The farm Pru Jampa appears as in a dream. Lushly green, dotted with purple flowers, fluffy bottomed mother hens and their babies and a symphony of fruit and vegetables are grown at Phuket's one and only Michelin starred restaurant called Pru.
It's been a big 12 months for Pru. Getting one Michelin star was like "Turning on a light" says General Manager of Trisara resort Anthony Lark. Trisara means "Garden in the third heaven" and first came the farm and then the restaurant Pru which stands for "Plant Raise Understand".
60-70% of Pru restaurant's fruit and vegetables come from the 100 hectare farm. Restaurant sommelier Air shows us some of the items grown here that include morning glory, finger limes, Thai cherries (smaller and less sweet than regular cherries) and mulberries.
Chickens and ducks roam free, their downy feathers line the paths where they have waddled. 100 years ago the site was a pewter mine but it was made into a pond 90-100 years ago. While not certified organic, the farm is uses organic practices.
There are plans to do farm tours and a cooking school and to have wagyu cattle on the farm.
A booking at Pru isn't easy to get. With only 18 seats it's a small restaurant. Dutch Chef Jimmy Ophorst is just 29 years old. We are eating from the 6 course tasting menu (there is a choice of 6 or 8 courses and a vegetarian menu). The menu shows a map detailing where each ingredient comes from in Phuket and Thailand. Service is friendly but varies a little and we have a little trouble with communicating.
Bread and butter
The first thing to come out is a crusty boule of home made rye bread. It is served with a Krabi butter topped with molten salt and then a bread smoked with dried lemongrass that takes on an almost truffly aroma. There is also a little pot of oil with Thai basil oil and fennel.
The item that comes with it is served in a lidded pot. It's a organic tomato cooked until crispy and served with a granita marinated cherry tomatoes, thick yogurt and a coriander compote.
This is accompanied by a small mouthful of crispy potato, young bean salad with passion fruit cream, dried salted mackerel powder and bok choy flower.
The first item from the menu proper is a crab salad with sautéed green apple, pickled young coconut heart and a coffee bean and crab sauce poured at the table. The coffee is mild but definitely present and it all works well together.
The next dish is my favourite. It is burnt pencil leeks wrapped in house cured Kurobuta ham with Pang Nga forest mushroom duxelles with burnt leek powder and leek gel. To finish it off there is a Thai Matsutake mushroom brown butter sauce. Everything goes well together and balances perfectly.
The next course is one straight from the farm and I remember seeing the ducks earlier that day. It's a pickled duck egg yolk that was cured in saltwater for 2 weeks. It is served with mashed eggplant, cream, Thai herbs as well as a pot of dashi made with Phuket abalone. The texture is lovely and creamy and the dashi is quite mild.
The next course is the signature dish and they explain that they want to elevate humble ingredients. This is a carrot from their farm wrapped in a banana leaf and then slow cooked for 6 hours that gives the carrot a smoked tender texture. It is then served with a carrot hollandaise sauce made with fermented carrot juice instead of vinegar and cured egg yolk. I have to admit that given it was their signature I was expecting a lot. It's nice but I preferred other dishes.
The last course is a fillet of aged Phetchaburi free range duck raised near the mountain ranges. The first day it is cured in saltwater, the second day it is kept in honey water and then it is dry aged for 5 days. It is then charcoal grilled at a slow temperature for 2-3 hours and then grilled on high to crisp the skin. It is served with purple cabbage, mushroom mousse, sautéed mushroom duck consommé, mushroom powder as well as a duck sauce made with duck bone and meat. Duck breast is often a little chewy and I would have loved a more lacquered skin but the flavours in this are very good and distinctly umami with all of the mushroom.
Thai Cheese Selection
There is an item that doesn't appear on the menu but is offered to all guests. It's Thai cheese They wheel out the trolley of 9 cheese from all over Thailand.
They're a mixture of goats and cow's milk cheeses and while it's interesting to try them, it's still very much a developing industry. Many have a distinctly tangy texture while others remind me of vegan cheeses. They are served with apple cinnamon chutney, grape chutney and gingerbread.
Next is a pre-dessert. It's base is celery although it really doesn't taste like it at all. They tell us that it is celery in 3 different textures: granita, compote and biscuit with a green apple mousse ball, allspice ice cream and buckwheat crumble.
The final formal course of the night is dessert. It is beetroot with 2 textures of meringue as well as semifredddo with mulberry gel, marinated mulberries and a quennelle of sourdough bread ice cream and almond sourdough crumble. It's another well balanced course and I particularly like the allspice ice cream and crumble.
But of course no meal is complete without petit fours. They bring out a wooden box and slide open the drawers that contain custard madeleines made using Thai almonds, local jackfruit mousse and caramelised banana on coffee cake. There are also shards of 85% Thai chocolate that are fruity and bittersweet.
So tell me Dear Reader, does it make a difference to you if a restaurant grows their own produce? Have you ever tried Thai cheese?
NQN was a guest of Pru Restaurant but all opinions remain her own
60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110 Thailand
Tel: +66 (0)76 310 100