Best of the Maldives: Bedouin Restaurant – Centara Ras Fushi

Centara Ras Fushi - bedouin dining

Set on the sands of a tropical island rather than some Arabian dune makes this far-flung Bedouin encampment all the more enchanting. After all, middle eastern traders were among the first non-natives to visit the Maldives (bringing with them the Islamic culture for example). The Maldives is sort of fusion of middle-eastern and Subcontinent heritage and traditions situated between the Red Sea and the Bay of Bengal. A number of resorts feature middle-eastern fare, but none so aesthetically authentic as Centara Ras Fushi’s Al Khaimah restaurant…

  • “Savour the tastes of the Middle East when dining at Al Khaimah. Reminiscent of an authentic Bedouin tent adorned with rich fabrics and tapestry carpets and set amidst our tropical garden, this intimate restaurant offers an Arabian culinary adventure using hand-crushed spices, homemade marinades and the freshest market ingredients to flavour our char-grilled meat selections and rotisseries. Low slung seating and the heady scent of oud compliment this unique dining experience.”

I do love al fresco dining…sitting out in the open breathing in the sea-kissed night air. The soft fabrics of the surrounding canopy and the cushions adds an even more softness to the atmosphere surrounding you, the palm fronds swaying above you and the power fine sand underneath you..

Centara Ras Fushi - bedouin dining 2

Best of the Maldives: Themed Movie Refreshments – Mirihi

Oscar weekend so pull out the popcorn and get ready for a cavalcade of 2016’s best cinema. A bucket of popcorn (with extra bucket) is standard fare, but Mirihi doubles the fun of the double features with their cinema themes treats when you pull up a seat at their film nights…

  • “To enhance the experience, the charming hotel will be twinning the screening with drinks and nibbles to match the movie. For every film shown the team will strive to accompany it with inspired drinks and canapés: pastries for The Grand Budapest Hotel; martinis for James Bond; chocolates for Chocolat; milkshakes for Pulp Fiction. The memorable evening is an affair designed to suit varied tastes, with films ranging from The Godfather to Notting Hill. The setting is mesmerizingly charming, with comfy bean bags and cushions scattered in the sand. As the water laps against the shore and the Milky Way shines overhead guests can curl up in front of a classic with their toes in the sand. Munching on popcorn, guests will relax into serene island life whilst watching one of their favourite films on the big screen.”

VIEWER ADVISORY: Films to be wary of…

  • Monte Python’s The Meaning of Life – wafer thin mint
  • Silence of the Lambs – liver with a nice Chianti
  • Sweeney Todd – meat pies
  • American Pie – apple pie
  • The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – table d’hôte
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – any “local specialty”

For further inspiration, check out Time Out’s “50 best food-on-film moments of all time”.

Best of the Maldives: Gourmet Shots – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - gourmet shots 1

Beer with curry, Tequilla with lime and salt, a ‘boilermaker’ of bourbon and beer, Jagerbombs, Oyster with sweet wasabi with Prosecco, Bel Star, Brut, DOC, Veneto, Italy NV chaser.

Classic shot combos that have inspired Huvafenfushi gastronomic line-up of degustation and decantation.

We adore the variety of a tasting menu, but usually aren’t hungry enough to make through such an extensive line up. Huva’s “tasting” menu is literally “a taste”.

“A taste of the gastro mixed with the mixology. Plated shots to include food and beverage paired together in small bites and shots. Please choose from the selection to mix and match your palate.”

When we visited, we did the following rounds of shots…

  • Oyster with sweet wasabi – Prosecco, Bel Star, Brut, DOC, Veneto, Italy NV
  • Roast shitake mushroom with truffle dressing – Proprieta Sperino Rosa Del Rosa, Rosé Italy NV
  • Camembert and onion jam – Parellada “Honeymoon” Pares Balta 2012
  • Roquefort with truffle honey – Petalo Moscato Spumante “Vino dell’Amore” NV
  • Fresh fig with pistachio – Fontana Fredda Asti Millesimato Dolce, Italy 2011
  • Baby prawns with cocktail sauce – Sauvignon, Sileni Cellar New Zealand 2013
  • Gorgonzola with olive bread – Pulenta Malbec, Chile 2009

 

Huvafenfushi - gourmet shots 2

Huvafenfushi - gourmet shots 3

Best of the Maldives: Butter Chicken – Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica - butter chicken

If you are not Instagramming yourself, then the next most popular subject is your food. And if you want to prepare something truly worth photographing, not to mention devouring, then I recommend Taj Exotica’s house speciality Butter Chicken.

