There is something about the lawn at The Hilltop Ao Nang. Maybe it’s the unexpectedness of seeing a well-tended stretch of green at the end of a steep climb halfway up the cliff side; or perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of the lush, manicured grass against the rugged backdrop of the Krabi coast.
Either way, your first impressions are unlikely to be forgotten – especially when the lawn provides such fantastic opportunities for souvenir photos and selfies: sit alongside a cute model sheep; lounge on the brightly coloured bean bags; drape yourself over the giant letters spelling out the restaurant’s name; or gaze out over the island dotted horizon from the appropriately named “love seats” at the edge of the cliff.
And all that before you even step inside!
The Hilltop is without doubt Ao Nang’s most stylish restaurant, the go-to place for locals if visitors are in town and need to be impressed. It’s also a favourite of tourists, who love the views, especially at sunset – the restaurant’s busiest time – and any couple seeking a romantic spot for dinner.
There are two dining areas; the cliffside terrace next to the lawn, and the “sky bar”, another level higher up. Ivan, The Hilltop’s personable Singaporean manager, seated us at ground level at a table overlooking the ocean. With such an impressive backdrop, it seemed like bad manners not to have a cocktail in hand, so we ordered the house special Hilltop Blues – a refreshing, semi-frozen lychee concoction – and a virgin Mojito, which was equally well balanced in flavour.
As the tables around us quickly filled up – reservations for golden hour here are a must – we checked out the menu. It is relatively small (for an upmarket Thai restaurant, where menus tend to run into chapters), but highlights a few signature dishes, which on reflection is probably the right move when most of your customers are coming for a special occasion and don’t want to be overwhelmed with choice.
Despite the crowded dining room, the food arrived relatively quickly and was beautifully presented. We had a juicy grilled salt and pepper lobster; seafood tom yam soup; a whole sea bass steamed with garlic, lime and chilli; duck The Hilltop style; crab meat curry; and pineapple fried rice: in short, a feast. I can report several jealous glances from our neighbours.
Standout items were the southern Thai style crab curry with the locally grown herb “bai chaploo” served with fresh vermicelli rice noodles; and the duck – the meat was tender, flavourful and perfectly prepared – though the accompanying tangy sauce was not to everyone’s taste.
Overall, it was felt the food was above average for a tourist restaurant, and clearly made with the high quality ingredients – there was no skimping or taking shortcuts as is so often the case on the beachfront. It is also worth mentioning the wine list, which offers a good and – for Thailand – reasonably priced selection of New World wines.
The sky was turning a deep shade of blue, and the house band was getting in to the groove as we wandered out to the lawn again. The sunset punters had left and the gorgeous green expanse was empty save for a few children running around (The Hilltop is also a great place to bring kids if you want to eat dinner in peace). The lights of Ao Nang twinkled below and the fresh night breeze was welcome after the heat of the day.
It is easy to see why The Hilltop is popular – it is not just somewhere to eat, it is a destination in itself. The hip design; the views; the ambience: everything contributes to the feeling of being somewhere special. It’s a no-brainer for a romantic dinner in Krabi; but also a great place to relax with friends. Go for sunset and stay on… it only gets better after dark.
- Reservations at The Hilltop are essential for sunset time (5pm – 7pm); even otherwise reservations are recommended as then a free hotel transfer service is included (within the Ao Nang area). It would be ambitious to try and walk there. Call +66(0)75 637 195, or contact them via their website: http://www.thehilltopaonang.com/contact/
- Opening hours: daily 11am – midnight.
- Full disclosure: we were invited by The Hilltop to visit their restaurant; however, no guidance was given as to the contents of this review; and all opinions are entirely our own.