International Coffee Day today. I remember when we first started going to the Maldives in the nineties, as much as we loved it one of the biggest (if not *the* biggest) negative and thing we missed from home was a good cup of coffee. Eventually, the espresso machines made it over and the resorts figured out how to brew some enjoyable cups. For the 5-star luxury resorts, the Gaggia machine is table stakes and most have pretty fine personal coffee makers in room.
Kuramathi continues the trend to ever finer roasted blend concoctions putting its entire F&B staff through coffee guru training…
- “The resort completed a comprehensive course in advanced barista techniques and coffee beverage. The training was conducted by skilled coffee artisan; Giorgos Atsopardis who is a Certified Specialty Barista & Certified Specialty Brewer. Originally from Greece, he contributed his 20 years of expertise and wisdom in the coffee industry to participants from our Food and Beverage team in a dedicated workshop. Giorgos’s expertise in coffee has also earned him finalist positions in the National Barista Championship of Greece in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Coffee produced by the iconic brewing method of utilizing a ‘Syphon Filter’ was also demonstrated during the training session, and it’s no surprise the specialty is available for guests to try.“
Amongst the few additions to the hot drinks menu are…
- Kuramathi on Ice – Espresso, Cold Chocolate, Scoop of Vanilla, Cinnamon powder, Caramel syrup
- Freddo Cappuccino – Espresso poured in iced and creamy milk
- Cold Mocachino – Espresso with cold chocolate
If you want a high perch on which to relax over a more natural body of water, check out Thulusdhoo’s swinging lounger over the lagoon (thanks Eka). Complete with rope ladder to give it that extra bit of Swiss Family Robinson chic aesthetic.
Double header for the double deckers at Finolhu this week. This one is a bit more dramatic and as stunning underneath as it is on top as a waterfall cascades into the pool enveloping the in-pool bar. More “Ballers” than “Baywatch” (with more than a hint of Starship Enterprise).
If you want to look out for pirates, Finolhu features the most exquisite lifeguard stand on its beach. A retro classic in robin’s egg blue with a apropos thatches roof. It even includes a set of binoculars to gaze out on the rest of the beach and ocean. Perfect for channelling your inner Baywatch. Or for the fashionistas, inner Babe Watch (it is one of the most popular posing platforms on the island).
International Talk Like A Pirate Day today, but if you want to act like a pirate then avast ye’ these special programmes at Six Senses Laamu…
- “Twice a year during Easter and Christmas break we have many families with children visiting Six Senses Laamu. So twice a year we offer this excursion. It is a pirate themed trip that leaves at 10:00 in the morning and returns about 15:30. We have some scarfs, eye patches, foam swords, water guns, a treasure map and we make up a story. We take snorkel equipment along as well as children’s lunch. At the end the excursion leads to a “treasure” of sweets for the children. We usually have boys and girls between 6 and 13 years old and sometimes a parent comes along too. The price is USD 150++ (10% service charge & 12% GST)”
Blow me down and shiver me timbers!
Pizza is a pretty popular food around the world and no less so in the Maldives. We’ve had a wide variety in our world travels, our regular trips to Italy and our Maldives tours (so much so that with this post, I’m adding a special “pizza” tag). While many menus offer classic or special combinations, pizza is a pretty popular make-your-own affair. I’ve don’t recall having quite so much variety of ingredient as Amilla Fushi’s “Joe’s Pizza” at its Baazaar (allusion to the “Baa” atoll there) restaurant. Items I’ve never made a pizza with like lamb meatballs, harissa yoghurt, capsicum, spiced pumpkin and silver beet. They even have a sweet pizza with Nutella and Banana (why is this not more common?). And if you want more cheese, never mind the “Quattro Formaggio”, Joe’s offers 8 (!) cheeses (“Otto Formaggio” anyone?) – mozzarella, pecorino, ricotta, brie, gorgonzola, provolone, feta, bocconcini. Small pizza is $20 and a large is $24.
And Finolhu has a bagel station for people who prefer their round dough morning thing savoury not sweet. Four different varieties of bagels and more toppings than I have seen this side of New York’s West Side. Of course, smoked salmon, but the smoked shrimps were a revelation. They also had smoked tuna and smoked king fish. As well as an assortment of cold cuts and other cheeses.
Donut Bar! Those words alone are enough to send goosebumps across the waistline of any true American junk food addict <hand up>. I eat more breakfasts when I am in the Maldives than any other time of the year (breakfast buffets are sort of a big thing there as in most resorts). They feature delicacies from all over the world, but somehow one of the great American AM staples has been out of reach for these culinary maestros – donuts (Latin name: Doughnut).
