Recently we took advantage of an offer that, as foodies, was particularly appealing and required an out of town overnight stay. We didn’t have to travel far. Pak Nam Pran and Khao Kalok are neighbouring beaches in the Pran Buri region just 30 minutes’ drive south of our home in Hua Hin. And just 500 meters back from Khao Kalok beach is ‘The Boutique Farmers’ and our destination for the weekend. From all we had heard and read this place, it promised to be a foodies delight!
The offer we took advantage of was simple. Book dinner Friday or Saturday night, or their now famous Sunday Brunch at the restaurant on The Farm and overnight accommodation in their homestay was free. As a special bonus, they even included breakfast the following morning.
Pak Nam Pran and Khao Kalok are developing areas, with a well-maintained beachside esplanade literally stretching for kilometres as do the beaches and includes cycleways and walking paths. The area is still semi-rural with pineapple plantations, small cattle grazing concerns and paddocks devoted to coconut palms. Yet brand-named and boutique resorts have also found a place among all this. There are quaint Thai eateries along with small European bakeries, and larger Cafes and restaurants scattered along the length of the esplanade.
On arrival, The Boutique Farmers Co-owner and Chef, James Noble welcomed us and gave an overview of the property and facilities. He and wife May have developed the farm side of the business for the last 7 years.
The concept sounds simple enough – produce food and related products through sustainable, organic agriculture, using only local staff. To their credit, the farm has provided specialist organic vegetables, fruit, herbs and preserved products to the Chefs of elite restaurants in Bangkok and Hua Hin for the last 5 year. James, May and their farm team continue adding to their offering as the Chefs become more engaged and understand what this enterprise can offer.
Guests to the homestay or restaurant are encouraged to wander around the property. We saw a multitude of products from figs and mulberries to hothouses full of cherry tomatoes; rows of corn; garden beds of eggplant, cabbage, lettuce of several varieties, cucumber and edible flowers. In the kitchen garden: microgreens; fennel; mustard leaf; and herbs including flat and curly parsley; purple basil (heritage); thyme; oregano; as well Thai herbs.
It took me back to my grandmother’s garden from my childhood – food grown naturally and with love to be shared with family and friends. This garden, while on a much grander scale, seems to have a similar ethos to my grandmothers!
Additional to the onsite produce, the farm has its own herd of cattle, work exclusively with a local fishing boat for their catch and has a shellfish farm in neighbouring Sam Roi Yot. Nothing comes more than a few kilometres away, and all suppliers are working to the same sustainable philosophy. No extravagant ‘Food Miles’ here!
As James explained, this is one of the critical elements of the project – knowing exactly where everything they serve or sell comes from and that it’s all sustainably produced, organic and local.
And on the eating front, any meal experience at The Boutique Farmer is entirely dependent on what’s available from the farm and their local co-operative suppliers – on that day! And that requires some culinary creativity!
Thankfully Chef James is no slouch in the kitchen. Initially developing his cooking skills at two Michelin Star restaurants in Europe, before spending 4 years as Mick Jagger’s (The Rolling Stones) personal Chef on the West Indies island of Mustique. And most recently, 10 years in Thailand including several years teaching at the elite Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Bangkok and as General Manager of the original award-winning boutique luxury resort on Pak Nam Pran.
Chef James marries his creativity and strong Food skills with all that is available on that day to create stimulating and gastronomically exciting menus.
For our Saturday evening dinner, we munched through appetisers of Wild Pork Brawn topped with baby beets and berries; Spicy Seabass Ceviche with sweet pea guacamole, pomelo and sea grapes; and Duck liver Pate partnered with a fig compote and generous slices of Farm bread.
For mains, Duck Bolognaise and Harissa Chicken were the two dishes that caught our attention. To go with these, we chose the Simple Tomato Salad – tomatoes that were still on the vine an hour prior and served on a homemade creamy curd. Tomatoes with real flavour and the freshest you can ask for!
Could we have desserts? Did we have room? After a few moments of deliberation, the decision was made – Yes! “Dessert please!” The choices – Salted lime sorbet served on a tasty crumb; a warm Chocolate Fondant; or Fig Crumble with rosemary custard – delightful!
Breakfast the following morning was equally a culinary tour that tantalised and educated our palate, accompanied by quality coffee to wash it all down.
Our weekend at The Boutique Farmers cost around 1,200 THB per person (about AUD50) – that’s a 3-course dinner and drinks, comfortable overnight accommodation and filling breakfast – all food organic, and gastronomic, without any of the ‘foo foo’ that some Chefs get carried away with. A great experience to learn about Boutique Farmers the concept and to see it working up close. Truly a Foodie’s delight!