Maybe the best curry I have ever had (Maldives, London, New York or elsewhere) Our daughter Isley’s favourite Indian dish, it was one of our favourite dishes of the 2016 tour. So creamy and perfectly spiced to warm your mouth with a glow of aromatic flavours. At $43, not cheap (though not the most expensive curry I have ever had. That was a $100 Lobster Curry in Soho).

As a holiday gift to you all, Taj has shared its recipe with you all in a Maldives Complete exclusive. Remember, the is to start with fresh, juicy, prime chicken breast.

Ingredients

  • 7 pieces Chicken Tikka
  • 150 ml Makhni gravy
  • 3 grams Ginger (julienned)
  • 10 grams Butter (softened)
  • 5 grams Coriander Leaf (chopped)
  • 2 grams Kasoori Methi (powdered)
  • 10 ml Fresh Cream
  • 2 grams Sugar

Directions

  1. Heat butter in a pan.
  2. Add ginger and saute.
  3. Add cooked chicken tikkas and toss for a few minutes
  4. Add makhni gravy and allow to boil
  5. Add salt, sugar, kasoori methi powder and fresh cream allowing to cook for a few more seconds.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

If you can’t get to the Indian Ocean these holidays, at least get a taste of it at home.

Best of the Maldives: Food Art – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - food art plate

For more savoury sizzle, LUX South Ari Atoll has long been a leader in culinary creativity especially with its venti virtuosity and flapjack finesse. But it has taken its palatable palette to a whole new level (as well as to all its guests) with the hosting of international food artist Samantha Lee last week. From 7-8 December at the Umami restaurant, Lee hosted workshops to teach appetizing artisans a few tricks to her dinner table tableau.

  • Learn and create whimsical, colourful yet unique meals as you witness this talented artist in action. Using only fresh and healthy ingredients, her creative approach will leave you in awe and wanting more.”

The resort shared a ton of pictures on its Facebook page in the album “International Food Artist – Samantha Lee” (see a few select pix below)

While I do have the “Food Art” gourmet gallery Pinterest page, I am also now adding a “Food Art” tag to the blog as well.

Lux South Ari Atoll - foot art workshop

LUX South Ari Atoll - food art

LUX South Ari Atoll - food art penguin

Best of the Maldives: Restaurant-to-Guest Ratio – Kandolhu

Kandolhu - restaurant

Two of my favourite things in the Maldives are the gourmet food (yes, I am a bit of a foodie) and the diminutive charm of the tiniest islands. Unfortunately, it is difficult to have this particular cake and eat it too as the small islands are limited in space and capacity to serve up as much variety.

But Kandolhu provides the best of both world – culinary and cosy delights – with the highest Restaurant to Guest Ratio in the Maldives – 4 restaurants for a mere 30 villas. In rowing (a sport I coach), we call this the “power to weight ratio” and it is the holy grail for high performance.

Each establishment is, like the island, intimate. Like the 6 person Japanese bar, Bonzai. Or you can choose Olive, Sea Grill, or The Market. All of the restaurants are situated on the same side of the island, but segregated in their own spaces and décor. For even more dining options, you can also do villa dining, private dining or grad a bite at the Vilu Bar.

Below I am enjoying the elevated vistas over the ocean of the Olive restaurant while savouring the “Crested Consomme of Oxtail” by Chef Mickaël Farina (hailing from Marseilles in France, he has his own pedigree in fluffy pastry that I just need to find a way through to get to my soup!).

Kandolhu - crusted soup

Best of the Maldives: Private Dining Table – Huvafenfushi

Huvafenfushi - dining table

The least transparent villa table in the Maldives doesn’t make it any less aesthetically alluring. Huvafenfushi’s dining table is another striking CUBE villa feature and reminiscent of the Park Hyatt table that I previously admired (but this one is your very one in your private villa). I’m very partial to such natural grain and shape that sits so perfectly in this natural paradise.

Best of the Maldives: Blind Dining – Park Hyatt Hadahaa

Park Hyatt Hadahaa - blind dining

The Maldives is a sense-sation for all the senses – the sun warmed sea breeze on your skin, the salty fragrance of fresh ocean air, the sumptuous delicacies of the resort gourmet kitchens, the sounds of the water gently licking the shoreline.

The sense most celebrated here on Maldives Compete has to be sight though. With all our imagery of fashionista guests to resorts highlights, I suspect the site has more Maldives pictures than any other website (Maldives Complete features over 7,000 photos). Today is World Eye Sight Day celebrating the sense of sight and raising appreciation for its gift as well as the issues many can grapple with losing it.

To experience a world without sight, Park Hyatt Hadahaa serve up the unique adventure of ‘blind dining’…

Unique ‘blind’ private dinner: an exceptional three-course feast, crafted with your favorite ingredients, to be enjoyed like never before as you are blindfolded to heighten the senses. Discover unadulterated taste and texture in your delightful dishes, while listening to the lapping of the waves and feeling the gentle breeze on your skin and the sand between your toes. Price – $450 per couple.”

We ourselves enjoyed blind dining here in London at the pioneer of this concept – Dans Le Noir. Hadahaa uses blindfolds, but at Dans Le Noir, the dining room is set in pitch black darkness. The first question is how do the waiters serve you…and of course the obvious answer is – they are all blind! First of all, there is a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability at first, but you do acclimate soon enough. And then it is a lesson in simple manoeuvrability – finding your glass, your fork, your food, your mouth!

But the cross-modal neuroplasty kicks in. Well, not that quickly. The whole notion that people impaired of one sense compensate with extra capability in others is well documented in neurology (but the process does take a bit longer than an evening meal – for a great overview, I recommend Scientific American’s article “Super Powers for the Blind and Deaf – The brain rewires itself to boost the remaining senses”).

More simply, the removed distraction of one sense, especially one so dominant in our lives, allows us to focus more intently on the others. Like taste and aroma. One of the courses at the mythic Fat Duck (voted one of the top restaurants in the world) is served with your eye shut to focus on both the food as well as a spritz of scent they spray when you take a bite to complement the taste. But the all-time iconic depiction of such blind-folded erotic delectation is the kitchen scene in the film 9 ½ Weeks.

If all this talk has made you appreciate your vision just a bit more, in the spirit of the day, I would encourage you to visit Naomi Riches MBE “Great Thames Row”. Just a few weeks ago, this vision impaired Paralympic champion (who rows at my Marlow Rowing Club) rowed the entire 165 miles of our own local coastline, the Thames River. She achieved the Guinness World Record for a woman completing the odyssey in 48 hours to raise fund for her charity In-Vision.

Dans Le Bleu!

Best of the Maldives: Fresh Crisps – Equator Village

Equator Village - fresh crisps

Some people (and resorts) think that the big, prominent, showy parts of the property are what define its “star quality (eg. 4-star, 5-star, super 5-star+). The welcome jetty, the extravagant ingredients on the menu, the ubiquitous service. But there are a number of small acid-tests which distinguish the quality of the resort just as much. Three of our favourites are…

· Pina Colada Test – This drink is perhaps the definitive tropical cocktail. It is just complicated enough in its recipe that it’s quality and style varies enormously from resort to resort. In my annual tour report on the Maldives Trip Advisor Forum, a short one sentence assessment of the pina colada (I have one at every resort) speaks volumes about the resort’s attention to detail and care for such an iconic part of the sunny holiday experience.

· Beach Furniture – For starters, plastic versus wood is what separates the 4-stars from the 5-stars. Don’t even think about calling yourself a 5-star if you are going to put out plastic furniture. And the super 5-star+ resorts go a step further special design, cushioning or creative placement (like in the pool).

· Cocktail Snacks – The basic here is the crisps/potato chips and nuts which is typical 4-star fare. The 5-stars will go for olives and maybe some flavoured snacks like a Bombay Mix. And the super 5-star+ resorts will provide specially prepared gourmet nibbles.

It was given this context that we were so pleasantly surprised by one of the most more-ish pool snacks ever served to us in the Maldives was at what is probably the lowest cost, full-fledged resort in the Maldives – Equator Village. They make freshly cooked potato chips. And they are delicious. Crispy and hot. Admittedly, they are not complimentary (they cost $5), but it is money worth spending for an accompaniment to your sundowner cocktail.

Best resort for Gary Lineker!