My Maldives – a top 10 culinary bucket list
It’s taken me 14 years of living in the desert to visit paradise, and I’ve no idea why. When I worked for Hilton, the Conrad with its undersea restaurant was a short staff rate away, but I still didn’t go. Crazy given how astronomically expensive these resorts are, well the luxurious lot FooDiva prefers. Now that I’ve flown to one of the most southernmost atolls, 150 kilometres north of the equator to the heavenly Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives, I’ll be back. And just in case you’re wondering why, here’s FooDiva’s top ten bucket list, culinary-centric of course.
1. Maldivian yellowfin tuna – it’s hard to eat any other tuna (well apart from the prized Japanese toro fatty belly) once you’ve tasted this handline-caught sustainable fish from the Maldivian Indian Ocean. Super tender and melt-in-the-mouth, order it as rather thinly sliced sashimi (not the chunks we get here), slithers of carpaccio, lightly seared, or even a curry – but for the latter I prefer local reef fish, i.e. whatever’s on special that day. And that’s just a couple of ingredients out of the 38 per cent sourced locally. Here in Dubai, restaurants tend to serve tuna from the UAE or Philippines (not much of the latter lately though) but I buy my Maldivian tuna fresh from Market & Platters to make as a tartare.
2. Local or organic five-a-day – much of the produce is either local and/or organically sourced in line with Six Senses’ sustainable ethos. There’s a huge herb garden with 15 varieties including dill, basil (Thai plus Italian red and green), mint, parsley and chillies. Mung bean sprouts, spring onions and spinach together with passion fruit, banana, papaya and sugar cane are all grown on the island. Fresh fruit platters and juices every day for brekkie.
3. Free ice cream – yes you read right – free, unlimited ice cream and sorbet day and night seven days a week – along with candy, jelly bellies included. And there’s 40 flavours to choose from including plenty of savoury options for those like moi without much of a sweet tooth.
4. Bubbles with dolphins – dolphins swim in full view of the shoreline, but make time for a sunset cruise to watch them jump, flip and twirl with a glass or two of prosecco. FooDiva with the prosecco not them ;). Compared to Musandam, expect to see many more.
5. Cocktail o’clock over-water – sip your cocktail of choice suspended on an over-water hammock – in fact stay there all day. Try the lethal arrack-based Laamu Rocks passion fruit number or a lychee daiquiri.
6. Room service with a view – a room with a view is easy to get anywhere in the Maldives, but order room service from an ocean-fronted beach villa ensconced in a lounger and you get your own private beach.
7. Charcuterie and cheese in the wine tower – pop into Altitude, the over-water spun glass 400-strong wine tower for a platter of European charcuterie and cheese over brekkie or lunch for that matter.
8. Vietnamese lunch fare – cross over a suspended bridge to ocean-view Leaf restaurant and perch above the organic garden for a Vietnamese lunch fest – courtesy of chefs from Vietnam. Just as good as the real deal – try the banh xeo, those moreish crispy fluffy eggy rice pancakes.
9. Eat tatami-style – have a lie down on tatami seating in Japanese restaurant Zen and tuna sashimi aside, gobble down okonomiyaki, one of my fave street food dishes – a savoury pancake sprinkled with smoked reef fish bonito flakes. Yes I’ve got a thing for pancakes. The French crepes at breakfast are a winner too.
10. Cycle it all off – it’s eat, swim and ride here with your own private bicycle (golf buggies are reserved for luggage) to take you to and from your villa day and night. Well at least we worked off all the drinking and dining. And on that note…where to dine and what to drink – the only decisions you need to take throughout your stay.
Service from the rather clever Maldivian staff or ‘hosts’ as Six Senses prefers, is intuitive and attentive without being intrusive including our GEM ‘guest experience manager’ aka personal butler who takes care of your every whim – ours, Auzam, was truly a gem. Oh and if you can, plan your stay to include a Tuesday evening when the GM hosts sunset cocktails on the beach. Six Senses often flies in celeb chefs like Phil Howard of Michelin-starred The Square, Ledbury and Kitchen W8 fame who is currently in situ, so do ask for the guest chef schedule in advance.
WEATHER: The best time to visit the southern atoll of the Maldives if you’d like to avoid rain is November to April.
SLEEP: For the next month (before Christmas kicks in) room rates at Six Senses Laamu start at US$810 for a lagoon water villa for two people, plus 10% service charge, 8% GST and a government bed tax of US$8 per person per night. Our ocean beach villa is priced at US$980, but I nabbed a media rate (with no obligation to write about my visit). We stayed four nights – I’d recommend a week if your wallet allows. Sadly no in-villa pools or anywhere on the island for that matter – not very sustainable I guess – but then again you do have the wide ocean on your doorstep.
FLY: We flew from Dubai to the Maldivian capital Male with Fly Dubai (considerably cheaper than Emirates) – a five-hour direct flight. From Male, Six Senses organises a 45-minute domestic flight (not seaplane as they don’t yet have a docking station – yes that’s a bit of a bummer) to Laamu Kadhdhoo airport for US$385 + 18% tax and onwards to the resort via speedboat in 30 minutes or so. Beware some of the domestic flights stop off at another local airport en route, which can extend your journey by an hour.
Note; the Maldives is a Muslim country and does not permit the import of booze, duty free included, so our champagne and cocktail bill in the resort was rather huge. But on the upside, plenty of pork abounds!
Question is, which Maldivian resort to escape to next? Any recommendations?