I’ve had decent donuts twice in the Maldives. Both are no longer served (Kurumba no longer serves theirs at least they didn’t on my last visit, and GoNuts, which isn’t even at a resort, is no longer open). About the only impressive donut you can find at the resorts these days is the blow-up kind. If someone does serve donuts, their glazing is usually some hard caked-on chocolate instead of the de rigeur creamy icing.
But Dhigufaru is blazing new donut trails not just for the Maldives, but quite possibly the world! They have set up a make-your-own-donut bar at the breakfast buffet. A pile of plain donuts set out quirkily stacked on poles. But then a collection of toppings that you can add to concoct you perfect donut – maple syrup, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, strawberry sauce and peanut butter. America has make-your-own salads, sandwiches and sundaes, but I’ve never come across a DIY donut.
I had to Google it (maybe a million dollar business idea) and it turns out there is one in existence – Top this Donut Bar in Cincinnati, USA. But that was about it. World-class top of the morning to you!
Great covers aren’t limited to pop songs and fashion mags in the Maldives. Their thatched roofs are a world recognized icon of tropical paradise. But a few resorts have opted for more creative designs with different aesthetic than the ubiquitous thatch. One of the most original in all the Maldives is Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa’s tented villa roofs. It’s actually not just the roof, but the ceiling as well (see photo above). It gives the villas a light and airy feel to them. And the interiors are very stylishly decorated.
Lori is amazed at how many details I can remember from the dozens of resorts we have stayed at, but I must admit that sometimes they do blur a bit in my mind as so many follow such a similar villa look and feel. Hakuraa Huraa is one that is distinctively memorable though.
Maldivians are not just working in the resorts, they are building and designing them. One of the pioneers leading the way in envisioning spaces with the same aesthetic beauty that the destination has become renowned for is Mohammed Shafeeq. Part of the local Maldivian GX Associates architecture firm which have designed many top properties in the Maldives, he was introduced to us by the Kandolhu resort who were particularly proud of the award-winning work that he did in the redesign of their resort a number of years ago. I caught up with Shafeeq to learn a bit more about his background and perspectives…
- Where are you from in the Maldives
I am from Male’ and also brought up in Male.
- Where did you study?
- I studied in Maldives (in Male’) completed my A Levels and then went onto university in the UK at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to study architecture.
- What was the first thing you designed?
The first thing I designed was a small island in the North of Male’ Atoll which was basically a concept sketch on art paper which was developed to be a small resort by the owners.
- Which other resorts did you design?
Some of the resorts we designed include Anantara Dhigu, Anantara Kihavah Villas, Anantara Veli, Baros, Coco Palm Boduhithi, Coco Palm Dhunikolhu, Constance Halaveli Resort, Four Seasons Resort, Fridays Resort, Hilton Irufushi, Huvafenfushi, Kurumba, LUX Maldives, Maafushivaru, Mudhdhoo and some of the more recent ones are the Thundi in Kuramathi and Milaidhoo.
- How has your approach changed as you do different properties?
The approach always follow the trends in fashion, lifestyle and technology and the tastes of the travelers and I always try to stay ahead by reviewing other competing developments in the region.
- Have you designed any non-resort properties in the Maldives?
Yes, I did much residential and civic work before specialising in hospitality design and they include private residences, apartment blocks, law courts, hospitals, schools and prisons even.
- What is something they didn’t you in design school that you had to learn the hard way through experience?
What I learned through experience is the delicacy and expertise required when you model the built environment to appease the senses of the users to make them feel totally comfortable and create an ambience that is akin to a home with a magical touch.
- Which designer has had the greatest influence on you?
- Frank Lloyd Wright.
- If you were given a blank cheque and a completely free reign to design the resort of your dreams, what sorts of design element would it feature?
- It would feature a back to basics, barefoot and eco friendly nature resort with an extremely luxurious ambiance where natural and built environment will have no boundaries.
- What are some of the constraints or considerations to designing for a remote location in a tropical environment?
The constraints are mostly to do with the size of the island and the requirement of the client to have a set number of villas and spaces on that island but to afford the best views and settings for each and every public building and guest villa.
- Are there any projects you are working on that you can share with us?
Right now we are working on two projects in Baa Atoll, One in Raa Atoll, One in Noonu Atoll and Two in Male’ Atoll.