It seems somewhat surprising that Phu Quoc, Vietnam, an island flourishing with the first blossoms of a tourist boom, does not yet have a ‘destination’ restaurant.
Sure, the larger resorts offer in-house restaurants doing a fine trade and fine food, but such culinary experience is often in danger of feeling like ‘this could be anywhere in the world’. Too often a sense of the restaurant towing the resort’s unique brand instead of focusing on flavour permeates. Sterility and standardisation reign supreme.
Not so at Mango Bay’s On The Rocks Restaurant.
As part of the wider Mango Bay Resort, but very much its own beast, On The Rocks without doubt attracts the most non-resort guests of any hotel restaurant on the island. Make no mistake, this is down to the stunning location. The place overlooks the ocean with wide-open views from 3 of the 4 walls. These windows are designed in such a way that you feel the sea is lapping against the restaurant – a remarkably natural vibe and quite mystical, if truth be told. Like dining on the open seas, but minus the spilt drinks, smashing crockery, frozen food and motion sickness.
The resort is based on the western coast of the island, about half way down the island. The restaurant itself is a pleasant walk through shrubbery, greenery and botanicals.
The aforementioned ocean views play a part in the wider, romantic ambience of the restaurant room. The lighting, furnishings and general décor appear more like the stripped back, Michelin approved establishments of Scandanavia than a beach joint, but the open windows, crashing waves and smell of sea air remind you of just where you are. The outdoor wooden deck overlooking the sea is the ideal place to watch the sunset while imbibing on good food and drink. The location and atmosphere of On The Rocks is unrivaled on the island.
The menu is long, worryingly biblical at first glance, but then I suppose you have to please everybody. Fortunately, with little effort it’s easy to hone in on the restaurant’s specialties of fish and seafood, done simply with spice and zest. There’s a specials board largely adorned with sea creatures, and the waiters will steer you towards the most popular dishes of a similar bent from the longer menu. There are a number of delicious sounding Thai dishes on the menu, which makes sense as the restaurant overlooks the Thai Gulf. We went for blue crab and freshly grilled fish of the day, wrapped in banana leaf. Both were superb, fresh and treated with deserving esteem. Flavours were Asian and felt true to the island whilst having notes of broader appeal.
Fitting for a place of intimacy and elegance, the wine list has some reasonable offerings from Europe as well as New World. Availability by the glass gave an inclusive and inexpensive edge not always found in countries where beer and tea quench thirsts more readily.
Every-changing according to the local fishermen’s catch, the fish of the day seems the most appropriate food when the views are so very nautical.
If you’re on the island, you’ll notice that food has yet to take quite the same spotlight as spas, massages and swimming pools in the pursuit of r’n’r. On The Rocks feels like the destination restaurant of the island, where the food is as good as the setting – and lives up to the journey with aplomb.
Address: Cửa Dương, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang