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The magic of PRU: Phuket’s only Michelin-starred restaurant

The only way to truly experience what Thailand has to offer is at luxury resort Trisara.

Sprawling across the day bed in your private cabana, sipping a thirst-quenching coconut courtesy of your private butler as you look out over the tranquil waves lapping the palm tree-lined, hermit crab-scattered shores at Trisara, doesn’t set the most obvious scene for a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Enter PRU – a graciously designed, fine-dining restaurant effortlessly bringing the farm-to-table philosophy to Thailand while simultaneously Planting, Raising and Understanding simple ingredients with the goal of cordon bleu.

Awarded its first Michelin star in late 2018, the venue is a magnificent gem at Trisara – Phuket’s only private ocean-view, pool and villa resort – and it was all a beautiful accident.

“It was total luck. Jimmy Ophorst just walked into our lives when we were looking for a chef for our other restaurant,” Trisara Managing Director Anthony Lark explains over sunset cocktails.

“We saw he was an exceptional cook and thought it would be nice to have another dining experience. So, we converted the back of the bar, built a new kitchen, created the menu and turned our nursery into a farm, Pru Jampa.

“He’s like a great painter before he does his first painting for the Pope; we just didn’t know his talent. He’s a creative artist and a farmer who executes those passions as art on a plate.”

The elegant restaurant is incredibly exclusive, seating just 16 people each evening – and we are among them. Smiling faces of cordial staff greet us by name (without any introduction) the moment we step inside the intimate, yet spacious, candlelit room.

A carrot slow-cooked for eight-hours in the soil in which it grew is PRU’s most iconic dish.

With very little information available, the six-course signature menu with wine pairing is intriguing. Luckily, we’re wearing our finest loose-fitting outfits because it quickly turns into 12-courses – compliments of the chef.

Chef Ophorst’s famous creation, a carrot slow-cooked for eight-hours in the soil in which it grew; aged Pru Jampa farm duck with shiitake; river prawn served in a delicate portion of XO sauce beside a bed of lotus stems harvested from the same river as the crustacean; black crab from the mangroves in Phang-Nga married unexpectedly with rich Phuket coffee.

Every plate gracing the table is delicate, bursting with earthy yet sensational – and at times, unexpected – flavours. Allowing every shining ingredient to tell a unique story, Chef Ophorst creates European-inspired meals that are as simple as they are visionary.

While our palates experience a delightfully quirky party of flavour bombs, a seasonally timely sound-and-light show illuminates the night sky, and in true Thai style, fireworks pop as lightning strikes flash.

Admiring (and enjoying) the edible art is made all the more memorable after our intimate Pru Jampa tour the day before.

Initially established to propagate the resort’s 3,000 native plants to sustain the jungle, PRU’s organic farm now sprawls over 96 hectares. Countless varieties of eggplants (from thimble size to enormous) and carrots, plus dozens of free-range chickens and ducks are nurtured at the farm before being used in the restaurant’s dishes.

And the sustainability principles that start at the farm don’t stop when they reach the table. They ring through everything at Trisara, including in the kitchens where scraps are turned into compost and used to grow more produce, completing the circle. The farm-to-table concept is rare in Thailand, making PRU a pioneer here.

While Trisara means ‘third garden in heaven’ in Sanskrit, the resort’s exceptional culinary offering puts it on the gourmet food map right here on Earth.

A short stroll from PRU, past water lily filled pools and glistening waterfalls, leads us to The Deck. We are immediately immersed in a world of traditional Asian meals where we learn the art of Thai cuisine at a private cooking class.

Armed with aprons and a sharp knife, Chef Khun Rat teach us how to cook an authentic three-course Thai meal; Tom Yum Soup, fish cakes and Pad Thai. Being guided by a man with knife skills so nimble it’s astonishing he still has all 10 fingers is slightly intimidating for a budding cook. But Chef Rat patiently leads us through a cooking storm, sharing little tricks along the way.

Our three-day gastronomic adventure is far from over. After heading back to our individual ocean-view pool villas for a quick swim, we are ready for more food – just. This time, like Mama makes.

Sitting in large, white rattan chairs around an outdoor table with the gentle sea breeze as nature’s air conditioner and soothing sound of salt water meeting the sand in the not-too-far distance, Seafood is the perfect spot to dine on southern Thai heirloom dishes.

Oysters on hot coals, Tom Som Ragum Pla (sour broth tropical soup with amberjack fish), Mong Gone Phad Prik Gleau (sautéed Phuket lobster with fresh tumeric, salt, chilli, garlic and coriander), Pla Tod Samoon Prai (local sea bass deep fried with aromatic herbs), Gam Poo Phad Pong Kari (seafood curry) and I-Tim Kati Zoong Krueng (traditional Ampawa young coconut ice cream topped with pumpkin, roasted peanuts and palm seed) were some of the dishes we enjoyed – making us feel as though we were sitting around a local family’s dinner table.

We go to bed feeling like we couldn’t possibly eat anymore, but awake revived from a good night’s sleep. We’re chauffeured to the heart of Phuket for another, culturally immersive – you guessed it – culinary tour.

Buried in the chaos of Old Phuket Town, south of the island, are three iconic restaurants – Roti Taew Nam (a breakfast cafe), Hokkien Noodles (lunch restaurant) and i46 Old Town (sweets and museum) – all still owned by their respective founding families.

The appetising adventure is part of the Food Hosted Experience run by the Trisara resort. We are driven between the historic venues tucked away in little nooks of the busy hub, which would have been easily missed if it hadn’t been for our experienced guides, giving us a glorious, behind-the-scenes taste of Thailand.

But Trisara is so much more than a never-ending, eat-until-your-pants-don’t-fit gastronomic affair.

The ultimate private tropical oasis spans two kilometres of pristine Andaman Sea coastline across 16 hectares, with 39 breathtaking pool villas and 30 privately owned residential villas (a very lucky few actually live here). And for good reason, 90% of guests don’t find the need to step foot outside the resort.

When you experience the perfectly private run from your custom-made, extra-large king-sized bed (featuring 300-thread-count bed linen and an extensive pillow menu) to your sparkling infinity pool; the earthy outdoor shower, an electric buggy driver at your disposal and next-level attention to detail; USB ports beside the bed, clean towels by the pool, natural mosquito repellent, and beach bag and thongs in the cupboard… trust us, you’ll never want to leave.

And don’t worry about prying eyes when you’re taking your daily nude dip. Each villa is deliciously secluded, surrounded by canopies of historic jungle so pristine it’s common to cross paths with a giant monitor lizard or crab on your walk to breakfast.

Indulge in an aromatic massage at Jara Spa – a wellness centre enveloped by a century-old Ficus tree. You can’t go past the 90-minute, soothing, detoxifying Thai Thermal aromatherapy massage.

Or work up a sweat with a Muay Thai lesson led by a former professional boxer.

It’s easy to see why the likes of Roger Federer, Hillary Clinton and Kylie Minogue seek relaxation and respite at Trisara – the home of Phuket’s first and only Michelin-starred restaurant.

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