PHUKET: We've all heard about those elegant and exclusive, more than five star little boutique resort properties hidden away around Phuket but few of us ever get the chance to visit one.
It was my good fortune to be invited by Publisher Michael Earle to attend the 40th THINK Design art dinner at Iniala Beach House, tucked away on a quiet road near Natai Beach in Phang Nga.
Iniala is the former home of Mark Weingard, an English derivatives trader, who has a great eye for art and design. He’s invited some of the rock stars of international interior design to create stylish, verging on the incredible, interiors in the three villas and penthouse that comprise Iniala.
Seemingly no expense has been spared to make this boutique property a hideaway for a select clique of guests who appreciate the latest in design and luxury.
Weingard has recruited Graham Lamb of Glam interior architecture as his design director and Steven Pettifour, who co-curated the Thai pavilion at the 2011 Venice Bienniale, as Iniala’s art director.
Weingard also invited three Michelin star chef Eneko Atxa, at 36, the youngest chef to receive such recognition, to open Aziamendi, the resort’s restaurant with his Basque inspired cuisine.
Chef Eneko created his own signature restaurant, Azurmendi, near Bilbao, Spain, where he presents a menu using fresh, locally– sourced products elevated by his research into how to extract ultimate flavors. His goal is to provoke intense emotions in guests who experience his cuisine.
Aziamendi is a three dimensional art box featuring brass sculptures by Entang Wiharso sourced in Indonesia and a ceiling created by the Spanish design team, A-cero, that is an homage to the Andaman Sea.
When Michael Earle produces an art dinner as part of the mission of his THINK Design magazine, he always brings pieces of art to the attention of a noted chef who then creates a dinner inspired by the visual language of the art.
Not so in the case of Chef Eneko who decided instead to create a six course menu dedicated to the celebration of six of the classical arts. Set to the soothing music of Daniel Figueras who played classical Spanish guitar, the first course was a foie gras construction dedicated to the art of sculpture. His balancing of circular foie gras tastes set on glass was made in honor of Chef Eneko’s fondness for the Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, Tall Tree and The Eye, at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
The second course, devoted to music, was intriguing, with dry ice creating an atmospheric cloud over tastes of the sea. The third offering was a vivid green, locally sourced, pak mieng with slow cooked egg, an ode to literature.
Each course was thoughtfully paired by a different wine chosen by Head Sommelier Fabien Etienne, who mixed the tastes from Italy, Germany, New Zealand and a Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Hua Hin Hills here in Thailand.
Chef Eneko’s fourth course was a dramatic tribute to the black paintings of Francisco Goya’s later life with a black rice and clam paste accented with calligraphic black strokes.
Dance was celebrated in the fifth offering with the falling of chestnut leaves over the frolic of pigeons in flight. It was my first taste of the bird that haunts so many public places and I will look to them with renewed interest in the future.
The final offering was an architectural salute to the Sydney Opera house with elegant white chocolate triangles balanced over a sea of Blue Curacao.
With a 5,500 baht price tag this THINK Design art dinner was a sold out success. All guests were invited on an art tour of the three villas and the one penthouse. There were delightful surprises to be found in each pavilion.
At the entrance, Steven Pettifor explained he found a Thai glass artist, Maitree Siriborn, working from a studio in rural Northeast Thailand. Using glass mosaics most often encountered in Buddhist temples, he was commissioned to make installations at the entrance to the resort property.
The fitness studio has Andy Warhol original prints of Muhammed Ali staring down from the walls and the pool table is set in tens of thousands Swarovski crystals. There’s a metallic wale diving into the rooftop pool of one villa and thousands of celadon ceramics set in the walls of another.
Iniala is an exciting visual adventure and Chef Eneko’s restaurant, Aziamendi, is where the select guests at Iniala Beach House can enjoy an award winning menu.