THE HILLSIDE HIDEAWAY
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.