Best of the Maldives: African Cuisine – NIYAMA

NIYAMA Tribal

 

 

 

If you like you food as freshly ‘roasted’ as your coffee, then the Tribal restaurant at the newly inaugurated NIYAMA resort offers ‘modern campfire dining.’ Sort of like W Retreat’s ‘Fire’ restaurant on steroids.

I was first alerted to Tribal by one of my Maldive friends in the industry who visited it just before opening. He reported to me that for “first time I was at a loss for words in a long time.”

“Modern campfire dining. Sand floors. Tiki torches. Local inspiration meets global flair. Tastes from South America to Africa to Asia cooked in the outdoor kitchen. Entrees seared over open flames. Tribal gatherings — a dash of adventure, a pinch of fun.”

The concept reminds me of one of my most memorable holiday meals of all time. On safari in the Kruger staying at the Londolozi game reserve, our jeep pullied into the bush after a long afternoon of looking at the ‘Big 5’. As night settled on the South African plain, we arrived at a roaring campfire already preparing the night’s meal of roasted leg of impala (prompting hilarious jokes from me to the kids about 3-legged impalas for the rest of the trip that I’m sure they never got tired of).

I’ve always thought that the African safari industry is a real role model the Maldives’ tourism development. Africa has created a super premium product out of stunning natural beauty and exceptional wildlife encounters. The ‘resorts’ (ie. ‘lodges’) are packed with 5-star luxury, while maintaining the rustic, natural ambience of the surroundings. They have been drawing big ticket tourists for decades longer that the Maldives and have plenty of know-how about packaging and promoting this experience for top dollar. In fact, it was my own personal background working with African tourism that contributed to my starting Maldives Complete in the first place.

It’s no surprise then that Tribal’s own culinary theme has a heavy African slant with menu items such as “Warhog Cutlets smothered in cape mustard, Loin of African Karoo lamb with wild bush rosemary and garlic, Nile Perch Tikin Xic (prepared the traditional Maya style), Bush Pig and cabbage soup, Warm Ostrich Babotie, Mekong River Squid, and African Cast Iron Potjies such as Springbok slow cooked for 6 hours over coals with root vegetables.” (quoted from a superb interview with the Tribal Chef Ken Gundu on the Linara travel blog).

Akubekuhle! (‘Cheers’ in Zulu)

 

NIYAMA Tribal sign

Best of the Maldives: Coffee Roasting – LUX* Maldives

LUX Maldives coffee roasting

 

 

Happy International Coffee Day!

The one thing I typically miss when I visit the Maldives is my morning cup of Starbucks latte. I actually buy the whole beans myself from Starbucks, grind them and brew the drink in an Italian stove top espresso maker. Mind you, I am a very fussy latte drinker and struggle to find great lattes in top London restaurant (the most common sin is that they serve them not hot enough).

When we first started coming to the Maldives 15 years ago, resorts didn’t even know what a latte was. Eventually, they brought in espresso machines, but their barista talents were still quite green. Now, I find if I am at a 5-star resort I have a solid 50:50 shot at getting a great cup of coffee (about par with London). One resort which has gone the ultimate extreme to ensure that its coffees are the best is LUX* Maldives. The LUX* actually has links to a South African coffee company so they take this beverage very seriously. So much so that they have installed their very own coffee roaster on the island with its own Chief Roaster Hassan (see above)

“If you love coffee, you’ll be delighted by our Island Blend, an organic mix created for us by Carl and Judd, founders of Cape Town’s acclaimed artisan roaster Deluxe Coffeeworks…We actually roast organise green beans here on the island and we’re schooling our staff in the ways of the barista.”

I did enjoy all the coffee I could when I stayed at LUX, but it’s also a treat just to walk past the roaster in operation to get a whiff of those fragrant aromas.

 

LUX Maldives coffee roasting 2

Best of the Maldives: Photographer – Irufushi

Iru Fushi - Tania Sorokina

Cascades are a classic ‘Kodak moment’, but frankly everywhere you turn in the Maldives is postcard-perfect scenery. Lori’s Christmas gift to me last year was Canon SLR camera primarily to get better pictures on my Maldives visits. While I still mostly get lost in anything beyond ‘Auto’ settings (despite the patient and helpful tutoring by John Esslinger), it has helped immensely.

