It likes to describe itself as a restaurant with a hotel attached, although since Dutchman Bart Duykers took the helm at The Boathouse Inn and Restaurant in Phuket, Thailand, that description has widened somewhat. In the last three years, the 36-room idyll on Kata Beach has become a cultural centre for the popular island, a retreat where the artistically and culinary-minded flock to take courses on wine-tasting or Thai cuisine, have drawing classes or simply enjoy the work of local artists at The Boathouse's private gallery. 'I realised that many visitors, especially from this region, prefer to pursue other activities other than lying around on a beach all day, so now we give them a choice,' says general manager Mr Duykers, who was in Hong Kong last week to promote the virtues of the 'boutique resort' as travel journals like to describe it. Most of the courses take place in the wet summer season, a time the majority of luxury hotels traditionally slash room rates and open up to European package holiday companies to keep themselves in business. Not so The Boathouse. By giving guests a programme of activities aside from Phuket's natural attractions, it manages to stay at full occupancy - and charge around 4,100 baht (about HK$1,270) a night - all year round. 'Because of what we are doing, we have created opportunities for visitors to learn more about the island and its culture and also opened doors for the islanders which otherwise would have been closed to them,' Mr Duykers explains. 'For instance, many of our local artists would never have become established, as until we opened the gallery they had nowhere to show their work.' When the restaurant opened 10 years ago it swiftly established its supremacy in the region, boasting the finest cuisine, wine list and service in Phuket. Since then, its fame has spread much further. Last September, the restaurant received an award for excellence from the prestigious US publication, Wine Spectator Magazine. As The Boathouse is still primarily a restaurant, executive chef Tummanoon Punchun often prepares double the meals than there are guests at the hotel. He prides himself on his standard of European cuisine, although Mr Duykers says Mr Tummanoon's concern that his kitchen produces the best range of local recipes possible borders on the obsessive. 'In answer to demand for his recipes from hotel guests and diners alike, the restaurant has established regular Thai cooking classes under Mr Tummanoon's direction and are proving one of our most popular activities,' he says. Held every Saturday and Sunday morning, the classes are limited to six participants to encourage hands-on experience. Classes are followed by a leisurely lunch where students can enjoy the result of their morning's creativity. Early risers can even accompany the chef on his morning trips to the local markets and fishing boat decks to help select herbs, spices, poultry and red meat that will be used in the class. The Boathouse culinary workshops are open to everyone, although guests receive a 500 baht discount. The two-day course is 1,500 baht, inclusive of 10 per cent service and seven per cent value added tax. For more information on the restaurant and its activities, contact The Boathouse on tel 66-76-330-025 or fax 66-76-330-561, or by e-mail at the.boathouse Nearer to home, Bacchus restaurant is also climbing aboard the cultural bandwagon with interactive dinner-theatre next Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. To coincide with the restaurant's Moroccan month, diners are invited to play detective as a mystery from the streets of Casablanca unfolds. Directed by Sue Humphreys, the play offers diners clues throughout the evening in the style of a whodunnit. 'Its the first time we've tried them, but if they prove to be the success we hope, we will make them a regular event,' promises publicist Miranda Sears. In addition to the in-house entertainment, the set menus have been created with the guidance of the Moroccan consulate to include North African specialities such as chicken tahini, marinated sardine fillets on olive toast and sticky date pudding. The mystery-suspense dinner is available for $395 (plus 10 per cent service) and includes Kir Royale and canapes, three-course dinner and wine with each course. Tuesday evening is full, but there are still tables free on Wednesday, and Table Talk has a table for two to give away for the first correct answer to the following question: in the 1943 film classic Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart immortalised the character of rough-diamond bar-owner Rick Blaine. The role was originally intended for another actor. Who was it? Fax your answers to 2549-3175. For bookings, call Bacchus on 2529 9032. Another promotion this week sees chef Ivan Livera at the Hotel Furama. Sri Lankan by birth, Mr Livera has spent most of his working life in Australia, where he is executive chef of the De Bortoli Vineyards in Yarra. And using his Asian background as a base, Mr Livera marries indigenous produce such as kangaroo, bush tomatoes and yabbies with French cooking techniques. The promotion continues until the end of April at The Rotisserie.