Dining by the sea has some undefinable attraction. It never fails to be captivating, perhaps romantic, and always memorable. Additionally, it is often supposed that the food just tastes better when enjoyed down by the water. To test this theory first hand, our HOT Magazine food team visited Chay Had, the Hilton Hua Hin Resort’s beachfront restaurant and lounge.

In prime position right at the resort’s beach frontage, Chay Had offers guests uninterrupted views. Either north over Hua Hin’s original timber finger wharves and onto Cha-Am in the distance. East to the horizon, while south presents the beginning of Hua Hin beach plus glimpses of those ‘stone heads’ in the water from which Hua Hin derives its name. (หัว Hua in Thai means head, and หิน Hin means stone).

Shaded by tall palms and fragrant frangipani trees, the alfresco Chay Had Lounge is the perfect place for a relaxing beverage. On our arrival, attentive bar staff extolled the virtues of their current promotion. It seems their mixologists have gotten creative with the humble Gin & Tonic. “Step 17” is a nod to the hotels 17 stepped levels and sees tea and caramel added to tall and elegant Gin & Tonic. An alternative is a Thai basil-infused G&T with fresh raspberries. The later more to my taste. Sunset Happy Hour happens from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at Chay Had’s Lounge and presents another reason to drop by, take in the beachfront ambience and try a refreshing beverage (or two).

Chay Had has, in essence, two side by side dining areas. A timbered deck under the giant frangipanis with low-key lighting and absolute beachfront views. The other is an expansive elevated, open to the sky, crescent-shaped deck providing those uninterrupted views.

Chay Had’s menu explains they strive for the creative pairing of Thai, Asian and Western flavours, and so our food journey commenced. Crab Cakes, light, flavoursome, rich in crab and sitting atop scallop shells filled with a petit salad of edamame, tomato, avocado, coriander, and accompanied by artistic droplets of chipotle mayonnaise. A salad of pomelo and tiger prawn delicately presented, though described as spicy, it’s refined, and well-balanced taste allowed the sweetness of the pomelo and prawn to shine. Our final starter was BBQ duck spring rolls – crispy deep-fried rolls with good-sized pieces of duck amongst the filling and served with a black bean sweet chilli sauce.

Our selection of mains included a generous piece of saltwater Butterfish grilled and topped with crispy Thai garlic and pepper, accompanied by fresh salad greens and tomato: a dish designed to hero the fish. Pad Thai is an internationally recognised Thai favourite, and Chay Had’s chefs elevate this dish with the addition of whole jumbo prawns. A towering plate of Thai deliciousness. Lamb cutlets were the final main, with Chef presenting three generous sized cutlets grilled medium well sitting atop delicately flavoured saffron rice. Also, on the plate was a shot glass of black pepper sauce, allowing us to decide to enjoy the lamb as is, straight from the pan, or with the addition of Chef’s sauce.

As well as overseeing the day to day kitchen operations of the hotel, Executive Sous Chef Ong is also a highly skilled Pâtissier, and three of his creations were on show this evening. Mango Delice – a creamy Panna Cotta sitting on a raspberry biscuit and all coated in a glistening mango glaze, served with chocolate soil and basil seed passionfruit coulis. A feast for the eyes and taste delight.

Chef’s take on the Thai classic mango sticky rice is reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting with edible ‘paint’ splattered across the plate to add extra vibrancy to an already colourful combination. Warm Chocolate Tarte was the final dessert we chose, and oh my, what a delightful finish to our meal. A buttery shortcrust pastry shell filled with warm rich and gooey chocolate fondant made even more extravagant with a piece of gold leaf on top. A cherry compote, along with fresh berries, a sprinkling of granola and vanilla ice cream round out this crowd-pleaser of a dessert.

Chay Had is open for lunch and dinner with separate menus for each. And unlike many of the establishment restaurant across Hua Hin, Chay Had’s displayed menu prices for all dishes already include the 7% VAT and 10% Service charges. This means there’s no need to do such calculations as you peruse the menu, and no surprises when presented with the bill.

Adding extra sizzle to Saturday evenings, the resort hosts their Barefoot BBQ Night on the first Saturday each month, and as the name suggests, right on the beach. An extensive buffet and BBQ for THB 1400 net per person with free-flow juices and soft drinks. Chay Had hosts a reef to beef BBQ every 2nd, 3rd and 4th Saturday of the month priced at THB 999 net per person food only.

For further enquires, hours of operation and contact details, visit the Dining page of Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa’s web page. Will, you too, be captivated by the whole dining by the sea experience?

By Michael Cullen

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