For admirers who want to capture the perfect pictures of such a perfect setting, Hilton Iru Fushi has enlisted a resident professional photographer on its staff…

“Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort & Spa has appointed a resident photographer to ensure guests leave with beautiful holiday photos befitting their paradise island escape. As the resort’s dedicated photographer, Tanya Sorokina will capture guests special holiday moments, offering private photography sessions from one hour to a whole day, with from 60 images. of professionally edited images, available from $250 plus taxes.”

 

 

Iru Fushi photo shoot

Best of the Maldives: Pool Waterfall – Sun Island

Sun Island pool fountains

I love waterfall features in pools (no not Michael Phelps kind of pool ‘waterfalls’…in fact, one might want to be careful around the Conrad Rangali pool). Perhaps it is because they make the pool more alive with animation. Perhaps it is because it evokes one of my all time favourite adventures trekking into a Togolese jungle to visit the Badou Cascades. Perhaps they evoke some other stereotypically imprinted image of tropical paradise. Our very first resort in the Maldives featured one – the erstwhile Laguna Beach, now Velassaru (unfortunately, now sans waterfall)l. Sheraton Full Moon had an impressive one, but it was more adjacent to the pool than integrated into the pool (you can’t swim under it). So I was on a bit of a quest for the best Pool Waterfall in the Maldives.

I found my heart’s desire at Sun Island. Sun has not just one, but two striking waterfall fountains. Doubly dramatic.

Sun Island pool fountains 2

Best of the Maldives: Urinal – Gili Lankanfushi

  Gili Lankanfushi - urinal day

 

 

Downing glass after glass of refreshing iced tea on a hot, sunny day can only lead to one place. Resorts do their best to make every experience an exceptional one. Restaurants and hotels around the world have done creative things to make a man’s comfort break a bit more comfortable. Most usually, these are in the form of a bit of art, maybe a frame for the latest newspaper (typically sports page), or even adverts (to exploit the attention of this quite captive). But Gili Lankanfushi has created a luxury experience for gentlemen in the room that bears their name. A marble and stainless urinal mounted on a slight promontory into a lit reflecting pool with wall fountain. Relief never looked so resplendent.

 

Gili Lankanfushi - urinal

Best of the Maldives: Iced Tea – Sun Island

 

 

 

In ‘The South’ of the USA, there is one spontaneous refreshment you will find on every corner – tea. Not the ‘tea’ that everyone else in the world thinks of…a steaming cuppa. But ‘iced tea’. The ‘iced’ is considered superfluous because ‘tea’ is ‘tea’ in The South and it is primarily served one way.

My wife Lori growing up in North Carolina was raised drinking iced tea out of her baby bottle. Southerners are very particular about the brewing of their iced tea (only Lipton). Moving the UK, despite being a land of tea drinkers, you nonetheless can’t get a decent glass of iced tea (according to Lori). But, lo and behold, the refreshment drink she received after her Aaruma spa treatment was like a sip of home. Yes, Sun Island brews their iced tea and used Lipton tea bags. We have been coming to the Maldives for 15 years and home-like sunshine and heat always inspired a bit of a tea craving by Lori, but this is the first time she enjoyed a glass a good as home.

Unfortunately, the iced tea in the restaurant wasn’t as spectacular. The F&B manager needs to see how they are making it at the spa and copy that across the island.

Best of the Maldives: Spontaneous Juice – LUX* Maldives

LUX Maldives scret juice

 

If the wet refreshment you want close at hand is for ingestion rather than immersion, then LUX* Maldives makes sure a range of colourful and tasty natural juices are available as you explore the island. As a part of their ‘surprise treats everywhere you turn’ ethos, they have complimentary fresh fruit drinks laid out in hollowed out log ice buckets scattered around the island. If you pass by one and simply feel like pouring yourself a tall, cold glass of ‘Pineapple Mint’ or ‘Strawberry Cooler’, just grab yourself a glass.

