I am a total devotee of fine dining, but I find that while travelling you often get a much better taste of your destination by visiting little local joints and sampling the street food (see previous blog about street food in Mauritius here). But these places are not always easy to find, as they tend to be off the main tourism streets (sometimes even in dark alleys). The best way is obviously to ask a local; if you don’t know anyone, think the front desk agent at your hotel or a taxi driver. Second best; look for places that are busy and where most of the patrons don’t look like tourists. Or, the easiest way, get the lowdown from someone who has been! Here are 4 of my favourite Mauritian locals. They are not necessarily stylish and cool but they serve really great local style food:
Central Restaurant (Creole)
In a quiet, and rather dark, street a little off the main thoroughfare in Quatre Bornes lies an unassuming restaurant that serves the best Creole food on the island. You’d be forgiven for walking straight past it, should you against all odds be walking down a dark backroad in Quatre Bornes. When we visited in July, there were still x-mas decorations in the window and the green plastic table cloths on the flimsy tables were anything but stylish. But the food is To Die For! We were treated to the full Creole experience. First, lots of small dishes like liver, octopus salad and fresh vegetables were put in front of us. Then, for the main feature, more local vegetables and platters of grilled fish. I was told that the fish we were served was considered second grade (the Creole are the poorest of the Mauritian culture groups, and thus eat fairly simple food), and that unless you really knew how to cook it, it would taste awful. Well, let me tell you, our chef definitely knew how to cook it! Succulent and tender, with a crispy skin rubbed with all sorts of delicious spices (I wish I could tell you what they were, but the chef was totally tight-lipped on his secret recipe). At Central Restaurant, you tuck into the food with your fingers and share big platters with the table. The Creoles like their spices, and the best way to cool the burn is with a cold Phoenix beer.
Location: A couple of doors down from La Louise Taxi Stand on Jawaharlall Nehru Road, Quatre Bornes
Note: Central Restaurant is only open weekday evenings
Emba Filao (beach restaurant)
On the public part of the beach in Le Morne, a stone’s throw away from the fancy hotels, lies Emba Filao: a simple beach restaurants with tables in the sand, shaded by large trees. Place your order at the counter (a black board will tell you what’s fresh for the day), then find a table and enjoy the view. The food is simple, with lots of fresh seafood and local influences. We had fish samosas, followed by creole fish curry with rice and lots of chili. The menu varies according to what is fresh on the day, but you will always find some of the most popular local dishes like curry, fried rice or noodles and grilled seafood.
Location: Le Morne Public Beach
Moustache is a new addition to the growing, and increasingly popular, eating scene in Black River. This west coast town has gone from a sleepy fishing village to a popular upper middle-class and expat area in the past ten years or so. The French influence here is very apparent, with great bakeries and cafes and quite a few low-key restaurants serving great food and wine. Moustache serves French-style food, based on local ingredients. Naturally you can get great seafood, but also wild boar (a Mauritian delicacy) and a range of local dishes in a slightly refined manner. Think creamy chicken liver pate, aubergine caviar, artichoke carpaccio and parmesan crusted chou-chou gratin (chou chou is a very popular, local vegetable in Mauritius – make sure you try it!). In a room adjacent to the restaurant is a wine shop with a great selection of French and New World wines, where you can also select what you would like to drink with your dinner. The atmosphere is that of a French bistro; casual but with an air of style and sophistication.
Location: Black River Road, La Mivoie, Tamarin
Ah Youn (Chinese)
Opposite the public beach in Flic en Flac is a row of restaurats. Ah Youn is not the fanciest looking of them, but well worth a visit. This is Chinese food Mauritian style; full of flavours and with lots of seafood. Bowl Renverse (upside down bowl) is one of their signature dishes, and worth a try (especially so if you can’t make your mind up as it combines all sorts of things into one glorious bowl of indulgence). My personal favourite is the sizzling fish, brought in on a hot plate still sizzling (thus the name) together with lots of fresh vegetables and yummies like ginger and chili; best enjoyed with fried rice. If you can handle it, add lots of the homemade chili paste to the rice and finish off with a dash of soya sauce. The starters, like spring rolls, crispy prawn and calamari are also a hit, so make sure you come hungry!
Location: Royal Road (opposite public beach), Flic en Flac