Fiji food styl1Fiji’s dining scene has improved in leaps and bounds, making it even more appealing as a tropical island getaway …

There was a time when Fiji’s food scene barely rated with travellers thanks to a poor reputation. Things have changed. Like a gangly teenager emerging from adolescence Fiji’s dining has come of age as a fine dining destination. It helps that Tourism Fiji is developing a strategy that supports the development of the local dining scene. Fiji’s rich multi-cultural diversity is what distinguishes the archipelago from other South Pacific destinations.

Here’s our pick of Fijian restaurants excelling at their craft.

Flying Fish, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau Island and Sheraton Resort Fiji, Tokoriki

Renowned chef and restaurateur, Peter Kuruvita brings his signature brand, Flying Fish, to the Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island. After successfully establishing Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar in Sydney, he replicated this successful model launching Flying Fish at Sheraton Fiji Resort eight years later.

Fiji flying fish

Located on the beach, Flying Fish Fiji features a menu that brings out the best in the delicious, abundant local Fijian produce. Rich, flavoursome seafood exudes freshness, particularly when accompanied by a spicy Sri Lankan sambal or elegant curry paste. From lightly seasoned school prawns tickled with salt, pepper and paprika to miso-dressed local mahi mahi garnished with wasabi and black sesame, Flying Fish Fiji’s signature fine dining style and unparalleled ingredients have kept visitors coming back and craving more for years.

Flying Fish Tokoriki is the long-awaited next step in the Flying Fish brand. With a similar menu of fresh Fijian seafood and the most delicious produce the islands have to offer. Kuruvati’s new restaurant is headed by talented chef Kim Brennan. Brennan’s enticing menu includes his signature dishes of Seared Yellow fin tuna, Sweet crackling pork and ruby grapefruit & black pepper caramel.

Fijiana, Likuliku Lagoon Resort

After taking over the reins from Brett Kryskow last year, New Zealand-born Executive Chef Ihaka Peri has enhanced Likuliku’s appeal for those with discerning palates seeking the finest culinary experiences.

Peri is driven by a vision to provide fresh creative menus using the finest local and international produce. Devising epicurean island menus that reveal simplicity blended with a unique contemporary flair, Peri is often found foraging in the vegetable and herb garden he established to bring fresh flavours and character to his dishes. General Manager Steve Anstey agrees with Peri’s direction, noting that the resort has seen an increase in guests he calls ‘paradise foodies’.

Kanavata, Nanuku Resort & Spa

The traditionally styled Club House with its colonnade of hand carved traditional Fijian posts is the hub of Nanuku Resort & Spa. Executive Chef Walther Whippy knows a thing or two when it comes to tantalising guest palettes, having honed his skills at some of Fiji’s finest five-star resorts. His style is a fabulous fusion of Fijian and international dishes combining the freshest local produce with imported delicacies. Favourites include local caught tuna sushi with wasabi served with eggplant tempura.

 

Fiji nanukuDon’t feel like sharing your breakfast time with others? No matter, just ask your butler to whip up eggs benedict or buttermilk pancakes layered with ladyfinger bananas, cinnamon and Fiji honey (or anything else that takes your fancy) in your villa’s own kitchen. Linger over coffee beside your private pool and you may not feel the need to venture any further. Though perhaps a hamper filled with lobster and champagne might entice you to leave your villa’s walls for a picnic on Nanuku Island.

Come dusk and pre-dinner drinks time, no self-respecting Nanuku sunset is complete without a legendary Nanuku caprioska chock full of local ingredients, served long and cool lagoon side.

Qamea Resort & Spa

With 40 hectares of lush tropical forest, landscaped gardens alongside a dreamy white sand beach, Qamea Resort lies in the shadows of dramatically jagged jungle-clad volcanic peaks. It’s a drop-dead gorgeous setting that comes close to a South Pacific idyll. Despite, or perhaps because of, its remote location (Qamea lies off the north east coast of Taveuni Island), Qamea attracts high calibre chefs through its international ‘Chef in Residence’ training program. Every 18 months or so an international chef works a three-month stint, training Qamea’s predominantly Fijian kitchen team under the command of Head Chef Laisa Loco Talemaisuva.