Best of the Maldives: Closest House Reef Entry – Lily Beach

Lily Beach - drop off

 

 

For those who want the ‘unda da sea’ experience, house reef proximity is a big consideration for many Maldive aficionados. Being opposite Vilamendoo, the current holder of the ‘Closest House Reef’ crown, Lily Beach literally mirrors Vila’s underwater spectacle. Vila is perhaps slightly closer to the water’s edge on average around the island, but Lily’s groynes provide an entry to the house reef where you can literally jump into the drop off. Maybe not the closest all around (literally…or should I say ‘litorally’), but for those who want the absolute quickest entry into the underwater world of delights, then look to Lily.

Last one in…

Best of the Maldives: Underwater Club – Niyama

Niyama Deep Six club

 

 

 

Of all the ‘wow’ factors in the Maldives, their most famous are their underwater features – restaurant (and bedroom), function room, spa. And now lounge. I might have to make a separate ‘Best of the Maldives’ category for them all.

The recently opened NIYAMA resort introduces its ‘Deep Six’ nightclub. Not just the first in the Maldives, but the first in the world…

“The world’s first underwater club. International DJs. Global music. Splashes of colour – indigo, blue. Glass walls overlook a spot lit sea. Modern moods with a flair for the marine. Take the party below the sea for all-night dancing beneath the waves.”

I think I would have to nickname the club ‘Sebastian’s Hideaway’…

We got a hot crustacean band
Each little clam here
know how to jam here
Under the sea.

Best of the Maldives: Cocktail Compendium – Gili Lankanfushi

Gili Lankanfushi - cocktails

A refresher for the end of the day is a cocktail which can also sparkle, uplift, sooth or relax. The ‘Doctor of Mixology’ has to be Muthu Kumar, Head Bartender at Gili Lankanfushi’s their Overwater Bar. He trained for 6 months in cocktail mixing. And looking at the dissertation length bar cocktail menu, you can see why. Gili offers…

  • 24 Champagne Cocktails – including, “Sake – Cham” (Japanese junmai daiginjo sake, syrup and Champagne) and “Royal Lime Sorbet” (Fresh lime, syrup, Champagne mixed with lime sorbet)
  • 19 Martinis – including, “Apple and Cinnamon Martini” (Organic apple juice, lime juice, syrup, cinnamon vodka, muddled with fresh apple and cinnamon), “Cardamom and Pineapple Martini” (Cardamom vodka, syrup and fresh pineapple juice)
  • 12 “Herb Cocktails”
  • 11 “Limbo” (Lime in Maldivian) cocktails
  • 12 Vodka cocktails
  • 6 Wine cocktails
  • 9 Gin cocktails
  • 10 Rum cocktails
  • 9 Tequila cocktails
  • 9 Brandy cocktails
  • 8 Whiskey cocktails
  • 10 coffee cocktails (5 hot versions and 5 cold ones)
  • 6 “Signature Cocktails”

They also have 6 ‘Shooter’ cocktails crowned by the house specialty the ‘7 Layer Shooter’ – Muthu Kumar (With the W Retreat’s signature ‘7 Layer Chocolate Cake’ I am wondering if there is some sort of culinary law od physics that says you can pile up an ingredient on top of itself a number of times, but it is absolutely limited ‘7’. Sort of like the number of times you can fold a piece of paper in half).

It’s not just the recipes that have variety, but the ingredients themselves. They stock 21 types of Vodka, 19 types of gin, 15 brands of Rum, 8 Tequillas, 29 liqueurs, 38 whiskies, 13 Apperitifs and 8 Digestifs, 18 Cognacs, 9 Grappas, 9 ports/sherries, 10 soft drinks, 11 juices, 7 smoothies, 7 lassis, 12 beers, 14 mocktails, 25 ‘spa’ cocktails (eg. Ayurveda elixirs), 20 types of teas.

In short, 151 types of cocktail made from 248 types of drinks (and of course, you could have any of the latter straight up).

Stay tuned for Muthu’s latest innovation as he is soon to introduce ‘Smoky’ cocktails to the already encyclopaedic mix.

 

Gili Lankanfushi - Muthu cocktails