Green man pub & restaurant, an authentic re-creation of classic Tudor style
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 Nightlife: Green Man Pub & Restaurant

 Carte Blanche - Intimate, Elegant & Laid back

"There are four great restaurants in Phuket and Carte Blanche is one of them." says proprietor, Howard Digby-Johns. The latest addition to the island's gastronomic life is situated on the first floor of the Green Man Country Pub.

The pub is an authentic re-creation of classic Tudor style. Says Howard, with his enormous sense of humour, "The Green Man Country Pub is incongruous, confident, almost arrogant, standing three floors tall and daring you to say it's not the real thing. But it is."

Howard Digby-Johns is a semi-retired Price-Waterhouse-Coopers partner and now, an apprentice publican. He bubbles with enthusiasm; his overwhelming passion for the Green Man Country Pub and obsession with the minutiae is evident within minutes of meeting him.

Chef Sandeep Pande, hailed from The Oberoi's in New Delhi has been described by his peers as "one of the most exciting chefs in Asia.' "Sandeep Pande is to Mediterranean food what Ravi Shankar was to the Beatles," says Howard.

Carte Blanche is a small (5 tables only) intimate, elegant and laid back restaurant. The Mediterranean-influenced menu contains enough variety to make you linger over a cocktail while you make up your mind. Fortunately, the staff is used to malingering menu readers like myself and did not rush us at all.

I was particularly delighted to see the vegetarian and vegan options; the only place on the island to cater to this group as sophisticated gastronomes. But then again, "At this restaurant, you have Carte Blanche," says Chef Sandeep, "if you don't want what's on the menu, you decide. I'm just the facilitator". As long as Sandeep has the ingredients, he will prepare a feast that is bound to delight the most discerning patron.

We were served Mojito's, (voted "cocktail of the year' by Bon Apetit) in the cocktail lounge and a large platter of tapas - garlic sizzled prawns, fried squid rings, marinated pepper, olives and roasted almonds; accompanied by marvellous dips such as baba-ganoush and tzatzik.
Howard was discussing haute cuisine with another guest who joined in with our conversation. "Haute cuisine," said Howard, with much authority, "is all about the cunning of the chef in disguising the nature of the food, so it comes with much artifice, with commis chefs forcing sauces through muslin. Our food, on the other hand, is inherited knowledge from generations of peasant food producers honing the ideal cuisine from their region." It's all very well sitting there, listening to the owner enthusing about his favourite subject whilst enjoying a big blow-out at his expense, but I sat wondering if Carte Blanche was what Howard and Sandeep meant it to be?

Time now to move to the French country-style dining room to find out. For our evening at Carte Blanche, we gave Chef Sandeep Carte Blanche - with one request, seafood only.

We were served roasted pepper artichoke and tomato salad followed by Gambas piri-piri - tiger prawns prepared from a recipe Howard found in Mozambique. I pointed out Mozambique was hardly Mediterranean, but Howard countered, "Portuguese counts." Prepared with olive oil, garlic, lemon, chillies, and coriander, it was served with wilted spring onion and salsa. A superb starter that made us sit up and take notice - Sandeep now had us completely captivated - we waited with anticipation for the next course.

He served us pasta with olive oil, white winter truffles and Pecorino-Romano cheese. This is as simple a recipe as can be imagined, relying entirely on the quality of homemade pasta and highest quality ingredients. "I let the ingredients speak for themselves," says Sandeep. Though deceptively simple, it was stunning.

Howard was enjoying his rack of lamb, or "lack of ram' as he spoonerised, a perfect English-Thai rendition. He said the lamb was cooked to perfection; the sauce was perfectly complimentary, scented with orange oil - imported at no small expense. We had sea bass Carte Blanche served with warm oysters in white wine, shallot and cream sauce (Howard's own recipe). Simply marvellous; a toast to Chef Sandeep was in order.

Then it was on to desserts, which are all named after old films. I had African Queen (fruits preserved in cognac with ice-cream) and my chocoholic companion had The Duchess of Malfi (the dessert, I mean) -all to the strains of Louis Armstrong's "What a wonderful world'.

It is indeed a wonderful world at Carte Blanche; recommended only to those wishing to have one of the best dining experience on the island. Advanced reservations required.

The Green Man Pub and Restaurant opened in Phuket last year with the traditional pagan festival, Birth of the Green Man. The annual mega-party was once again being celebrated beginning May 1st. The weeklong festivities included Maypole dancing, carnivals and fireworks.

Tel: (+66 76) 280 757; 281 445 - 52
Fax: (+66 76) 280 453


- June Issue, 2002

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