Savouring the Islands: A Gourmet Journey Through the Cuisine of Seychelles

Words: Crush

An island getaway is often hailed as the epitome of relaxation – where endless stretches of pristine white sand meet the warm embrace of turquoise waters. Luxury resorts extend seamlessly to lines of inviting chaise longues – the promise of hours basking in the sun, relaxing and swimming just the roll of a towel away. And, of course, plenty of delicious food and tropical drinks with tiny umbrellas are a given!

As a destination, Seychelles has so much to offer – exquisite luxury resorts, local cuisine that celebrates spice and seafood, and a year-round warm climate.

Welcome to the Seychelles

A recent jaunt around the islands of Seychelles was more than just a quest for the perfect tropical tan; fueled by an insatiable appetite for culinary exploration, we embarked on a five-day journey to savour the cuisine of Seychelles and experience what some of its top resorts had to offer.

Laïla Resort, a Marriot Group Hotel

Our inaugural night experienced a small hiccup with a delayed arrival, but the staff at Laïla Resort, a Marriot Group Hotel, warmly welcomed and accommodated our arrival, which was well past midnight local time.

We woke that morning to find ourselves in the lap of luxury – Laïla Resort is a vibrant and contemporary hotel set out in a village style. Is suited to the traveller looking for luxurious comfort in a convenient location, and is ideal for exploring Mahé.

We eagerly anticipated a day filled with exploring the island, and once ready to roll, we headed down to have breakfast – a delightful buffet featuring an array of pastries, cured meats, cheeses, and fresh juices.

Fully sated, we ventured out, ready to confront the island heat that awaited us – admittedly probably a little unready for just how intense the humidity would be!

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Before our taxi got out of second gear, the first beads of perspiration had already formed, but this was promptly forgotten as the first breathtaking beach came into view. It’s a surreal experience seeing your first Seychellois beach, and we had to stop the van and hop out to take a good look.

Mahé is the tropical island you see in glossy brochures; its exotic allure, white sands, and palm trees waving in the breeze reel you right in.

We resisted the temptation for a dip there and then – we had things to see and do! We clambered back into our taxi bound for Victoria, one of the world’s smallest capitals.

As our guide Nicholas navigated the narrow, winding roads, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of slight disorientation amidst the steep, inland granite mountains covered in thick tropical jungles – such a juxtaposition to the Cape landscape back home.

Mahé is the tropical island you see in glossy brochures; its exotic allure, white sands, and palm trees waving in the breeze reel you right in. This was all in stark contrast to our previous evening’s travel challenges and the formalities of the airport – the woes of travel troubles were quickly forgotten though. Interestingly, the airport was only opened in 1972; before this, there would have been far fewer of the tourists we see bustling around the island today.

The Rich History of Seychelles

Colonial echoes reverberate in and around Victoria, Seychelles’ capital city. The famous Victoria Clock Tower, or as it is better known in Creole, Lorloz, is a mini replica of Big Ben, erected in honour of Queen Victoria.

The Supreme Court building, now the National History Museum, and a Bust of Pierre Poivre Statue, showcase the Seychelles’ colonial heritage. Pierre Poivre was the French naturalist responsible for bringing cinnamon to the Seychelles, where previously, it was a closely guarded treasure of the Dutch East India Company.

Amidst historical monuments, the city centre bustles with life, featuring small retail outlets, bakeries, restaurants, and a tapestry of religious buildings. Eighty percent of Seychellois people are Catholic but you will notice the South Indian Hindu Temple, with its multi-coloured rainbow of soft pastel hues stands proud – a nod to the multi-cultural acceptance on the Seychelles islands.

To Market We Go

At the heart of it all, the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market offered a glimpse into local life, where the island’s culinary and cultural pulse beat vibrantly.

Amidst the heat and humidity, muscular fishmongers skillfully prepared their catches, surrounded by eager sea birds vying for scraps. Spices and colourful fruit-and-vegetable-adorned stalls provide tourists and locals alike a shared experience of authentic island life and a glimpse into the local reliance on the bounties of the sea.

Venturing into the central mountains of Mahé, a winding drive unveiled breathtaking views of the azure ocean from all angles. Numerous hiking trails fork off the road and into the tropical forests with their giant and centuries-old vegetation.

At the peak of San Soucis mountain, Mission Lodge, originally named Venn’s Town, offered historical significance amidst ancient trees and ruins. It was the perfect moment for a reflective pause, with its panoramic views of the west coast of Mahé.

