On a relaxing beach break, aside from a little exploring, the main focus of the day tends to be dining. Some of the best luxury resorts have moved away from the standard buffet restaurant, creating innovative culinary experiences. Audley specialists have suggested their top beach hotels which offer something different at meal times, from breakfast on a traditional dragon boat in Indonesia to the organic, farm-fresh ingredients of the Caribbean.
Shanti Maurice, Mauritius
On the relatively untouched southern coast of Mauritius, the chic Shanti Maurice is set in a private horseshoe-shaped cove with honey-shaded sand. Its dining is inspired by this cove, focusing on fresh local fish sourced straight from the sea. Their Fish Shack restaurant is a rustic gathering of reclaimed driftwood furniture set up on the sand. The menu depends on the previous nights catch, with tuna, lobster and sea bass grilled to order in front of you. Salads and sides are served on a washed-up boat, picked from the restaurants organic garden.
Prepared using traditional cooking techniques and recipes, the meals give you a taste of Mauritian culture, accompanied by rum from a local distillery and beer from the village brewery. To add to your experience, the resort also regularly invites a local elderly woman to the resort to prepare a traditional home-cooked meal, served family-style around one table in the hotels herb garden.
Velassaru, The Maldives
Candle-lit beachside dining is a possibility now at many beach hotels. None do it quite so well as the luxurious island resort of Velassaru in the Maldives. Aptly named Sand, their slick oceanfront restaurant has a simple layout of elegant tables, well-spaced for privacy and interspersed with candles. Set right on the waters edge, shoes are optional.
A hot stone grill and alfresco cooking stations enable you to watch your food being prepared – a modern fusion of Eastern, pan-Asian and continental dishes. The catch of the day sashimi served with passionfruit is a highlight, as well as the chefs own mojito sorbet recipe to finish. For a special occasion, book the private overwater pavilion.
Saman Villas, Sri Lanka
Jutting out on a rocky peninsula from the southwestern coastline of Sri Lanka, Saman Villas is a well-appointed 26 suite hotel. Its architecture is inspired by the graceful lines of Buddhist temples. The hotel takes advantage of its coastal location by offering private dining around the resort. Tables can be set up on the beach, by the pool or in the gardens, but the most dramatic setting is a terrace on the rocks.
Following a lit walkway, the small wooden terrace is discreetly built into the rocky coastline, with the waves crashing below. Tucked away from the hotel, youre left with an unspoiled view of the ocean and the beach stretching off to the side. The head chef has designed a Sri Lankan five-course tasting menu, an ideal way to try the local specialities of fish curry and spicy sambol, a chilli and coconut side.
Belle Mont Farm, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Located on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis, Belle Mont Farm hosts private guesthouses offering a typical Caribbean laid-back indulgence, with cuisine to match. Centred around an organic farm, its not surprising that food is a real focus – 90% of the hotels produce is grown on site, or from local farmers. Anything that cant be produced on site is ethically sourced.
You can take an early morning tour of the farms nursery with a farmer, followed by breakfast served under a 250 year old mango tree in the orchard. For dinner, try farm dining: right in the middle of the vegetable patches is a 6 m (20 ft) table seating up to 30 guests. Caribbean dishes, made from farm-fresh ingredients, are brought out on huge platters and passed from guest to guest. This sociable experience is a great way to relax into Caribbean life.
Cap Maison, St Lucia
Built in a former sugar plantation on the northern tip of St Lucia, Cap Maison is a boutique resort clustered atop a cliff overlooking its private cove. The hotels creative fusion of French and West Indian cooking has become so well known, its prompted them to create their own cookbook, Recipes from Saint Lucia.
The Rock Maison is the highlight, a private wooden deck built onto a shoal on the waters edge. Enjoy a sunset dinner here and your chilled champagne and canapes will be zip-lined down to you from the restaurant on the cliff above. Theyll even send down flowers for a special occasion. The spiny lobster is a speciality, as well as the seafood tower – a medley of the days catch. Book the experience for lunch, as you can slip into the seemingly purpose-built rock pool nearby.
Sat proudly on the northwest coast of Lombok, Tugu is a stylish resort with a focus on Indonesias heritage. Buildings are designed using local techniques, with a mix of Hindu-inspired art and Dutch colonial architecture. The dining options match this ethos, with a wonderful array of eclectic locations.
Breakfast can be enjoyed on the deck of a traditional dragon boat, watching the sun rise over the island. Private dining can be arranged on the roof of the restaurant, surrounded by ancient Hindu statues lit with oil lamps. For pure indulgence, the Moonlight Spa dinner experience begins with a beachside deep tissue massage followed by a secluded dinner on the beach under the stars.
Surrounded by virgin rainforest, Datai is a relaxed resort on Langkawi, off the west coast of Malaysia. The five restaurants are all well reputed, but their Pavilion Restaurant really makes the most of the hotels location. Built on 30 m (98 ft) stilts, the restaurant floats in the canopy of the rainforest, with views through the branches of the Andean Sea beyond. At night, the open-air pavilion is gently lit by candle light and you can hear the chatter of the wildlife that surrounds you.
Serving gourmet Thai cuisine, a few meals here are the perfect introduction to the Thai palette, with sour tom yum soups and richly spiced massaman curry. The mango sticky rice is a particularly good desert and the potent Ram Buh Thai cocktail is the hotels signature aperitif.
Gaya island Resort, Malaysia
Gaya island lies 15 minutes off the north coast of Malaysian Borneo. Guests can relax in wooden villas scattered across the west of the island. Part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park, its restaurant, Fishermans Cove, only uses fresh fish caught using sustainable practices. This alfresco fine dining restaurant features a sleek, modern design and attentive service, boasting views across to Mount Kinabalu.
The menu changes daily to fit with the days catch. Mud crab, red lobster and giant tiger prawns are regular options simply decide on your preferred method of cooking and sauce. Clams and local snails are local delicacies, along with delicious grilled fresh. Secluded private pavilions can be booked for special occasions.
Craig Burkinshaw is Founder of Audley Travel.
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