While in Langkawi we decided on the spur of the moment to head to the well know resort of Bon Ton for lunch. I say resort, for want of a better description, as resort conjures up all kinds of images and connotations, Bon Ton is less a resort and more a collection of old Malay huts, beautifully, but rustically, restored and set in gardens of palm trees around a lagoon.
We stayed there a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience, however on this Langkawi trip didn’t have any plans to go back, as we had booked nature tour of the mangroves. Unfortunately this tour was cancelled at the last moment due to some inconsiderate rain, leaving us at a loose end.
Bon Ton pretty well known, and a winner of many awards over the years, one of the pet projects of owner Narelle McMutrie is the Bon Ton animal shelter and foundation, it’s right next door to the resort and some of it’s friendlier residents will come and make themselves known to diners.
The restaurant, Nam, is the main hub of the complex, an open pavilion in the center of the old coconut plantation. It’s the heart and soul of the place.
Lunch is, as you would expect, a pretty laid back affair, with a small collection of drop-ins like us joining a few of the hotel guests who have wandered over from their huts and join us in ordering from the lunch menu.
The menu is, on the whole, we feel a little lackluster, it’s a collection of safe, but dull western standards like sandwiches, burgers and salads, all done well by the look of other diners plates, but not something we’re looking for today.
They do however, still have two old favorites from our last visit on the menu, two Nyonya standards, the laksa and a tasting platter.
Annie goes for the laksa with a glass of cool white wine, Langkawi is a designated duty free area and that makes it a lot easier on the wallet to order a wine, and I go for the Nyonya tasting plate.
While we wait for the food the very friendly and switched on floor manager pays us a visit, at first he seems incredulous that we’ve been before and he doesn’t remember our faces, we explain it was several years ago, he’s still bewildered and to make it up brings us printed recipes of what we’ve ordered and shows us various cooking techniques and how we can recreate our lunch at home later.
When our meals arrive, we know we’ve done the right thing and gone for the old standards, the tasting plate is a marvel of technique, a collection of wonderful local favorites all presented on a fresh banana leaf, each portion cooked individually and with a mix of unique Malay flavors. Fried rice with chicken sate, chilli prawns, crackers, beef rendang, chilli beans, pickled vegetables and omelette.
The laksa no less impressive, a coconut based house specialty soup, piled high with prawns and chicken pieces and sprinkled with fresh spring onion and sweet red peppers, it’s spicy and sweet and the lime adds a nice lift of citrus.
Feeling sated after such a lovely lunch we spend a little time wandering around the grounds, enjoying the peace and quiet of the surrounds, poking our heads into the little shop and also the new games room, built over the lagoon in typical Bon Ton style, out of an old Malay village house.
We head back to the restaurant where a beautiful dessert awaits, we’ve stuck with the local feel and ordered up the local tasting plate. What we get is a sticky black rice, a palm sugar creme brulee, a coconut ice-cream with a fresh mango, banana and passionfruit salad.
It’s a nice way to end the afternoon, and while we were a little disappointed the tour we’d hoped to go on was cancelled, you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to kill a few hours on a rainy afternoon in Langkawi. The lunch menu is short and a little western centric, a little dull and safe perhaps, but the execution is great, the staff all switched on and professional and the ambiance is relaxing.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to make some new friends from the shelter next door.
All photos copyright Ross Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org