Fantastic Food & Coffee in Vanuatu

Pastries at Au Peche Mignon - ©Poppys on the LagoonThe happy coincidence of international chefs participating in the country’s Salon Culinaire and organising a Barista competition is 'normal' in Vanuatu.  It seems everyone in this country is food focussed, without even realising it!

There are over 70 restaurants in Port Vila alone, ranging from small Chinese kitchens to the grand dining of the resorts.  It is difficult to mention restaurants without celebrating the absolute French style institutio, L’Houstelet, and the owner maitre d’ of 34 years, Clement. But it’s outside the restaurant scene that you realise this is seriously a food and wine lovers town.

La Parisienne - ©Poppys on the LagoonThere would be very few places other than Café Flore in Paris to rival Au Peche Mignon for divine pastries and a café au lait. With absolutely no golden arches in sight, the local equivalent to a night time McDonald's fix after clubbing or dancing is the unlikely night time bakery, La Parisienne. At 3am this is the place to find the young and hip of Port Vila on their way home with a hot crust of baguette or gourmet meat pie, fresh from the magnificent huge industrial ovens of a bygone era.

And if you need to take a second glance to wonder if you’ve perhaps strayed into Italy or France, you are inside Traverso Boucherie, and you’re trying to decide whether to buy a perfect cut of beautifully prepared organic beef, or sidle up to the delicatessen to take home your house-smoked locally caught marlin or pate de’fois and a bottle of Moet champagne. The choice of cheese is another story altogether...

Plating Up - ©Poppys on the LagoonTo make a point, it is almost symbolic that  the Vanuatu International Women’s Association, a fund raising group for helping communities on the outer islands, raise more from their once a year cooking spree than from a multitude of alternative money raising all year long.  When these ladies put their heads down to cook, the whole town knows about it and there are queues out the door to buy Anita’s famous onion tart, or Yvonne’s special Jamaican gumbo or Marilyn’s delicious coconut milk dumplings.

The harmony of food and personalities just seems to work in this destination. The happy aspects of a warm and generous Melanesian culture has embraced the  influence of  European, Asian and Pacific Islander cooking.  The country has been voted as the happiest place on the planet, so what better place for a successful Barista competition!  After all, aren’t the best moments in life over a great cup of coffee?

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