The journey continued to the Tea Factory, offering not only more incredible views but also a glimpse into a working tea factory. The quaint tea shop/restaurant provided a quiet interlude to our exploration.

Constance Ephelia Resort

Descending to Constance Ephelia Resort, we were enveloped in supreme luxury, and the relatively tough decision of whether to go to the North or South beach. Both are world-class beaches and are a constant source of debate as to which is better.

The resort is the quintessential island dream, from sun loungers nestled in the shade of exotic trees to sand-floored cocktail bars. Taxied golf buggies became our essential mode of transport as we explored the large resort, winding through protected mangrove forests, keeping an eye out for the elusive turtle and immersing ourselves in this special part of nature.

The resort is the quintessential island dream, from sun loungers nestled in the shade of exotic trees to sand-floored cocktail bars.

Dining at Constance Ephelia

Constance Ephelia caters to all tastes with six restaurants on the resort premises – everything from casual Mediterranean dining at Helios (a good choice for lunch), accompanied by an ice-cold local Seybrew beer. Adam and Eve Bar offers Asian cuisine, and Zee Bar is your go-to beachside cocktail bar. We were lucky enough to enjoy sundowners and snacks on the beachfront here.

An evening at Cyann, the resort’s fine dining restaurant, proved to be a culinary odyssey. General Manager, Stephane Duchenne, is passionate and French influences were evident, as we savoured local ingredients and flavours, brought together with European techniques.

The local octopus dish stood out, showcasing a delicate balance of fresh flavours and vibrant bursts with punchy sauce vierge. The risotto carnaroli ‘acquerello’ allo zafferano, crafted by their Italian chef, was a standout, highlighting the richness of aged acquerello rice.

The Constance group’s commitment to luxurious hospitality shone through, evident in the group’s vast, collective wine cellar boasting around 30,000 bottles selected from around the globe. Wines like Puligny-Montrachet, from the heartland of fine Chardonnay, complemented the fine dining experience.

The suites at Constance Ephelia are large and luxurious, with details like pillow menus and reusable glass bottles of complimentary mineral water – part of the resort’s commitment to the environment. The memory foam pillow definitely eased the after-effects of many glasses of fantastic French wine.

Morning brought a more casual affair at Corossol – a buffet-style restaurant, where nearly every culinary desire is met. Fresh fruits and pastries, and expertly prepared hot breakfasts are enjoyed in open-air dining areas, surrounded by cooling shallow infinity ponds.

Fab Fun in the Sun at Club Med

It was then time for some old-fashioned fun in the sun as we were headed over, by boat, to St Annes, home of Club Med resort. From the minute your toes touch the island sand, you are in for entertainment. Club Med offers it all – from beachside pools to kids’ clubs, water aerobics, Padel, tennis, Hobie-cat sailing, giant tortoises, late-night parties fuelled by local Takamaka rum, and impossibly low limbo dancing.

This was where we enjoyed some sublime beach and pool time. If you get tired of lying around, you can grab a snorkel and flippers; within a few kicks you will find yourself floating amongst crowds of exotic fish such as parrot, angel, and zebra – and if you’re really lucky, a turtle or two.

Hotel suites are stylish, spacious, and contemporary in design. Touches of bright modern colour add pizazz, and there are beautiful island views from the balconies.

Themed evenings are big at Club Med and the evening we were there was Creole. We enjoyed the unique experience of poolside Moutya music, brought to the islands by African slaves, which encompasses rhythmic drumming and lyrics that often speak of past injustices during slavery. In those days, music was a way of escaping the hardships of the day and would have been accompanied by rhythmic swaying and sensual dance, led by the local women.

Experiencing True Seychellois Cuisine at La Grand Trianon Marie-Antoinette

Our next destination was the famous La Grand Trianon Marie-Antoinette Restaurant on St Louis Hill, overlooking Victoria. A 50-year-old, three-generation, authentic Creole restaurant that is the epitome of the cuisine of Seychelles. Housed within a historic Creole home with a charming interior, tables of local businessmen mix in with tourists keen to get an authentic taste of Seychellois cuisine. If the walls could talk, they would tell you stories of the legend of the house, Kathleen Fonseka, who, with her broad and welcoming smile, built a legacy of serving generous local cuisine that her grandaughter still serves today.

