Could this be somewhere in the Mediterranean? Alfresco dining on a paved open terrace shaded by ancient trees, immediately overlooking the beach. Gentle waves lapping the sand below, and the northeast wind providing a refreshing respite from the day’s sultriness. The colour palette is stark white with contrasting dark blue tones, complemented by green tinges from the surrounding trees and garden. Gentle wafts of garlic drifted up from the passing plates of food while the sounds of glasses chinked together in quiet celebration added to the informal ambience.
Yes, it could be somewhere on the Spanish, French, Italian, Greek or Turkish coastlines – though Hua Hin’s main beach is the setting. This striking restaurant – Gregal – is named after the northeast wind of the Mediterranean. This independently operated beachside venue is the newest project from the couple known for introducing authentic Spanish cuisine to Hua Hin, Little Spain.
Gregal offers classic Mediterranean dishes using the best of Thailand’s produce in a relaxing seaside environment. Sure, there are crisp tablecloths in intense blue and white contrast, cushion-filled timber chairs, and canvas director chairs on the lower beachside deck, though this is not a stuffy fine diner. Gregal is more like a casually chic cantina, taverna or bistro akin to a hidden gem away from Mediterranean tourist areas.
Realising a long-held dream, Vanessa Humbert and partner Roberto Spina secured permission to transform this unused, long-neglected building into their own beachside restaurant in early 2023. As with such enterprises, it took time for juristic permissions and the minimalist-styled décor renovations to be in place, thus bringing the easy-going concept to fruition. Following a daytime-only soft opening in October, they are now open from lunch to dinner six days a week (closed every Tuesday).
Gregal’s menu is divided into the usual couplings of appetisers, salads, soups, pasta, rice, seafood and meat, though diners can simply drop in for a salad and refreshing beverage and be on their way. Such is the hassle-free style of Gregal. As Roberto Spina explained, “We are about classic dishes from around the Mediterranean, done well using the best quality ingredients we can source locally. The relaxed atmosphere is also an essential element.”
Our Gregal food journey started with three classics – a Seafood salad of plump and cooked prawns, mussels, clams and squid tossed in a well-balanced oil and lemon dressing accompanied by a salad garnish. Hummus and Tzatziki – both house-made and served with carrot, celery, cherry tomato crudites, olives and delectable, fluffy, light and warm pita beads. Our final starter is delightfully fragrant and sweet melon wrapped in delicately shaved prosciutto from San Daniele, a small village in Italy’s northern Friuli Venezia Giulia.
We enjoyed Allo Scoglio from the pasta menu. Diners can choose from spaghetti, penne, fettuccine or rigatoni. Our Spaghetti Allo Scoglio was seafood rich in flavour thanks to the shellfish cooking in the wine and garlic sauce before being tossed with the pasta. From the Sea section of the menu, we chose the grilled Sea Bass Grilled with Lemon Sauce. Tomato and garlic add a light acidity to the skin-on fish fillet. This generous portion was served with roasted potatoes and a fresh salad.
The last main was grilled Australian tenderloin beef, cooked exactly how we asked and was melt-in-the-mouth tender. The accompanying bite-sized grilled vegetables and potatoes were artistically arranged across the plate with a balsamic glaze for flavour contrast. Those diners who can’t do without Little Spain’s Paella will be pleased to know the Gregal menu provides them three options.
Again, keeping with the classics, our desserts were a Pannacotta – creamy, light and ‘wobbly’ as it should be with a moreish blueberry compote for balance. The Tiramisu is coffee-rich with hints of brandy through the biscuits, surrounded by sweet and creamy mascarpone and topped with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. The one departure was Crema Catalan, and instead of the set custard topped with crystalised sugar, the custard was loaded into an espuma gun and served as a foam – still with the custardy and nutmeg flavours of the classic.
For those looking for a beachside spot to take friends or families, Gregal certainly delivers. Unlike most eateries that fit this description, it is not in one of Hua Hin’s high-end hotels, and Gregal’s pricing reflects that independence. Thanks to the tall condo tower behind Gregal, lunch dining on the outdoor deck is shaded – perfect for beachfront meals. Happy hour is available from 4 to 5:30 pm with a buy one get one offer.
Gregal is immediately beside The Royal Princess Condominium and uses the same (narrow and hard to see) laneway for access. There is dedicated restaurant parking at the end of the lane. Beach access is also available if you choose to do a beach stroll (la passeggiata in Italian or paseo for the Spanish to keep with the Mediterranean theme) before visiting.
Gregal is a very welcome Mediterranean-style addition to the Hua Hin dining scene. For more information or enquiries, visit their Facebook page or contact them via 080 891 2595 or Gregalhuahin@gmail.com.
Words and images by Michael Cullen