You’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for somewhere to eat along the Ham Tien-Mui Ne strip. Do you fancy a Vietnamese meal? Take your pick from dozens of restaurants. Delicious local seafood? Easy. Steaks, hamburgers and kebabs? Check. Grilled lizard, snake or crocodile? Sure enough. Japanese, Italian, Russian or Thai? No problem either, including one of the very best German restaurants in all of Vietnam.
Oddly enough, a ‘genuine’ French dining experience was missing – until now. The Champa Restaurant at the Coco Beach Resort has come to the rescue with a completely new menu that focuses on fine French dining, and the restaurant itself has the ambience to match the experience.
Let’s go back a few years.
When Coco Beach Resort opened in 1995 as the first resort along the strip, its Champa Restaurant was open all day – more as a coffee-shop-type restaurant than for gourmet or fine dining. Then Coco Beach opened its Paradise Beach Club on the beach and began to use Champa as a more upscale dining venue, but it still had the old decoration.
At the time, chef Thierry Guineau was already training the kitchen staff in the principles of fine dining, and when he left in 2006 after six years at the helm, Champa continued to offer a ‘bourgeois’, Mediterranean-style cuisine.
In 2008 the Champa Restaurant was renovated from top to bottom. The narrow terrace doors made way for brick arches following Cham traditional construction, and over the years, carefully selected decorative items were added that reflect Cham culture. The result is one of the most pleasant dining areas along the strip – a mix of colonial-Vietnamese and Cham styles in a classy, airy environment where you immediately feel comfortable.
Thierry Guineau has now returned to Coco Beach, and the restaurant’s ambience offers the perfect setting for his focus on French dining, which matches fine dishes with relaxing conversation among friends – helped along by an excellent wine list.
Thierry maintains that he comes from an era when dining meant sitting down and taking time to enjoy meals properly – a factor that seems to be missing these days. “That is why I want to bring back the old French dining experience, where everyone gathers to enjoy one well-crafted dish after another,” he says. “In fact, the whole French dining experience is about togetherness in not just the eating but also the preparation and cooking of the dishes.”
If you feel like continuing the experience with your friends after that – and there’s every chance you will – head over to Dany’s Pub next door, a British-style pub that’s also part of the resort. Here you can play darts, shoot pool or watch sporting events on the huge plasma screen.
True French dining followed by a ‘proper’ British pub – where else can you combine the most attractive social experiences of those two countries?
58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, km 12.6, Ham Tien, Vietnam +84 252 384 7111, http://www.cocobeach.net
Thierry has over 40 years’ experience in kitchen and F&B management. With his passion for cooking and his numerous experiences abroad, which allow him to master cuisines from all around the world (French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian), Thierry knows what it takes to win over local and international diners with authentic flavours.
Having worked at Coco Beach Resort from 2000 to 2006, he decided to gain more experience by joining the prestigious Starwood group, before coming back to lead the Coco Beach food and beverage team as Executive Chef. He not only brings back a true French touch to the Champa Restaurant but also manages the Paradise Beach Club by creating new dishes, supervising the staff and ensuring that proper hygiene is respected.