With the destruction of many of the beachfront bars and restaurants in Phuket, The Cove brings a welcome relief. By Jonny Edbrooke. Photos provided by The Cove.

With the destruction of many of the beachfront bars and restaurants in Phuket, The Cove brings a welcome reliefThe main beaches of Phuket have seen some dramatic changes recently, with beachfront bars and restaurants being torn down, making a family day at the beach consist of a march across busy roads for that beer or a bite to eat.

The Cove Phuket, located on what is locally called Secret Cove but is in fact Ao Yon Beach, is a beach-front haven of tranquility and calm, and feels like it’s on a private beach. It’s only about 30 minutes from Phuket Town, although the ‘secret’ bit was evident as it took my “I’ve lived here eight years and I know how to find it” friend over an hour and a half to drive there. The restaurant-cum-mini-resort is perfect for a family beach day with lunch or dinner.

While The Cove is primarily a restaurant/bar, it also has seven cosy and simply furnished villa rooms on the beachfront and hillside overlooking the cove. This is the first venture outside Vietnam for The Deck Group which brought you Mekong Merchant and The Deck in Thao Dien, Saigon.

The central feature of The Cove is a bar surrounded by wooden tables with sunshades overlooking the beach.

The emphasis of the menu is predictability seafood-based and boasts a great mix especially designed for a lunch or dinner on the beach.

“We are trying to keep the menu light and fresh. You don’t want something heavy on the beach”, says executive chef Adrian Scott.

The menu starts with a great selection of starters that in fact could act as shared tapas. The deliciousness includes salt and pepper squid with aïoli fresh lime, a classic Parma Ham with melon, hummus and marinated olives, all served with Focaccia bread, priced from US$3.85 to $8.00.

Being a big fan of tuna, I opted for the BBQ peppered Japanese sashimi grade tuna steak ($18.75) which used imported saku tuna that was an attractive rosy pink with a light sear. The other tempting options were seared tuna salad with mixed leaves, green beans and quail eggs ($9.65), and tuna carpaccio with mojito dressing ($8.00), both served with this sushi grade fish.

My friend opted for the stir-fried black pepper crab with French fries and salad ($12.70), which was delectably fresh and provided the Asian choice in the menu. “The seafood is bought fresh from the local market. The boats come in at 4am and the quality is remarkable”, Scott explains.

With two kids in tow it was a relief that there was pizza on the menu cooked up in a wood fired oven behind the bar. The Parma Ham, rocket and parmesan ($9.65) pizza was definitely a winner with the kids.

For the meat lovers there was a selection, with the homemade beef burger ciabatta looking interesting as it passed on the way to a couple sitting at the bar. There was also BBQ rib eye and pork ribs.

I had never really considered Phuket as a beach holiday destination for the kids, with its reputation of crowded, party magnets such as Patong and Surin Beach, but The Cove is my idea of a great base for a family who want a relaxing, quiet getaway. Now all we need is a direct flight from Saigon. While the Jetstar ticket was cheap, at about $85, I went via Singapore and I probably spent more than that at the airport watering-hole (Harry’s Bar) in transit.