Australian chef Garth Welsh is the director of Cuisine at W Retreat Koh Samui. In 2012 he was voted Time Out Malaysia's Outstanding Young Chef of the Year, just one highlight in a career that has seen him head chef at restaurants such as the old Hugo's in Bondi, before venturing into luxury hotels. His CV includes the kitchens of Amanpulo by Aman Resorts, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa and the Westin Kuala Lumpur. See wretreatkohsamui.com.
As much as I love Thai food and I'm spoilt for choice here, I'm still a westerner who loves nothing more than a great bowl of pasta, so my go-to restaurant in Koh Samui is a little Italian restaurant called Pepenero. The restaurant is intimate and is run by three lovely, completely hands-on passionate Italians who can tell you the story behind every dish on the menu. See pepenerosamui.com.
My favourite really local food experience is to go to a little strip of beach on the north-western corner of Samui called Bang Por. There are a number of small restaurants right on the beach serving mostly southern Thai food. My favourite of these restaurants is called Krua Bang Por. You sit there, toes in the sand, looking out towards Koh Phangan and Koh Tao and are served some of the tastiest food you could ever find.
My favourite dish is called Nam Prik Goong Siab made with school prawns that are gently wok-fried until they are completely dried and crispy. The sambal is spicy, served slightly warm and has cashew nuts through it. No website.
BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET
The trick to finding the best local food in Thailand usually is to go to the most basic looking shop or street stall and give it a go.
Around the corner from the W Retreat Koh Samui is a little restaurant called Crok Yai where I always see other staff from the W eating. It's famous for Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad). My favourite version is a Som Tam Thai with salted duck eggs but I also love another variation where they use long beans instead of green papaya. No website.
Cocktails at Woobar at W Retreat Koh Samui. We not only have the coolest cocktail bar on the island with amazing views, great DJs nightly and our iconic sunken "pod" seating, but we have the best cocktails I've experienced anywhere.
One I particularly love is called "Same Same But Different" which is actually two miniature cocktails served together; one made with white rum infused with white chocolate and the other made with bourbon infused with dark chocolate. Both served with beautiful raspberry foam in small sea urchin-shaped glasses with fresh butterfly pea flowers. See wretreatkohsamui.com/woobar.
BIG NIGHT OUT
Again Woobar, call me biased but I do just happen to work in a hotel with the best bar on the island. If I had to mention some other cool bars I would say The Larder serves excellent cocktails and also very good food. The Drink Gallery is very creative with their cocktails too and they often have great bands playing. See thelardersamui.com; see facebook.com/DrinkGallery/
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Anytime is a good time to visit Samui and the food is always good. We basically have three seasons, dry season is from December to February when the weather is very comfortable and the waters are calm but you can expect occasional heavy rains in short bursts. Hot season is March to August and it really can get uncomfortably hot at times, but nothing a swim and a cold beer can't resolve. September to November is the rainy season which can be hit and miss. You can have some spectacular weather or you could get a run of four or five days of constant rain.