Samui Wining & Dining
Under the Spotlight

Discovering the sublime harmonies of The Melati Duo at the exclusive Melati Beach Resort & Spa.

 

19Not so long ago, the trend with ritzy new hotels was to build them in the middle of … somewhere. The Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan. The Ritz-Carlton in Paris. The whole idea was about easy access, and an excellent thought it was, too. But these are hotels – places where busy people go to do busy things. Which is completely unlike Samui where, largely speaking, the exact opposite is true. Hence the corresponding trend in up-market ‘resorts’; i.e. building them in resplendent and secluded isolation!

And that is precisely what you’ll discover at Melati Beach Resort & Spa which is tucked away in the island’s north-eastern extremity at Thongson Bay. This resort is Exclusive with a capital ‘E’. It’s got two world-class restaurants, a sumptuous pampering and health spa, and a total of 79 luxurious villas and suites that are discreetly and privately woven into the rampantly-tropical landscaping that abounds throughout. And it’s big, almost half of a square kilometre. Which is why, when you come here to avail yourself of the superb gastronomic facilities, you’ll be quickly and silently whisked away through the convoluted pathways in one of the team of waiting golf carts.

You’ll pass the air-conditioned serenity of the resort’s inner restaurant, Kan Sak Thong, which is one of the few places on Samui dedicated to Royal Thai Cuisine – an experience in its own right. And then, after what seems almost like a mini-island tour, you’ll glide to a halt at the edge of the big embryonic swimming pool, alongside of which rests the other fine-dining restaurant, View Pha Ngan, overlooking the seaward island of the same name.

They have an extensive menu of both International and Thai dishes, plus a fresh daily seafood selection. There’s a huge choice of tapas dishes, too, plus a theme-buffet twice a week. But they also have something extra. Most places seem to offer a wandering troubadour or two who’ll serenade the guests as they dine. But at ‘Melati’, the management have taken great care in selecting a pair of musicians who don’t just play ‘knife and fork’ music in the background. The Melati Duo actually complements the dining experience. Their presence enhances the ambiance, neither in the background nor at the fore, but blended seamlessly into the overall atmosphere. And if you’re not too sure about this, just wait until they take a break. There’s definitely something missing without them!

The Melati Duo is made up of Roland Manalo and Salvation Delgardo. And, like so many of the island’s musicians, they both hail from the Philippines. Roland was born in a small town to the south of Manila and received his early musical grounding at school. Specialising in the guitar, by the time he was ready to leave high school he was already earning pocket money by playing with local bands in his spare time. He later became a full-time professional, but not venturing abroad for several years until he finally accepted a contract to play in Thailand at the Sofitel Centara Grand Resort and Villas in Hua Hin. And that was where, in 2006, he met his current partner.

Salvation Delgardo had followed the more usual path of seeking contracts abroad. She began in China with a four-piece band, returning home in the interim. And over the next 12 years alternated between singing locally, with spells in Korea and Dubai, before coming to Thailand in October 2006. After a short break in Bangkok she, too, began working at the ‘Sofitel’ in Hua Hin, where she met Roland. They began playing at Melati together two years later and are still here today, by both popular demand and managerial request.

We spent a long time looking for just the right musicians,” Marketing and Communications Manager, Nadine Rouget, told me. “It’s not just the songs they present, although these have to be familiar and soft – not strong or challenging in any way. No, we need our musicians to be melodious enough for people to enjoy without really having to listen, but also talented enough so that diners look up in appreciation every now and again! We want star quality but without the upset of the star temperament that sometimes goes with it. And that’s just what we’ve now got with The Melati Duo.

They begin their first set, using just an acoustic guitar, at 5:00 pm in the Thai restaurant, Kan Sak Thong. But two hours later, at View Pha Ngan, Roland is setting up quite a different sound stage. Here, there’s a computer and synthesiser combo that provides a high-quality backing that ranges from drums and bass to a full orchestra. And, unlike some synthesised rigs that produce noises like ring-tones on a phone, the quality here is top-notch, with instruments that sound just like the real thing.

Salvation has a truly delightful voice. Although it’s a clear and natural soprano, it easily glides into the lower registers with, for example, Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’ coming across as breathily-mellow as the original. Roland seems shyer and content to let Salvation take the spotlight, but when he steps-up there’s an effortless quality to his presentation thatงs not unlike the young Dean Martin. But it’s the numbers when they harmonise that cause a lull in the conversation. Roland has a surprisingly pure alto, and the tight harmonies of the two voices wrapped closely together are a joy to hear.

The first set tends to be more mellow and laid-back and with classic love songs and ballads by divas such as Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. But as the evening wears on and the wine begins to flow you’ll notice the tempo move up a notch. They play three one-hour sets with a 15-minute break in-between, and towards the end of the evening all feet are tapping and there are several couples also stepping-out on the floor.

You can enjoy the unparalleled combination of The Melati Duo and View Pha Ngan every night of the week except Tuesday, when the musicians take a well-earned break. And on Wednesday all is back to normal again – in this superlative restaurant with its sublime duo!

 


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