The food is as authentic as it gets, and for a first-time visitor, it is recommended that you go for their signature board. Packed with a variety of exotic local dishes including fish curries, parrot fish fritters, octopus salad with fresh salsa, tuna steak with Creole salsa, and spicy chicken curry. Spice is part of life – most locals grow chillies in their home gardens, and it’s customary to not leave without tasting one.

Off to Explore Praslin

The next hop was to the island of Praslin, and then an hour by ferry to the Bay of St Anne. Admittedly, the swells of the Indian Ocean are not always for the faint of heart, but at the first sight of Praslin, you know it was well worth it.

Praslin seems like an even more exotic and larger-leafed tropical forest. The forests here are home to the unique Coco de Mer fruit, which is native to the Seychelles. Coco de Mer is seen as a treasure by most Seychellois, and it is illegal to take it off the island.

Constance Lemuria

We headed directly to Constance Lemuria, another incredible haven of luxury resort life. The dramatic natural wild vegetation is contrasted by the manicured resort lawns and the fairways of celebrated golf courses that stretch up through the mountainous tropical landscape.

Again, because of the sheer size of the resort, we were transported by buggy along elevated pathways that stretch over giant tortoises and to the main reception of the hotel, which is perched high on a hilltop.

A fun thing to note here is the unique ceremonial arrival – the sound of a large gong signals for the oversized door to magically open to reception. Water cascades over steps that take your eye in the direction of multiple luxurious pools and onto another breathtaking Seychellois beach view. This must be one of the most impressive locations of all the resorts we saw.

The Constance Lemuria suites are contemporary, mainly white with touches of ocean blue. The luxurious bathroom is connected to the bedroom via wooden shutters that can be opened to take in the spectacular island views from the balcony. This is a haven of comfort and luxury at the next level.

Dining at DIVA

DIVA is the dedicated fine dining restaurant of the Constance Lemuria resort. We were met by General Manager, Bruno Le Gac, a man passionately obsessed with luxury hospitality and fine food. We anticipated that we were in for a treat as Executive Chef, Jordi Vila, from Spain had worked under world-renowned chef, Ferran Adria, and hosted the famous chef at the restaurant too.

With the knowledgeable Bruno at our side, we went through a gastronomic adventure of the highest order, featuring tapas dishes of local fish tacos, crab, and cheese soufflé with a crunch. The highlight of this meal, however, was the yellowfin tuna avocado cannelloni, with a deliciously rich and decadent lobster bisque. Many of the dishes featured interesting techniques, combining textures with liquid or light foams, and playing with the contrast of hot and cold elements. Chef Vila has been at the helm for ten years and he is given the freedom to constantly experiment and tweak his menus.

The main dish of confit local red snapper (one of the chef’s favourites) was delicately dressed with a blood orange emulsion. Perfectly cooked and expertly paired with a 2018 Santenay Clos Des Hates Hubert Lamey. There are 10 sommeliers at this resort, so they take their wine seriously.

Bruno offered us a personal post-dinner tour of the cellar. As a South African, it was great to see South African wines lying side by side with some famous Burgundies. Winemakers like Adi Badenhorst, Duncan Savage, Chris and Andrea Mullineux, and Eben Sadie are held in highest regard.

On a morning tour of the estate, we visited The Nest restaurant, elevated on a rocky crag that overlooks one of the most beautiful beaches. Sadly, this restaurant was closed, so we were unable to experience the Creole menu, but there’s always next time!

Making Sushi in Seychelles

A fun offering at Constance Lemuria is sushi making on the beach – there are probably few places where you can enjoy this kind of unique experience with such a beautiful backdrop. And while technically not traditional Seychellois cuisine, this is one of the best ways to enjoy fresh-caught island fare at its best.

We got to work making our sushi using locally caught tuna, and then enjoyed it at a table near the beach, with an accompanying cocktail, of course.

The Sublime Savoy Hotel

Our final night was spent at the exclusive Savoy Hotel back on Mahé Island. This is a large and beautiful hotel, with comfortable rooms and all the amenities you could wish for. Most of the rooms are set around a large central pool. For the first time on our tour, we decided to test ordering in-room service, as the island had been hit with torrential rain and had some significant floods, so it was sadly recommended that we stay indoors.

Saying Goodbye to Seychelles

As a destination, Seychelles has so much to offer – exquisite luxury resorts, local cuisine that celebrates spice and seafood, and a year-round warm climate. People are friendly and hospitable, and astounding natural beauty is unparalleled. Island life is intoxicating and a Seychelles holiday is certainly a gift to all visitors – an unmatched experience of a lifetime that should be on your bucket list.

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