Avani? Where’s that?

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I have never considered myself to be an “old hand” in Pattaya. I meet expats who have been here for 20, 30, 40 years, but before setting out to review the food at the Avani Garden Cafe I stopped to remember that I had seen this hotel through two previous name changes. Perhaps I am ‘becoming’ an old hand!

Pan-fried fish and sweet masala sauce. (Photo by Marisa Corness)
Pan-fried fish and sweet masala sauce. (Photo by Marisa Corness)

Who remembers the Royal Garden? The Marriott? And now the Avani? Or, more correctly The Avani Resort and Spa.

In all its forms, this property has become a landmark in present day Pattaya. Adjacent to the Royal Garden Shopping Center and in the middle of central Pattaya it has always had the three important features needed for success – position, position, position. There is also a warmth that comes with familiarity (no matter what the name is!).

Crispy pork in the buffet.
Crispy pork in the buffet.

Avani Hotels are a branch of the Minor Group which has properties in Bangkok (Riverside and Atrium), plus Victoria Falls, Sepang and the Seychelles and more.

The local Garden Cafe is still in the same location, turn to the right (away from the Plaza) in the lobby of the hotel and follow the walkway until it branches out and into the garden area, or more correctly, the Garden Cafe area.

The restaurant has an outer (non-aircon) section, which is very suitable for our balmy evenings. Incorporated in this area is a live cooking pasta station and another noodle section.

The main restaurant is quite large, with buffet stations all the way down one side. Many of the items on offer show the fact that the Garden Cafe caters for many of the Asian countries that surround Thailand. This includes Vietnamese Pho and Japanese Yaki Soba, for example. While perusing the menu I sipped on a Chilean house white (a Sauvignon Blanc) which was fresh and fruity and I enjoyed it, continuing on with this wine for the meal.

Garden Cafe in the evening.
Garden Cafe in the evening.

Tables and rattan-style chairs are very comfortable and the staff attentive.

As well as being a buffet, there is a full menu for those who wish to dine a la carte.

Since the restaurant also services guests of the hotel, the menu starts with breakfasts, including Eggs Benedict.

“Honest Food” is a catch cry, as the hotel has its own organic nursery incorporating hydroponics as well. Examples of the Honest Food are Sea bass with Masala sauce (B. 350) and Grilled Butterfish with Miso sauce (B. 750).

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Grills are the most expensive items, reflecting the fact that they were all imported from Australia. Along with the grills there were 11 different sauces you can choose from.

Sandwiches and burgers are under the heading of ‘comfort food’ covering burgers, sandwiches, traditional fish and chips (B. 320) and pork ribs also B. 320.

Then there are Thai appetizers, like Larb Gai and Tom Jued. These are followed by Asian main dishes with Indian, Japanese and Thai mainly featuring.

The live cooking stations in the buffet are manned by kitchen staff who know how to cook, something often overlooked!

With the varied items on offer, this place is a good venue to take overseas guests, both Western and Asian. The buffet items are fresh and one of the other tasters at our table managed to polish off roast potatoes, pork steak, fish steak, red curry pork and stir-fried vegetables. I went a la carte attracted by the sea bass fillets accompanied by a grilled capsicum ‘tower’ with red, green and yellow, in a sweet Masala sauce, which was a piquant addition to the sea bass.

The change of ownership seems to have revitalized the staff who appeared very friendly and could not do enough to help. The chef even came out from the kitchen to make sure the Masala sauce was to my liking.

Put the Garden Cafe on your “must take guests to” list!

Avani Resort and Spa, Garden Cafe Restaurant, 218/2-4 Moo 10, Beach Road, Pattaya, secure parking under Royal Garden Plaza, email [email protected], tel 038 412 120, www.avanihotels.com,  buffet 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., B. 850 net per person, children between 4-11 years old receive 50 percent discount from regular price, plus Super Saver Deal every evening from 7:30 pm. onwards B. 650 net per person.