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His restaurants perennially earn Michelin stars and rank on The World’s 50 Best list, yet David Thompson arrived at such accolades for his Southeast Asian cuisine by accident. An unexpected detour in his 1986 holiday plans left the Sydney native in Bangkok. He had to eat, of course and discovered Thai food by “happy serendipity.” The young chef began to study the language as well as the cuisine, eventually finding his way to recipes in Thai ‘books of the dead’ that became his most valuable resource and inspiration.

Thompson returned home to achieve success in Sydney with the 1992 opening of Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai three years later. The Australian chef was then asked by Singapore lifestyle and hospitality legend Christina Ong to create a Thai restaurant in her Halkin by COMO hotel in London. Nahm opened in London in 2001 and was awarded a Michelin star within six months, the first Michelin ever for a Thai restaurant. Nine years later, Thompson did what many critics considered audacious, bringing Nahm to Bangkok where he has developed a loyal following even among Thais, thanks in part to the finest quality Thai ingredients, including many straight from his own farm in Ratchaburi Province outside the Thai capital. Thompson’s latest restaurant, Long Chim, has locations in Singapore and Perth, both opened in 2015.

As Consulting Chef of the Aqua Mekong, Thompson expands his adventurous palate more broadly around Southeast Asia, incorporating culinary traditions of Mekong River cultures with the freshest ingredients to create indigenous inspired dishes like river prawns with ginger, shallots, tamarind and palm sugar served on betel leaves, Cambodian green curry of catfish and lemon basil cashew nut pudding with coconut cream.