Wednesday, 16 October 2013

GOURMET’S MAURITIUS: Island Nation Beckons with Treats for All Tastes & Pockets

This is the first of a series of 25 articles on eating out in Mauritius, an island nation that is so close to us culturally and has so much to offer to the traveller. This, I hope, will also be the first of a series of food guides, drawing on the wisdom of frequent travellers and chefs, offering in-depth information on savouring the culinary secrets of some of our most favourite destinations around the world.

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

MAURITIUS is a culinary melting pot that is yet to be explored fully by high-spending Indian travellers who visit the island nation for reasons as varied as hosting a big fat Indian wedding to attending an incentive powwow for a company’s sale staff. From authentic dim sum (some say the best outside Hong Kong and Guangzhou) to African, Creole, English and French specialities, to street Indian, to gourmet Indian a la Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, Mauritius has something to tantalise every taste bud and, contrary to what people believe, every pocket.
From tandoori to Creole cuisine, Mauritius is a gastronomic
showcase of the best foods its diverse culture has to offer
The country’s kitchen reflects the diverse culinary influences and histories that the ancestors of its citizens brought with them at various points of time. The grand views that the restaurants command and the legendary friendliness of the Mauritians combine to double the dining pleasure in that idyllic country.
To dig deeper into the Mauritius dining scene, I posted a request for information on the landing page of the Delhi Gourmet Club (DGC), a Facebook community of over 4,500 people who live to eat, and I was impressed by the steady trickle of nuggets that came my way. Anand Kapoor, who works for a UK-based design house and also runs the non-profit Creative Services Support Group (CSSG), drew my attention to a guide to good eating in Mauritius published by a leading U.K. newpaper, The Telegraph. Kapoor, who has just published a lavishly illustrated cookbook titled Taste with seven Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs, is well-travelled and knows his food well.
I will start my series with the opening advice of The Telegraph guide’s author, Nicki Grihault, daughter of Alan Grihault, the acclaimed authority on the dodo. “Lunch,” writes Nicki, who knows Mauritius as intimately as her father knows the dodo, “tends to be a more popular, and less expensive, time to eat out, as Grand Baie is the only area with a happening evening dining scene and to a lesser extent, Port Louis.” Grand Baie is an ocean-kissed village in the north of the island and Port Louis is the national capital.
Keeping that advice at the back of our mind, let us set out for Mauritius with this list of the ten favourite restaurants of another DGC member, Siddharth Mohan, a senior executive with a leading management consultancy and a regular visitor to Mauritius. Mohan’s Top Ten are:

1. Domaine Anna for delicious butter garlic freshwater prawns in the middle of sugarcane fields. (That must be an amazing view! The restaurant is on the island’s longest beach, Flic en Flac, or Black River.)
2. Le Chamarel, which is perched high on the Black River mountains, for its outstanding vistas while you tuck into Smoked Marlin Carpaccio. (The restaurant should not be confused with the Air Mauritius Airbus A340-313X named Le Chamarel.)
3. Varangue Sur Morne, a rustic gamekeeper’s lodge also in Chamarel, for fine Creole cooking and stunning surroundings (these two words will keep appearing in most descriptions).
4.  L’Aventure du Sucre for unpretentious Mauritian French cuisine steeped in the history of an Old Sugar Mill, where you can find out all you need to know about the history of the island, its sugar industry and the many types of sugar it produces.
5.  The dhaba-style Dewa on Rose Hill for a taste of the dholl puri (maida rotis staffed with chana and served in pairs with a bean curry, ‘achard’, or pickles, and chutney) and the local galette, which is a deep-fried cake made with mashed cassava and cream.
6.  The chic Le Pescatore at Trou aux Biches on the island’s north-west coast for fish so fresh you can smell the aroma of the sea water while eating away … it’s pricey, though.
7. For tea-time crepes, chicken sandwiches and the best Pina Colada to enjoy the sunset, head for the beach-side restaurant at La Pirogue Resort set in 14 hectares of tropical plantations.
8. Chateau Mon Desir overlooking the historic ruins of Balaclava, River Citron and Turtle Bay for the most fabulous charm of its old-world dining experience.
9.  Ocean Basket, an outlet of the famous South African chain, for the oh-so-many prawns in a dish at the upmarket Bagatelle, Mall of Mauritius.
10. “And if you are very, very lucky,” concludes Mohan, “home-style grilled lamb chops at an 18th-century French mansion surrounded by exquisite gardens. Entry by invitation only.” This is the mystery entry in this Top Ten. To find out, keep following the posts that follow in this series.

Here’s the link to Nicki Grihault’s most informative thumbnail guide…