Old-school, but definitely not old-fashioned
The mammoth 474-room property known as the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel is a landmark in Pattaya. The hotel, which was established four decades ago, underwent extensive renovations in 2011 but still retains a solid link to the past, especially at the Royal Grill Room & Wine Cellar, one of the dozen dining outlets visitors can choose from here. The beautiful dark wood interior— much of it intricately hand-carved by Thai craftsmen—is at once welcoming but also lets you know this is an elegant eatery, perfect for special occasions and memorable nights out.
The interior has seating for 90 indoors, and 30 outdoors on the oceanfront terrace, and also features an underground wine cellar where diners can sample wines and canapés before dinner. However I make straight for my window table, and at the Maitre D’s suggestion sample a glass of Italian Chardonnay—the 2014 Colline Pescaresi (B230). The restaurant’s wine list has received multiple awards from Wine Spectator magazine, and this buttery white is a perfect accompaniment to my first appetizer, the Pacific scallop carpaccio (B390). It’s a beautiful work of culinary art, with thinly sliced, lime-cured Hokkaido scallop sitting atop a frise salad, offset by a ruby red beetroot purée with fava beans.
Next on the menu is the decadent but delicious Escalope of duck foie gras (B550), served with tomato, fig, and drizzled with a maple syrup, balsamic glaze. This course is matched with another Italian white, a 2014 Trabochetto Pecorino Colline Pescaresi (B230), and it’s a suitably divine combo. However the meaty main course is on the way so I switch to red, choosing for myself this time a 2011 Ora Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore (B320), as I can never resist a fine Sangiovese.
When the Grilled Australian beef tenderloin with river prawn (B980) arrives I switch wines—on the advice of the Maitre D—to a glass of Moda Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (B240), a blended red with deep colour and lasting flavour. It pairs well with the expertly cooked-to-order beef, the plump grilled river prawn, and the elaborately constructed five colour coleslaw salad.
By this time Chef Walter Thenisch—a native of Switzerland but a resident in Thailand for over 30 years—has joined me at the table and over a couple more glasses of wine we discuss the changing face of the restaurant scene in Thailand. He agrees that it’s in a chef’s best interests to present dishes with Instagram-worthy artistry, but the quality and taste has to be consistent day in and day out, or a restaurant will not survive. And judging by his final culinary offering, the colourful Passion fruit orange mousse with salted caramel ice cream (B210), I’d say this venerable veteran has mastered both palate and presentation.
Royal Grill Room & Wine Cellar
Royal Cliff Beach Hotel
353 Phra Tamnuk Rd, Pattaya
Tel: 03 825 0421
Open: Wed-Mon, 6:30pm-10:30pm