The Most Delicious Place In The Maldives

When I told a travel editor I was going to visit the Maldives for four days and that the resort I was staying at had 12 – yes 12 – restaurants and bars, she wondered if I could visit them all. The challenge was set. Could I visit all of the eateries at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, the resort with the most bars and restaurants in the Maldives, in four days?

I arrived at Malé airport tired and hungry, keen to get to my final destination to begin my challenge. The Conrad team there appeared like a mirage – I was whisked up to their private lounge to wait for my seaplane transfer, and a masseuse offered me a soothing back, shoulder, neck and head massage to counter the long flight. There was breakfast and wifi too. Happy days!  photo 1

It wasn’t long before I was transported from one cocoon to another, with a short seaplane hop. As we approached the resort we could see the two islands and the long bridge that connects them, stretching across the most perfect calm blue waters I have ever seen.

Cold towels and a chilled drink await as you step off the plane and onto the resort’s welcome pontoon. From there I was whisked to my room, a beach villa with tropical outdoor bathroom – including a giant rain shower and a square bathtub beneath a canopy surrounded by candles and leafy foliage.  There are a number of different rooms at the resort, including the iconic villas on stilts above the water, but I loved being right on the beach and having a little sandy pathway from my  door to my sun lounger by the sea.

photo 5

 

6

I had three mornings so plenty of time to try breakfast at both Atoll Market, the buffet style restaurant, and Vilu, located across the bridge with really amazing views out over the beach and sea. Atoll had a fantastical, mind boggling choice of dishes and a troop of chefs on hand to make any breakfast dream come true including a green juice bar and plump dim sum. Vilu was my favourite though – it was more boutique in feel with a small buffet and a la carte menu. They made a great Maldivian reef fish omelette with chilli and herbs,  delicious with fresh watermelon juice.

11

Conrad Maldives_ Atoll Restaurant (4)

The Rangali Bar on the beach was a lovely spot for lunch as well as refreshing cocktails before dinner – the menu there was classic dishes and deli dining, lots of great wraps and salads. I loved Mandhoo Restaurant, opposite the spa. It follows the spa’s five elements philosophy, and you choose depending on the elements you feel inspired by. Or just what sounds good on the menu! Really great fresh seafood and fish that practically jumps off the plate – in an amazing setting. If you are lucky you can spot manta rays swimming past you.

13

14

Dinner was where choices started to get really difficult! So many places to choose and so little time. A highlight for me was an amazing Japanese tasting menu at Koko, an intimate little restaurant that sits a very small group, sunken into the sand. The Maldivian chef whipped up melt in the mouth sashimi and perfectly cooked Kobe beef right before our eyes and spoke perfect Japanese to one of our fellow diners.

Conrad Maldives_Koko Grill

I also made it to Sunset Bar and Grill to tuck into local lobster and wine from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s French estate, Miraval – a beautiful rosé that the Sommelier managed to lay his hands on because he worked there previously.

Conrad Maldives_Sunset Grill Restaurant (7)

Another evening we paired fine wines with tapas and delectable cheeses at the Cheese & Wine Bar – an amazing room underground where guests can enjoy a menu of 101 of the world’s best cheeses and wines to match. The floor in this hidden away room is silky, cool sand that you can dip your toes into.

Conrad Maldives_Cheese and Wine Bar (3)

I failed my challenge though – I needed a few more days and a few more dinners. Ufaa, a brand new gourmet Chinese restaurant – was soon to open (it is now), and I had a look around Ithaa, the amazing famous underwater restaurant but will save dinner there for another trip.

18

The wine cellar was somewhere all the guests were talking about – I popped down to check it out and it’s quite a sight – thousands of bottles of the best wine kept at perfect temperature and displayed beautifully underground. Guests are given fluffy slippers and blankets to keep cosy while they enjoy a personalised wine tasting experience with the Sommelier, paired with a delicious degustation dinner.Conrad Maldives_The Wine Cellar (7)

I also found time amidst the wining and dining to try outdoor yoga, snorkelling around the house reef, and a visit to the fantastic Spa to visit Christelle, the resort Naturopath for energy-boosting ear acupuncture and reiki. I actually didn’t feel jet lagged at all, during or after my stay and I’m sure the treatments helped. I did however feel rather full – I’ll be working this trip off for a while!