 

Fiji QameaOne of Qamea’s most popular dishes is its signature version of Kokoda. With base ingredients comprising coconut cream, limes, locally caught fish, subtle flavours are enhanced with the addition of chilli and green peppers. Supporting local growers and suppliers, pawpaw, pineapple, lime, banana, passionfruit, root vegetables and fish are sourced from nearby villagers wherever possible.

Yasawa Island Resort

Beach picnics are a specialty at Yasawa Island Resort & Spa. It’s no surprise really given that Yasawa Island beaches make regular red carpet appearances on ‘ Best Beaches’  lists across the globe.

Despite Yasawa’s remote location, Yasawa is an island of plenty. Fresh produce is delivered daily, whether wild caught seafood from village fishermen or harvested from nearby farmers. Executive Chef Talala Tupou’s contemporary cuisine highlights a changing menu that adapts to local supply utilising the freshest ingredients. Tupou promises a memorable culinary experience of extraordinary creations.

Whether dining in the open-sided restaurant with views across the sand to a watery horizon or on a private candlelit table for two on the beach beneath the star-filled sky, fine food amongst fine company sets the mood for romance. Or you could not bother going out at all, arranging for Tupou’s team to recreate your dinner choices, complete with complementary wines and champagne, in your own bure. But it’s not all about the food as it turns out: Barman Manasa is a skilled Mixologist, wielding his cocktail shaker like an artist.

Lali Sandbar Restaurant, Castaway Island

Executive Chef Lance Seeto has been castaway on Castaway Island for the past five years. Not that he’s counting. Seeto is a bit of a celebrity in these parts, being credited with single-handedly igniting a culinary revolution across Fiji. His empathy and respect of native culture hails from a multicultural life incorporating his PNG birthplace, Australian Chinese heritage and a life well lived. He brings this global perspective into his kitchen.

At Lali Sandbar Seeto’s 1808 Menu melds Chinese and Fijian cuisine, where food is considered as medicine for healthy living. Influenced by ‘superfoods’ sourced from organic farms throughout Fiji as well as whatever is in season in Castaway’s own herb farm, superfoods are chosen for their high nutrient-dense and medicinal properties. The multitude of awards Seeto has collected, as well as his standing as a sought after author and TV Chef, are proof that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. Think charred seawater and herb infused pork belly (infused for three days!) or spicy flame grilled beef rubbed with masala chai tea, green papaya salad, black onion jam, orange zest and toasted almonds.

CROSS Restaurant, Radisson Blu

Located beachside amongst waterfalls and landscaped gardens on Denarau Island, award-winning (finalist in AON Fiji Excellence in Tourism: Best Restaurant 2012 & 2013 after winning in 2011) CROSS Restaurant is firmly established as one of Fiji’s most talked about dining experiences. CROSS has emerged as an iconic Fiji restaurant, blending modern contemporary and international cuisines with Fijian flavours, talent and inspiration. Minimalist styling allows the gorgeous ocean backdrop to take centre stage.

Expect highlights such as tiger prawns, smoked salmon, papaya and coconut mousse fiesta. Or braised duck and truffle gnocchi with Yarra Valley jus. Jewels of the Sea is CROSS’ signature dish and is ideal for sharing with garlic grilled lobster, grilled prawns, smoked salmon, lemon wine poached crab, prawn and snipper claws, beer-battered mahi mahi, Singapore style clams and scallops accompanied with watercress salad and oven roasted potatoes. CROSS offers a distinctive and bold dining experience served up with cutting edge presentation and style. It’s Fiji yes, but not as you know it.

Nuku, Fiji Beach Resort & Spa

Fiji nukuSurrounded by water, Nuku restaurant and bar epitomises island style dining at the top of its game. Executive Chef New Zealander Clinton Webber’s style is influenced by years spent in Vietnam and Thailand. An innovative and ever-changing menu incorporates exceptional Fijian specialties such as Kokoda (pronounced ko-kon-da), which is fresh reef fish marinated in coconut cream, lemon, lime, chili and coriander. Other specialities like BBQ king prawns served with harissa paste and roasted capsicum lean towards international flavours.

