THE HILL­SIDE HIDE­AWAY

Destination of the World News - - DESTINATIONS SEYCHELLES -

Dis­ap­pointed for brief a mo­ment that I’d miss a hand’s on cook­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with Hil­ton chef, I was sud­denly sali­vat­ing at the thought of get­ting be­hind the stove at Hil­ton Sey­chelles Northolme Re­sort & Spa. Cruis­ing back to the main­land of Mahé, it wasn’t long be­fore I was checked in, fresh­ened up and plonk­ing my­self in a seat at Les Co­cotiers. The ho­tel’s exec chef Kevin had pre­pared a pre­view of the soon-to-be up­dated menu, with a goat’s cheese par­fait to start and a gen­er­ous sal­mon por­tion with scal­lops and a suc­cu­lent pea sauce. Re­tir­ing early to make the most of the fol­low­ing day, I was more than happy to tinker around in the King Hill­side Villa – a lav­ish wooden lodge perched above the lap­ping waves of a se­cluded beach be­low – for a more pri­vate splash than the re­sort’s cen­trally lo­cated in­fin­ity pool. Decked out in dark woods, the cosy space fea­tures a Jacuzzi tub to soak in, large arm­chair to flop in, and a large view­ing deck where you can nap, read, dine or just watch the world go by. With a view of the bay, you’ll soon be spot­ting the im­mense fruit bats zoom­ing be­tween trees, no doubt munch­ing on the va­ri­ety of sweet treats in the lush sur­rounds. James Bond au­thor Ian Flem­ing is said to have spent time in this par­tic­u­lar cor­ner of Mahé, and the re­sort even had a ded­i­cated Flem­ing-themed ac­com­mo­da­tion for some time. It’s easy to see why the writer tucked him­self away in the Sey­chelles, with space to think and the ap­par­ent slow­ing of time to aid lit­er­ary in­spi­ra­tion. If only time slowed even more at the eforea Spa, where an hour or more on the mas­sage ta­ble, waves gen­tly fold­ing be­low the ocean­fac­ing chalet, is a sure­fire way to un­wind. I’d checked out from the 100+ Labriz jun­gle re­sort, filled with fam­i­lies, and checked in to a chic hill­side hide­out, with a lit­tle more than 50 vil­las, mak­ing this

the small­est Hil­ton “ho­tel” in the brand’s en­tire global fam­ily. The ab­sence of “lit­tle ones” clearly cre­ates a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere, with cou­ples kick­ing back on the var­i­ous ve­ran­das around the Ocean View Bar as the deep or­ange sun plunges be­hind the hori­zon. But my af­ter­noon wasn’t en­tirely ded­i­cated to con­tem­pla­tion – I had an ap­point­ment with Chef Kevin. Re­turn­ing to the lofty Hill­top Restau­rant, where I’d en­joyed an English break­fast and honey-laden waf­fles ear­lier in the morn­ing, the team had prepped a colour­ful range of in­gre­di­ents ahead of the af­ter­noon cook­ing class. All I had to do was re­fresh my wine glass and say “yes, chef” when nec­es­sary. Kevin, a North­ern Ire­land na­tive, got to grips with Cre­ole cui­sine dur­ing his four years on Mahé, over­see­ing teams of bud­ding lo­cal chefs and fer­vently ab­sorb­ing the culi­nary cul­ture. Af­ter slic­ing and dic­ing my way to a home­made or­ange juice salsa, I was soon slurp­ing on a hearty seafood soup and even­tu­ally sear­ing some red snap­per in a scorch­ing hot pan – with a heap of but­ter and more than a splash of the white wine that was at hand. The cook­ing classes are pop­u­lar, I’m told, and the classes are a fun and en­gag­ing break from the ut­ter hard­ships of loung­ing around. Pock­et­ing the recipes I’d just been walked through, I made a bee­line for the beach for a round of paddle board­ing. Get­ting the op­pos­ing view of the re­sort from the wa­ter, it’s eas­ier to see how these spa­cious vil­las of­fer ut­most pri­vacy, es­pe­cially the newer pre­mium op­tions with pri­vate pools – per­fect for hon­ey­moon­ers who want to max­imise their time in­doors. Which­ever re­sort is more to your fancy, their si­b­ling prop­er­ties cer­tainly com­ple­ment each other well, and many hol­i­day­mak­ers end up com­bin­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence at both the Labriz is­land es­cape and the el­e­gant Northolme. Ei­ther way, de­spite the lit­er­ary ref­er­ence in this ar­ti­cle’s head­line, the Sey­chelles clearly doesn’t have so much in com­mon with a Dick­en­sian novel. Far from the bleak, in­ner-city themes of Vic­to­rian (or dare I say modern?) life, the vi­brant and perma-sun­shiny ar­chi­pel­ago is pure es­capism that tran­scends even the great­est work of fic­tion. It’s so tan­gi­ble, ef­fer­ves­cent and ut­terly vivid, you’ll be flick­ing through the pages in your mem­ory banks for years to come.

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