The serene seaside setting of The Strand restaurant and neighbouring Sailing Club provides the perfect place to sample cutting-edge cuisine. Words by Marissa Carruthers. Photography by Charles Fox.

Sitting in the dappled shade of a lone tree, whose sturdy roots have stood the test of time despite skirting the last bit of grassland before the start of the sea, we watch the sun melt into the Gulf of Thailand, transforming the sky into a hue of colour.

Perfectly complimenting Kep’s tranquil vibe, Knai Bang Chatt’s The Strand and neighbouring Sailing Club ooze a luxurious laid-back lifestyle, and for our meal at The Strand we’ve bagged the best spot.

Set in the boutique resort’s perfectly manicured gardens, the restaurant serves up a fusion of Western and Asian dishes, centred on Kep’s surplus of fresh fish. “The seafood here is incredible and so fresh,” says South African head chef Janine Fourie, who heads up both kitchens.

The Strand’s set menu ($25 or $75 for the intimate dining experience) caught our eye and it wasn’t long before a plate of spicy crab cakes were delivered to our table. Crunchy to the bite and soft inside, they were served with a salad of green papaya, toasted peanuts and cilantro to calm the kick of the crab cakes.

A prawn soup packed full of flavour was next and came complete with plump poached prawns, root vegetables and a mix of herbs and spices. Already starting to feel full, the best was yet to come in the form of a crusted snapper fillet. The spice of the curry crust delicately seasoned the tender fish below and was perfectly complimented by a bed of soft and subtle-tasting shimeji mushrooms, covered in a soothing coconut lime cream.

Baked, light and fluffy meringue stuffed full of fresh fruit and ice cream was the icing on the cake and the perfect ending to polish off the range of courses.

Next door at The Sailing Club, Fourie is cooking up another storm in the kitchen, with the highlight being enjoying an exquisite private dining experience at the end of the club’s quaint wooden pier ($45).

The culinary journey takes in cilantro and lime crab cakes, seafood broth and the definite highlight – Kep province signature seafood platter. Here coconut crusted Kep crab, prawns and Kampot pepper, squid grilled with lemongrass and snapper fish with coconut curry are accompanied by fragrant jasmine rice cooked with crispy fried garlic to give it a subtle sweet flavour.

A recent addition to the Sailing Club is the Sunday afternoon tapas ($12), which includes spicy prawn toast, marinated vegetables, salt and Kampot pepper squid and pickled seafood with lashings of Kampot pepper and fresh herbs.

I can definitely think of worse ways to end the week than tucking into tasty tapas while watching the sun sink into the sea.

Phum Thmey, Sangkat Prey Thom, Kep
Tel: 078 333 686
Open daily from 7am to 10pm