It’s not usual to find Tapas style dining in Fiji. Unless you’re poolside at Nuku on a Monday night for their ‘Taste of Spain beneath the Frangipanis’ feast. Seafood paella and traditional calasparra rice takes full advantage of an abundance of locally caught seafood. As do their Seafood on the Beach platters, an indulgent seafood feast served island style (which means you can ditch the cutlery and get your hands dirty).

The Reef Restaurant, Vomo

Dining a la carte poolside on a candle-lit linen-draped table beneath coconut palms on the beach or at Rocks Bar, Vomo’s The Reef Restaurant offers signature dining wherever it takes your fancy. Want to watch the sunset until the very last sliver of pink leaves the sky? Book a private table on the beach, complete with your own butler and chef and you needn’t miss one moment of Fiji’s glorious evening light show.

Fiji VomoExecutive Chef Erwin takes his influence from stints in kitchens across the globe such as the Caribbean and the Phillipines. In recognition of his own worldy experience, he’s likely to serve up delights like Caribbean seafood curry, crisp coconut prawns, grilled walu fillet or tart pissaladierre. Local favourites like Kokoda and Lovo feast make regular appearances too.

Erwin has a penchant for desserts, utilising Fijian grown chocolate at any opportunity. Don’t be surprised to see a touch of indulgence (and a few added calories!) with dollops of house made ice-cream atop crisp banana spring rolls. Fortunately Vomo has a well-equipped gym so you won’t feel too guilty when ordering a decadent after dinner Chocolate Board.

 

Banyan Bar and Dining, Royal Davui

As you’d expect in an adults-only bespoke resort (strictly no children permitted – just 32 pampered adults), food plays a significant role in Royal Davui’s barefoot luxury experience. The all-inclusive tariff includes a plethora of dining options.

Think long languid lunches beneath the far-reaching banyan tree branches at Banyan Restaurant. Intimate candlelit dinners in private open-sided thatch roof bures amidst lush tropical gardens. Gourmet picnic hampers. Or an indulgent breakfast in bed served one leisurely course at a time. At Royal Davui clocks become irrelevant; it’s all about kicking off your shoes, kicking back onto island time, and relaxing on one of the South Pacific’s dreamiest coral atolls. Fine Pacific Rim cuisine dominates with a menu that changes daily depending upon seasonal ingredients.

The Warwick Fiji

There’s no shortage of foodie adventures at The Warwick on the sun-drenched Coral Coast. Italian style Pappagallo’s, Japanese Sazanami (complete with a couple of teppanyaki grills), Bula Brasserie, Lagoon Bar and Grill and Wicked Walu’s seafood restaurant should keep most tastes sated. Plus there’s a rather special Lagoon Bure dining experience, by prior arrangement, dished up in a romantic bure on its very own intimate Pacific Ocean island. Choose from either a five-course Table d’hote menu or the Seafood Extravaganza while twinkling lights reflect gently upon the surrounding sea.

It’s not usual in Fiji for resorts to offer full inclusive meal deals, but they do at The Warwick. It works mostly because The Warwick offers such a wide variety of dining options. Plus they do a ‘Kids Eat Free’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner so it’s particularly enticing (and economical) for families.

V, Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa

Fine dining at its finest, Sofitel’s signature dining experience goes by the simple name of V Restaurant. Renown French Executive Chef Jean-Marc Ruzzene adds sophisticated yet subtle French flair to an elegant (air-conditioned) fine dining restaurant. Stepping into the hushed genteel surrounds of V (thanks to carpeted floors – a rarity in Fiji) there’s not a palm frond or thatched roof to be seen. Though there is also an outdoors seating area perfect for balmy tropical nights.

There is however an unapologetically chic style, all crisp linen tablecloths, collectible artworks and discreet service. V’s stunning presentation is complemented by the culinary craftsmanship of Ruzzene making it the perfect venue for those with an appreciation for fine food, wine and service. Ruzzene serves up creative menus that showcase the best local produce (utilising the resorts expansive fresh produce garden) and selected imported delicacies.

