Most people stick to the buffet table of their resort on their trip to Mauritius. The Indian Ocean island, though small, has an incredible food culture and diversity of dishes, which you will discover when you leave the walls of your beachside resort. The best place to get into Mauritian food is at roadside stalls, which sell everything from cut fruit bagged in vinegar in chilli, to curries, briyanis and samoosas.
However, Mauritius also has many fantastic restaurants that don’t just serve up tourist-friendly bland Mediterranean food. Before I went on a gastro-trip to Mauritius I asked locals, expats and the Twittersphere which restaurants to go to – in order to avoid the guide book approved ones.
Here are my favourite restaurants (as well as some favourites recommended by locals) in Mauritius that offer a taste of the island’s varied and multi-cultural cuisine: Chinese, Indian, Creole and French.
A lunch at Escale Creole should be on your list of ‘foodie’ things to do in Mauritius. Hosts Marie Christine Forget and her mother Majo (pictured below) are charming, friendly and more than willing to chat about Creole cuisine – giving you a wonderful insight into Mauritian culture and cooking, while you tuck into a table of authentic Creole dishes. Expect things like rougaille saucisse (a typical stew made with sausages), chicken curry (get a recipe for Escale Creole’s chicken curry here), salted fish, octopus curry and various stewed vegetables, pickles and atchars. The meal is finished off with tasty sweet treats, made with some of Escale Creole’s garden’s fruits – think banana cake, glace papaya and coconut cakes (get a recipe for Escale Creole’s amazing coconut cakes here), as well as a shot of their family-recipe rhum arrange (infused rum).
You need to book in advance to eat lunch at Escale Creole (the restaurant doesn’t serve dinner). Escale Creole is located in Moka (and is well signposted from the main road), which is a short drive from Port Louis.
Tel +230-433-1641, email email@example.com, www.escalecreole.net
Chez Rosy le Gris Gris
In the far south of the island, near to Gris Gris beach in Souillac, you’ll find Chez Rosy le Gris Gris, a colourful, friendly eatery that serves Mauritian Creole and Chinese food. It’s famed for its octopus vindaye (a typical Creole dish made with mustard and curry leaves). Owner and chef Rosy Gounden’s banana flambee is also one of the most popular dishes on the menu – cooked the Creole way with spices, it’s worth the trek out to Souillac.
Mauritian seafood restaurants
Chez Tino has a great location near the Trou D’eau Douce public beach (on the east coast of the island). Try and get a table upstairs on the balcony – with a great view of the bay. Chez Tino is known for its Mauritian seafood dishes – such as grilled fish and calamari.
An alternative to the beach scene (although it’s hard to get tired of looking out at turquoise water and brochure-pretty beaches), Resto Sept is on a quiet road near Trou d’eau Douce. It’s an unpretentious restaurant that serves snacky food such as baguettes, along with Creole and Chinese dishes – although the best food on the menu are the Mauritian-style seafood dishes. I can recommend the Indian-style calamari with green sauce (in the photo below), and the calamari rougaille.
Coolen Chez Ram Restaurant
This Indian restaurant in Grand Baie is recommended by locals and tourists alike for its Mauritian seafood dishes – in particular, the lobsters, red snapper and crab. Eaters rave about the friendly service and chatty owner, as well as the unpretentious, friendly atmosphere.
Chinese and Franco-Mauritian seafood
Located amongst fields of cane a short drive away from Flic en Flac (on the west coast of Mauritius), Domaine Anna is a large restaurant that caters as well for wedding parties as it does for intimate tables of two. It’s a particularly romantic setting at night, with lanterns and candles flickering light across the ponds surrounding the tables. Domaine Anna is known for its Chinese and Mauritian seafood dishes, which are fantastic. I can recommend the tuna carpaccio, sizzling calamari in black pepper and the camarons (freshwater prawns) cooked in rum-Chinese barbecue sauce – but I’m sure the other dishes on the menu are just as good (the lobster flambeed in whisky sounded delicious).
