Bit about Mauritius

Mauritius is such a wonderful country and after spending a month and a half there, I feel obliged to share some of my impressions of that little piece of tropics.

Mark Twain said that Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Mauritius is pretty tiny for all the diversity it encompasses, measuring just 2040 square kilometres, it is 633 square kilometres smaller than Estonia’s biggest island Saaremaa.  It’s not big.

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It most likely has most diversity and multiculturalism squeezed together per square kilometre than you’d see anywhere else in the world. Christians, Hindus and Muslims all living side by side celebrating their religion and customs (seems that they also get more public holidays thanks to that).

For example, one can drive past a huge Lord Shiva statue in the middle of the island at Ganga Talao and get their new car blessed by the Hindu priest.

The landscape is mainly dominated by sugar cane fields with mountains peaking on the background. Sugar cane field is also home for strange looking hedgehogs. Mauritian hedgehogs look like they’ve had some of their spikes brushed off, so you could almost mistake them for rats. Except they’re not, they’re hedgehogs and apparently they get eaten by locals.

Another strange animal, that also gets eaten, is the bat. However, they are very difficult to clean, so they get eaten less often. Mauritian bats look like large ravens from afar and they silently yet gracefully fly across the skies at night. Nevertheless, what they also do, is eat all the fruit that you can imagine. Locals are really struggling with finding their mangos, lychees, bananas and longans eaten by the bats. This in turn rockets up the fruit prices. It all happened when the government banned the killing of bats as one of the smaller bats in Mauritius is near extinction. It didn’t consider however, that the big bats were happily breeding. I heard locals say that the government now has special stations, where people can bring the bats they shot to save the fruit and get a reward.

And then there is the beach. Blue water, soft sand, some corals and quite a few sea urchins. You know, the kind of view that just hypnotises you and you feel that you are on a proper holiday. And so, that is also where you’d find most of the tourists and I do not blame them.

 

Lunch at Ilot Mangenie, Mauritius

I only came to appreciate being by the seaside in Mauritius after a one day tour across the island in an air conditioned car. What is even better is lunching by the water, only to jump into the sea between courses.

And yes;that is exactly what we did on Ilot Mangenie. Part of Touessrok hotel, it serves fantastic lunch on a private island. Reachable either by transfer from the hotel or by water taxi.

The guests receive a warm welcome upon arrival and the tables are laid out right in front of the sea, under the trees.

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The menu fits on one wooden tablet (made me think of Ed Milliband) and has some fantastic choices.

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I went for the palm heart and smoked Marlin salad as a starter, which is such a flagship dish in Mauritius. Something one must try. It was very tasty and artistically presented.

As a main I decided to go a bit meaty as it allowed me to change from lentils and rice. I had the steak with potatoes and gosh it was tasty.  However there was also the healthier fish of the day option. For some reason there was a very skinny dog who arrived near our table around the time we started to eat and as I could see that she was a nurturing mother of puppies, I did donate some of my food to her.

Which left enough space for the dessert and by recommendation, we had a round of banane flambรฉ. There was a good glug of rum in the dessert, again, very Mauritian.

The highlight for me was the decaf coffee. It has been so often, that I’ve been served with Nespresso or Nescafรฉ. So it was great to have a mug of real coffee.

And then, another dip into the sea whilst waiting for the water taxi to the hotel.
Couldn’t ask for a nicer day out.

 

Cafe des Arts, Trou d’eau Douce

Cafe des Arts is a restaurant hidden behind the streets of Trou d’eau Douce, located in an old sugar mill. Although there are plenty of signs in the village to the restaurant, it still feels slightly wrong to turn opposite direction from the sea to go for dinner. Especially during tropical summer. However, on arrival you’re welcomed with refreshing towels to clean your hands and directed into an airy seating area overlooking the pool just outside the sugar mill. The atmosphere of the restaurant is something of it’s own. There’s fantastic background music to accompany the dinner and in fact the owner has compiled 12 Cafe des Arts soundtracks, some of which we happily walked away with. And most importantly, as it is called Cafe des Arts, there is a lot of art at the restaurant. In fact I could hardly see any empty spaces on the wall. The artwork is all done by Maniglier, who was the last student of Matisse.

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We ordered some pre-dinner mojitos and despite coming across very confidently of their cocktail making skills, we ended up receiving a bush of mint served in a wine glass with plenty of sugar yet no ice. Nevertheless the manager was very happy to tweak it for us until it became more mojito-like.

Whilst we familiarised ourselves with the menu, we were served with a plate of amuse bouche of shrimp, octopus, samosa and a pastry filled with gorgonzola.

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Amuse bouche devoured, cocktails finished, wines selected, we were guided upstairs to our table. 

  

Before the actual starter arrived, we were served with ravioli, to keep us going.  

 As a starter I chose the duet of fresh braised palm heart served with hollandaise sauce and tiger prawns as the palm heart is a sort of a delicacy and very typical to Mauritius. Although if you like foie gras, which I don’t, one of our party absolutely adored it.

 My main was a duck leg confit from Madagascar(?) served with a divine mushroom sauce.  

 Dessert of granny’s apple crumble was a bit of a let down, with the pastry being somewhat characterless. I suppose nothing can beat a hearty English pub crumble.  

We were offered very generous  glasses of Chamarel rum as digestives and as there’s was pleasant atmosphere, it was great to sit, relax and learn more on the background of the restaurant. The evening we went there, was relatively quiet, with only another party there aside from us. However, the peak period seems to be Christmas and New Year. The menu per person cost 2900 Mauritian rupees (approx. ยฃ56) or 3600 if you’re having lobster, plus drinks, which in Mauritian terms is quite pricey. Therefore I’d recommend going there as special treat and if you’re looking for something different. It should also be heavenly for any art lover and although being relatively sophisticated, remember it’s still an old sugar mill and there are some geckos or even little mice running about.