Looking for some great dining options in Vanuatu? Here are four options definitely worth trying.
Degustation at Francesca’s
A degustation by definition is high culinary art and good company and being a rather frequent visitor to Francesca’s Shanti at Havannah, my expectations for culinary art were already high. What surprised me was how personal Francesca made the experience.
All seven courses were personally introduced to each diner and included a charming tale of the dish’s history. Lunch started with ‘Malmaraitati’ which translates to ‘Unhappily married’. A bean soup with handmade tortellini and an accompanying story about an unhappy bride tempted by another in Francesca’s home town of Bologna. The soup was served with a 2010 Banrock Station White Shiraz that perfectly balanced the richness of the soup. Next we were offered Parmigiana di Melanzane con de Streghe – eggplant parmigiana with ‘witches bread’ and veal roast. This was a meal in itself. A matching Sauvignon blanc from NZ and another story about the history of the witches bread followed.
Two courses down and a palate cleanser was served, a delicious vodka lemon sorbet. Next came the tortellini ‘Venus’s navel’ served in a delicious broth and tagiatelle bolognese. Just when you thought you could eat no more, a delicious meatloaf with housemade ricotta followed with rare roast beef in a smooth red wine reduction. Francesca chose matching wines for each course, some imported directly from Italy, others sourced from Vila Distribution. Dessert was a jam tart and rice cake with ice cream which really was divine and nothing like the dried snack I was expecting.
The degustation lunch at Francesca’s is far more than great food and wine. It is a story time, an education and a fabulous day out. Held every Thursday at 12.30pm, the seven course lunch including five matching wines is excellent value at 10,500vt per person, however bookings are essential. Call Francesca on 24 733 to reserve your table. Transfers from town are available.
Brewery Bar and Restaurant
In the middle of town, opposite the Grand Hotel you’ll find the Brewery, which in summertime is shrouded in cooling mist pumped from the balcony perimeter. There’s nothing deceptive about the name as this is the home of Nambawan Beer, one of Vanuatu’s prime handcrafted brews.
Under the guidance of master brewer Henry Peeters, Nambawan produces Bitter, Draught, Porter and Gold beers along with an apple cider. The beers are all chemical and preservative-free and bottled in fresh new bottles to ensure the highest quality. The brewery is located above the restaurant and there are regular tours for those wanting to get up close to the action.
The street level restaurant and bar has both indoor and outdoor seating and a series of TV screens for sports fans. The food is good hearty everyday fare with the added bonus of an all-day breakfast (VT1300), which is always a civilised option for late risers or all-day bacon and egg aficionados. The list of daily specials complements an extensive menu of regulars and is always good value, for instance the chilli con carne at VT1500 is a generous mound of chopped beef accompanied by rice. There’s a list of eleven pizzas as well as an à la carte selection which includes fish and chips, chilli chicken and prawns with Singapore noodles, falafel, beef salad, French onion soup, and lamb salad.
The prices range from VT1000 to VT2600 while pints of beer are from VT700, so very affordable. The Brewery has also just opened a new Mexican diner upstairs to add to the temptation and given the quality of their nachos and enchiladas they are well qualified in this ethnic niche. Just walk in, or for bookings phone: 28 328.
Gorgeous ocean views, fast and friendly service and the best cuts of Vanuatu beef available are all guaranteed at Stonegrill in Port Vila.
Located on the ridge overlooking Pango’s gorgeous coastline, Stonegrill is dining with a difference – you do the cooking. Not to be confused with a cooking school – you’re not required to leave your chair but, rather a novel way of serving food on a stone plate that puts you in charge of how well done you like your meat.
Opened less than a year, Stonegrill already has a five star rating on Trip Advisor and with good reason. An extensive menu offers fresh lobster and prawns, fish, chicken breast, Vanuatu eye fillet, scotch fillet, t-bone and sirloin steak. And you don’t have to cook – there are plenty of other options on the extensive menu that require nothing of you – just sit back, enjoy the view, the wine and the delicious food.
Wild Ginger at Le Lagon
Executive chef Brian Topham is well acquainted with the food of the Pacific due to his previous posting in Fiji where he took a great interest in training the local talent. This is exactly what he has been doing at Warwick Le Lagon and declares that he isn’t one of those chefs that ‘arrive, put on the big hat and don’t share’. He believes his restaurants are only as good as his staff and wants to ensure that he passes on all the knowledge he can as their boss. His mantra is ‘education, communication, action’ and he’s on the case in his quest to lift standards and consistency.
Wild Ginger has long enjoyed a reputation for fine Asian-influenced food and the central teppanyaki station is a great place to sit and watch the theatre as his team toss, flip and sauté the many fresh ingredients that go into the delicious range of dishes they produce. This includes, lobster, salmon, chicken, prawns, beef and vegetables and a variety of combinations of all these.
Entrées include ‘nature’s superfood’ edamame beans to be eaten straight from the pod, coconut shrimp, salt and pepper tofu or squid, Vietnamese rice paper prawn rolls and Tom Yum soup a selection that ranges across South East Asia. Also from the à la carte menu there is a choice of a seafood grill or a Thai red duck curry among others. There’s also a selection of sushi and a tempting dessert list with several exotic ice creams and a crème brûlée.
The restaurant location within the spectacular grounds of the resort is in prime position with views over Erakor Lagoon to Erakor Island and beyond and has its own outdoor deck reached through the wall of bi-fold doors that keep the place breezily cool at all times. For bookings call 22 313.