Martin Blunos is nothing if not interesting. Born near Bath in the southwest of England to Latvian parents who emigrated there after the Second World War, he has cooked for Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, hosted his own TV cooking show and appeared as a guest chef on countless others.
Even in appearance he is arresting—the unmissable Union Jack trousers he often wears to work help to soften his imposing height and striking walrus moustache. In fact, the apparel hints a jovial nature which soon comes to the surface as he talks about his early career, love of the kitchen arts and particularly his latest culinary adventure, the eponymous Blunos restaurant at the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn.
On entering the restaurant beside the hotel’s 14th floor swimming pool deck, it is at first a little disconcerting to be confronted by the sight of people splashing about and reclining on sun loungers in various states of undress, but the ambience is so laidback that you quickly forget about paunchy men in budgie smugglers and bikini-clad bathing belles and find yourself relaxing into the venue’s comfortable vibe.
Indeed, comfort is the word that defines the cuisine at Blunos. Despite his fine dining background, or perhaps because of it, here the former Iron Chef UK participant’s food is designed to be fun and filling—hearty value-for-money comfort fare that eschews pretentions and yet is made with quality ingredients. Blunos is candid when he says, “The Michelin stars were a great personal achievement but earning the second one nearly killed me! I became obsessive about it and I know I was difficult to work with. It affected me both in my professional and private life. Of course, I have always known that in the end it’s not the accolades you hang on your wall that count, it’s the empty plates and satisfied smiles that truly mean the most. Now I like to say that here I make happy food for happy people.”
The forgoing may be so but there is no doubt that the chef uses his background in fine dining to elevate what on first consideration might sound like prosaic fare. To wit, his baldly named lobster roll is actually a succulent piece of Canadian lobster nestled in a garlic-buttered soft roll with shellfish oil and a wonderfully zesty orange mayonnaise. The equally non-descript-sounding beef burger is transformed as a lean minced beef and bone marrow patty topped with glazed shredded ham hock and garnished with a piquant tomato-chilli jam. And so it goes with salads, pizzas, pastas, sharing dishes, main courses and desserts, all given a Blunos twist to put them in a league well above casual poolside dining.
While the menu at Blunos retains many old favourites, new items are being added as of this month. They include arrancini—meaning little oranges because of their shape and colour—which are deep-fried bread-crumbed balls of pearl barley (instead of the more traditional rice) stuffed with porcini and sausage and served with a garnish of porcini and chilli puree. Also new is a substantial dish of seared tender beef flank steak and sweet Thai shallots served with a northeastern Thai-style chilli sauce and potato wedges. Reprised on the menu is a deeply satisfying signature dish of pork belly braised long and slow in apple juice, ginger and spices. This version uses excellent local pork rather than meat imported from the UK.
For a dessert, look no further than Blunos’ wonderfully creative milk berry puff, a confection developed from one of the challenges he faced recently on Iron Chef Thailand. It comprises rich cream of milk tablet sweets, crispy puff pastry and a sharp raspberry sauce for a delightfully sweet and tangy finish to a meal.
14th floor, Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn, 33/1 South Sathorn Road
Open daily 11am-midnight