Navo Restaurant, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa

Overlooking Natadola Bay and the island that Navo Restaurants takes its name from, Navo is an adults-only oasis in elegant and intimate surroundings. Contemporary cuisine inspired by the surrounding sea is complemented by an extensive wine list sourced from some of the world’s best wine growing regions. Indulge in a sensational culinary journey including temptations such as Yawawa Island’s crayfish with tomato chili lime sauce on olive mash with grilled asparagus. Or confit Vitogo duck with beetroot puree, watercress and sweet potato rosti.

Navo Restaurant also offers an intimate child-free breakfast with scenic views of Natadola Bay, far removed from family areas to provide a civilised, stress-free start to another day in paradise.

Tokoriki Island Resort

Tokoriki Island Resort is a luxury boutique resort located in the Mamanuca Islands, with the resort’s menus receiving rave reviews from new and returning guests.

Executive Chef Gerard Marr has given the resort’s menus a major make-over in style, taste and presentation, with guests delighted to experience  a large variety of local delicacies such as Fiji mud crab in coconut with chilli jam, and red duck curry with tamarind, pineapple and chilli. The Resort’s Oishii Teppanyaki is a real winner, with seating for only four couples and an entertaining chef who wows the guests with his famous flying fried rice entertainment. Chef Gerard says: “The opportunity at Tokoriki where the sun’s first light touches the sea and ignites nearby islands with light and colour, is a well of inspiration. I am excited and bursting with energy to continue my love affair with food at Tokoriki”.

Namale Resort & Spa

Styled on equal parts opulence with lashings of Fijian authenticity, seclusion meets splendour at all-inclusive Namale Resort & Spa. Guided by the skilled hands of Chef Jolie, who favours Indo-Fijian ingredients, dining at Namale is a culinary journey to mysterious destinations.

Guests are encouraged to partake in private three-course lunches or five-course dinners dished up at special locations across the resort. Whether dining in a romantic candle-lit seaside cave, bathed in dusky light on the beach at sunset or in the privacy of your luxurious bure, location dining and special dinners are a specialty at Namale. Naturally, there’s a world-class wine collection to complement Chef Jolie’s inspired creations.

Turtle Island Resort

Catering to just 14 privileged couples, Turtle Island is quite possibly one of the most romantic resorts in the South Pacific. It helps being located on the shores of the renowned Blue Lagoon with its dreamy white sand beaches kissed by a turquoise sea. Remote private dining opportunities are abundant from mountain to beach to intimate garden bure.

Leading fine dining chef French-born Jacques Raymond is Turtle Island’s food advisor, overseeing all things culinary. Menus are adapted from Contemporary Pacific cuisine taking full advantage of a bounty of seafood and fresh ingredients from the island’s large vegetable, fruit and herb garden. Raymond says that Turtle Island’s style is personal and reflects Fiji – he calls it Pacific Fresh. Recipes are interpreted from local culture using simple and pure ingredients to create complexity of flavours. Expect plenty of Pacific green lobster, snapper, yellow fin tuna, wahoo and prawns plated up within hours of being landed by local fishermen.

Ivi Restaurant, Outrigger on the Lagoon

Intimate and formal (which in Fijian terms is actually more like ‘very smart casual’), Ivi Restaurant took home the 2013 gong for Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the annual AON Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards. Ivi, which takes its name from the ancient (said to be 100 years old) Ivi tree adjacent to the fine dining room, specialises in creative Pacific Continental cuisine. Executive chef Shailesh Naidu, one of Fiji’s most acclaimed Chefs as well as being President of the Fiji Chefs Association presides over an a la carte menu attuned to the seasons.

Ivi staff are adept in silver service as well as gueridon service (where food is cooked, finished or presented from a table-side trolley) for table-side preparations such as crepe flambé, Caesar salad or traditional kokoda. This table-side service adds an element of drama and intimacy, creating a memorable dining experience. An extensive wine cellar is overseen by knowledgeable staff trained to complement food with matching wines. •

Photography by various establishments