Swedish cooking has to be one of the culinary world’s best-kept secrets. When done well, as in the new restaurant, Absolut, in Ao Nang, fresh produce is served with the simplest and lightest of sauces that allows the food to taste of itself.
If you’re new to the cuisine, the menu here would be a great introduction, covering classic dishes such as Jansson’s Temptation, herring platter, and the splendid Plank Steak, served on an oak board. There are also authentic home-cooked favourites such as meatballs and pytt i panna for those Scandinavian natives bored of eating rice and curry. A few international dishes - vegetarian lasagna and various salads - plus some Thai food complete the menu, which also has a good children’s section.
Presentation is excellent and the smart decor and ambience a cut above the average eating house in Ao Nang, with a perfectionist’s attention to detail - even the cutlery is beautiful. It’s a place where you can linger: three very pleasant hours slipped by on our last visit (helped by the well-mixed in-house cocktails).
Prices are a shade above the norm in Ao Nang, but this is amply justified by the size of the portions and the quality of the food, especially the sauces - the dill and sour cream and the bearnaise are out of this world. There are also nice extras, such as a basket of wonderfully warm, freshly-baked caraway seed bread, just one of the benefits of having a thoroughbred Swedish chef at the helm. Highly recommended.
Ao Nang, opposite McDonald’s, open daily until 10pm
[Update 04/05/06 - currently no Swedish chef]
The Danish, family-run Absalon Steak House offers a different kind of Scandinavian experience. It’s got a homely feel - from the personal service of Dennis and Annette, the owners, to the food, which tastes like Mum made it.
The menu is not restricted only to Danish dishes - although the home-baked rye bread is probably the best in town and should be tried - the kitchen also serves up delightfully inauthentic northern-European style pasta. The carbonara in particular is spectacularly good and great value at lunchtime (99 Baht). Steaks are fairly average but come in a number of options, including T-Bone. A good value restaurant.
Ao Nang Beach Rd, behind Azzurra. [Update 04/05/06 - restaurant now closed]
TALK OF THE TOWN
‘Reliable and cheap’ should be the motto of this Krabi Town institution. One of Cafe Europa’s many regular customers summed up its enduring appeal with the phrase “you always know what you’re getting here.”
This no-nonsense approach to food - and life - has been honed to perfection by the Danish-Thai partnership that runs the cafe. Dollops of practical tourist tips are served up with the meatballs and mash; while if its political banter, or even local gossip, you’re into, this can easily be ordered on the side. The tiny dining room and bar area is crammed with nik-naks and newspapers and magazines from Scandinavia and Thailand: the owners Henrik, Finn and Tip are self-styled authorities on everything in Krabi.
The menu itself is concise - there is no Thai food here - and is based around a few signature dishes: the moist meatballs; savoury gullasch; and the must-try peppersteak with baked potato. This last is the most popular item on the menu, and with reason - it’s delicious and a real bargain, which, with a side dish of salad and bread, comes to less than 200 Baht. There’s also a range of tasty open sandwiches featuring shavings of roast beef; Havarti and Danablue cheese; and liver pate - all imported - no skimping on the standard of the ingredients here. The decent house wine (label a well-guarded secret) is a mere 540 Baht a bottle; and there’s Gammeldansk and other Scandinavian liqueurs to tempt diners.
As the regulars attest, the food is consistently of the same quality - a rarity in Thailand and a tribute to Henrik, Tip and Finn’s staff training. Together with the budget price and amiable service, Cafe Europa could be considered a dependable friend in the jostling and often unpredictable crowd of foreign restaurants in Krabi.
Bottom of Maharat Rd, Krabi Town, open Mon-Sat from 8am - 10pm.
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