no simply no better option when it comes to service, food, views or facilities. In common with pretty much everyone, you won’t ever want to leave – and certainly not before you’ve made the most of the five restaurants on property.