For the best dim sum this side of Hong Kong, head to First Restaurant, in the Port Louis CBD, near to China Town. This Cantonese restaurant is filled with Chinese diners (always a good sign I reckon) and offers an extensive menu of Cantonese dishes, with Mauritian twists (such as the addition of sea cucumbers) as well as changing daily specials of dim sum. It’s particularly busy on Sundays for lunch so book ahead.
First Restaurant is on the corner Royal and Corderie Streets, Port Louis, tel +230-212-0685
This restaurant gets the thumbs up from almost any local who likes Chinese food. Located in Quatre-Bornes, in the centre of the island, it serves up typical Chinese snacks.
‘With two branches, in Vacoas and Flic-en-Flac, Ah Yoon is a popular meet-and-eat place for teenagers after school. The place is always packed since the cheap noodle dishes and meatballs are almost a staple diet for teenagers (and budget-conscious travellers) on a tight budget’ says Mauritian ex-pat Nakkiran Sunassee.
Locals recommend Happy Rajah in Quatre-Bornes for its fantastic Indian-Mauritian food, and in particular – the vindaloo and fish dishes. Happy Rajah also gets the thumbs up for friendly service and its well-priced menu.
Gastronomic Mauritian food
La Table du Chateau
On the grounds of the magificently restored Chateau Labourdonnais in Mapou, La Table du Chateau is one of Mauritius’ best fine dining restaurants outside of a resort. Take in the glorious views of the chateau as you feast on simple but elegant dishes (with a touch of Mediterranean flavour) such as tandoori prawns with minted cucumber, yoghurt and palm heart salad, lamb curry with roasted almond and mango atchar, and crispy duck leg with breadfruit gratin. Chef Fabio de Poli makes a special effort to source the best ingredients he can find on the island – often unusual ones such as coconut heart (which he serves with sour cream and pan-fried scallops). I had the best creme brulee of my life here – made with rare Tahitian vanilla which is only grown on the Labourdonnais estate and in Tahiti. After lunch do a rum tasting – the rhum arranges here are particularly good.
Chamarel Restaurant must have one of the best views on the island: an expansive panorama of the south west coast from its perch high up in Chamarel (near the 7-coloured earth – bizarrely, a big tourist attraction in Mauritius – which you advised to skip – it’s nothing but a glorified sandpit). The restaurant offers typical Mauritian dishes such as octopus curry with green papaya and coconut chutney and dorado vindaye with Creole rice, chutney and pickles. My favourites were the cassava goujons (deep fried sticks of cassava – perfect Mauritian tapas) and farata topped with bredes (steamed greens), tomato and mozzarella – the Mauritian version of pizza!)
L’Alchimiste Restaurant at Rhumerie du Chamarel (just outside of Chamarel) has fabulous rum dishes, made with the estate’s award-winning rums. There’s wild boar braised with rum and served with yam puree, chicken-and-rum curry and deliciously decadent moelleux chocolate cake infused with rum.
Tel +230-483-7980, www.rhumeriedechamarel.com
Maison Eureka is a glorious old plantation owner’s mansion in a lovely, quiet part of Moka surrounded by trees. Eat lunch or dinner on the veranda looking out over the tropical garden. Each day there’s a different menu that features authentic Mauritian cuisine, such as chicken curry with peanut rougaille (a tangy red peanut sauce), pickles and rice.
Best dholl puris
Dewa & Sons
If Mauritius had a national dish, dholl puris (dhal puris) would probably be it. Dewa & Sons, an unassuming little restaurant and ajoined sweet/cooldrink shop, makes what everyone on the island agrees to be the best dholl puris. Drive to Rose Hill (a small town near to Port Louis) and then ask locals for directions to Dewa – everyone will know it. Stand in the queue and get your pair of dholl puris (for Rs40 – about R10), which you can eat on the plastic tables and chairs on the veranda.
‘What makes Dewa’s so inviting is that one can place an order for dholl puris for overseas travel a couple of days before and they will pack them appropriately to last a couple of weeks when you get to your destination,’ says Mauritian ex-pat (and dholl puri-craver) Nakkiran Sunassee.
Photos by Russell Smith www.russellsmith.co.za
Have I left any great Mauritian restaurants off this list?