7

12

21

22

www.conradhotels.com/maldives

 

 

Grifco Chats Wedding & Honeymoon Trends with Bridal Guru, Peta Hunt

Grifco recently caught up with the lovely Peta Hunt, Editor At Large of You & Your Wedding, at THIRTY SIX By Nigel Mendham during the Grifco Supper Club. We asked Peta all about the latest honeymoon and bridal trends, her favourite holiday destinations, and travel essentials she will not board a plane without!

Grifco: So tell us Peta, what do you think the top 2012 bridal trends are?

PH: Big but light airy dresses with full skirts, or simple slinky dresses. Straps and sleeves are finally back – hurrah! Designers are going for less embellishment – we are over full on bling for brides. Tulle and lace are also trending at the moment in the bridal world.

Grifco: Where do you think the hottest wedding and honeymoon destinations are in 2012?

PH: UK weddings are working well all year round, so you can have a three day wedding festival partying with family and friends. As for honeymoons, so many of our couples have already done Thailand and Europe and are now looking for something a bit different. Our top honeymoon destination tip is South America. Who would not love to explore the rain forest, while staying at a 5 star floating hotel? Couples can hit the beaches of Brazil or be amazed by Argentina, where you can ski for the weekend and then party the night away in Buenos Aires.

Grifco: In your opinion Peta, who is this year’s it bridal designer and why?

PH: That is a tricky one, as I love too many just to name one! At the top of my list – and in no particular order – is: David Fielden, Monique L’Huillier, Oscar De La Renta, Elie Saab, Packham, Delphine Manivert, Claire Pettibone, Charlotte Casadejus, Alice Temperley… Hang on, I’m listing my address book here! Honestly, most brides that I get to see are truly beautiful no matter the designer. I just love that beaming with happiness look.

We all loved William and Kate’s wedding last year, but for me, I’d rather have been a guest at Kate Moss’s wedding. It was traditional but so very modern. She really seemed to enjoy being with all her family, bridesmaids, and mates. But please don’t think that you have to get Galliano to make your dress! High street favourites such as Coast, Phase 8, and Monsoon have fantastic dresses under £500. So you really can have your dress and wedding cake too!

Grifco: In the last year, where was your favourite place that you visited and why?

PH: Ahh, why are you making me pick just one? This is so hard, so I am going to ignore you and say I loved Raffles in Seychelles, it is a new well-designed resort bedded into the hillside. You stay in private villas, which have huge doors that fold back so you can jump straight into your private pool if you can’t face the buggy ride down the mountain to the main resort. Your private butler will bring you whatever you need. As for the spa, I had the best massage listening to the sea. I was so relaxed I rode a bike for the first time in 10 years! The staff encourage you to try something different, so you don’t just lay on the most fantastic beaches the entire time. I tried cooking classes and pilates, again, both a first for me! I took a boat trip out and watched the sun go down, which was really special. The sun looked bigger and all the more colourful here.

I also fell in love with the Hotel Grand Du Cap Ferrat, France. Who would have known that a glistering white hotel would be so calming and charming by isolating you from the outside world? This hotel sits on the edge of the sea and oozes with luxury. You even get a chair to put your handbag on when dining – now that is posh! I sunbathed and relaxed in a private cabana and had a swimming lesson from a man that taught every A-list celeb to swim in a huge infinity pool. When I wanted to eat – they do have the best macaroons, ever! – I dined under a canopy of pine trees with the smell of jasmine wafting on a warm breeze. It was hard to believe that Grey London was just two hours away!

Grifco: Peta, what is your all-time favourite holiday destination and why?

PH: Hotel Cap Rocat because I never expected to fly to Mallorca, which is only an hour and a bit away via London City Airport, and to be so charmed by staying in an old fort, which has a drawbridge, bunkers and ten foot thick walls! This is 5-star lux but for those who don’t want a fuss. The food is perfect, there are only 24 rooms, the staff is amazingly friendly and the most divine breakfast is brought to your room in a hamper so it’s just like getting a gift each morning. If I were a rock star, this is where I would stay!

Grifco: Do you have any travel essentials that you can’t travel without?

PH: Here’s my essentials list: iPad (so I can read my book and catch up on tv!), moisturisers, and BB creams by the bucket load! I also bring antihistamine tablets with me because every flying biting insect is attracted to me.

Grifco: Last question Peta, what is one bit of advice you would tell a bride before she starts planning her wedding?

PH: Stick to your budget and make sure it’s your day and not everyone else’s. If you have to cover the chairs in fabric you are staying at the wrong hotel! No one ever says after a wedding, “lovely wedding, nice chair back covers!”