Vanuatu’s largest city and capital may be known for its beautiful deserted beaches, waterfall abseiling and cultural villages, but what about food?
Port Vila’s growing culinary scene is made up of a mix of Asian, French and Melanesian influences and it’s attracting the attention of travellers and foodies alike.
Here are some of the best places to eat when in town.
It’s the newest and hippest place in Port Vila and it draws in the expats as well as locals. This waterside al fresco restaurant and bar is a popular dining and drinking spot any night of the week. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and the guests aren’t afraid to get up and dish out some lively dance moves. You can lounge around drinking cocktails under starry skies and catch the fire show out on the deck on certain nights of the week. Don’t leave here without trying the menu; it’s one of the best foodie spots in Port Vila. The grilled pepper steak is arguably the best slice of beef you can get in town.
Can’t miss: Watching the sunset from the comfy lounges out on the deck.
Au Fare, Lini Highway, Melcoffee, Fatumaru Bay, Port Vila. Open from 9am to 11pm, closed Sunday night and Tuesday. Phone +678 25580. Bookings are recommended especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Au Peche Mignon
Its pastry and sweet delights are the best in town but you need to turn up relatively early if you want a hazelnut croissant or any croissant really – they sell out! If you missed out on a croissant, why not try one of their custard tarts, vanilla slices or decadent caramel and chocolate squares. There are also pies, quiches and sausages rolls for those who prefer a savoury breakfast or snack. Located along the main strip in town, this popular breakfast and brunch spot is always busy. It’s also a great spot to drop by and pick up some snacks before you head out on a road trip around Efate.
Can’t miss: The croissants (almond, plain or chocolate) are so popular they sell out before mid morning. If your heart is set on a croissant for breakfast, then you better wake up early or make a booking for a late pick-up.
Au Peche Mignon, Lini Hwy, Port Vila. Opening from 6am to 6pm. Phone +678 27271;
The Brewery Bar & Restaurant
Located in the centre of town, The Brewery Bar & Restaurant is the perfect spot for a beer and a quick bite to eat. The menu offers no-fuss good food from pizzas to pastas, salads and burgers with a decent selection of beer to try. The best thing is the location – it’s in the heart of town but you can still enjoy a meal and drink away from the bustle of people and cars (if you choose to sit indoors). But if you opt for the front porch area, you can observe the pace that is island life.
Can’t miss: The beers.
The Brewery Bar & Restaurant, Kumul Highway, opposite The Grand Hotel, Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu. Phone +678 28328.
Open since 1973, this French restaurant claims to not have changed its menu in 25 years. The menu is vast and very French with grilled steaks, prawns flambe, coconut crabs, lobsters, wild pigeons and flying foxes (this might be more Vanuatu than French). No matter what your choice of meal, the sauces that accompany are rich, creamy and indeed very French. And what is a French restaurant if it didn’t have escargot and vino? The best way to assess how French the food is here? Well, just take a look at the large group of Frenchies on the next table over. Oui, c’est vrai.
Can’t miss: The flying fox – it’s a bucket list thing.
L’Houstalet Restaurant, route du lagon, Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu. Phone +678 22303.
The Watermark Restaurant
For a gourmet food experience of the local kind, Iririki resort’s Real Pasifik Banquet offers a Melanesian-inspired menu that consists of traditional Vanuatu dishes including lap lap, a local dish made from fish and cooked in the earth, a riverfern and nafara salad, a salad of local greens and nuts. The menu is the food inspiration of award-winning New Zealand celebrity chef Robert Oliver, who visited Vanuatu’s local villages to learn about the key elements of traditional cooking. The menu consists of nine dishes, including poulet fish with banana lap lap, wild yam cooked in green bamboo, and tenderloin of Santo beef cooked on hot rocks. The Watermark Restaurant offers an intimate setting for dinner with the option of outdoor dining with water views. Perfect for a romantic dinner worthy of a romantic proposal.
Can’t miss: The Santo beef cooked on hot rocks. This prime cut of beef comes from Espiritu Santo, one of Vanuatu’s northern islands. It’s lean and full of flavour.
Watermark Restaurant at Iririki Island Resort, Lini Highway, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Open from 6:30pm to 10:00pm. Bookings are recommended. Phone +61 3 9326 6579;
(Iririki Island Resort is currently closed for renovations but it will be reopening May 2016.)
How the locals do it
Port Vila Market
It’s colourful, it’s busy and it’s we’re all the daily action is. From exotic fruits and fresh vegetables to vibrant flowers, Port Vila Market is the place to go for the best and freshest organic produce on the island. Buy a young coconut and the seller in her colourful Mother Hubbard dress will crack it open for you to drink on the spot. If you’re looking to grab a few snacks for the road, you can’t go past the wild raspberries (seasonal from September). They are divinely sweet and perfectly rouge in colour, and nothing like the ones we get at home. Warning: there is no haggling here. Prices are marked on bits of cardboard. You will also notice that no one hassles you to buy anything. Store owners sit cheerfully behind their walls of stacked produce offering assistance only when you ask. A stroll through Port Vila Market is a wonderful cultural and foodie experience that is a must-do in Port Vila.
Can’t miss: At the back of the markets there are a handful of food stalls where you can sit down, order a dish and watch the cook prepare it in a flurry.
Port Vila Market, Lini Highway, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Open from early Monday through to noon on Saturday.
The writer travelled courtesy of Vanuatu Tourism.
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