De­li­cious Mau­ri­tius

Mau­ri­tius’s leg­endary five-star ho­tel, Le Saint Géran, is back af­ter a $55m ren­o­va­tion, of­fer­ing the inim­itable cock­tail of past glory and present lux­ury

The Africa Report - - ART & LIFE - By EU­GENE YIGA in Flacq

Mau­ri­tius’s 1.3 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants trace their roots to Africa, Europe and Asia; its vi­brant di­ver­sity is re­flected in its lan­guage, re­li­gions and – par­tic­u­larly – its food. At the One&only Le Saint Géran – the is­land’s orig­i­nal five-star ho­tel, which was voted the In­dian Ocean’s Lead­ing Re­sort at the World Travel Awards in 2018 – each of three on­site restau­rants cel­e­brates a different as­pect of the is­land’s cui­sine, some­times all at once.

Ta­pasake, lo­cated on a pier along the wa­ter’s edge with views of the ho­tel’s pri­vate la­goon, fea­tures pan-asian cui­sine. Prime, the is­land’s first steak­house, of­fers a five-course meal – in­clud­ing Aus­tralian An­gus Wagyu beef – in a sleek and chic set­ting where even the origami-like menus are a work of art. And fi­nally La Ter­rasse, the main restau­rant that sur­rounds the pool and over­looks the ocean, is ideal for healthy breakfasts with a wide se­lec­tion of trop­i­cal fruits – man­goes, pa­payas, pineap­ples, litchis etc. – and fresh juices.

“I get to create Mau­ri­tian cui­sine but in­clude all of the won­der­ful in­flu­ences – fried food from Asia, chut­ney from In­dia and a Cre­olestyle stew where the sauce is spicy and colour­ful yet has a hint of co­conut-milk sweet­ness,” says chef Vikash Coon­jan. “I’m lucky, as there are lo­cal mar­kets in Mau­ri­tius that I visit to get fresh pro­duce. It’s here that I see what’s new and where I get a lot of in­spi­ra­tion for new menu dishes and recipes.”

To justify all the in­dul­gences, many in our group chose to stay active. There was talk of a hike slightly less stren­u­ous than the two-hour climb to the top of Pi­ton de la Rivière Noire, the is­land’s high­est peak (828m), but we de­cided to pass on that and sam­ple some of the wealth of ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered by the ho­tel itself.

With more than 1.7km of white sandy beaches and its own pri­vate penin­sula, Le Saint Géran is ideal for wa­ter­sports: stand-up pad­dle board­ing, kayak­ing, kite surfing, wind­surf­ing, para­sail­ing, div­ing, wa­ter­ski­ing, un­der­sea walk­ing and some­thing called a ‘donut’, which isn’t as yummy as it sounds.

There are also a range of land-based ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing ten­nis lessons with a pro­fes­sional cham­pion, rounds of golf on a Gary Player course, bi­cy­cles for the one per­son in our group brave enough to go out in the traf­fic, and a sun­set jog with the re­sort man­ager, Jerome, who runs ul­tra-marathons in his spare time.

I tried my hand at the fit­ness centre, only to in­dulge in a snack on the way out that must have un­done all my ex­er­tions on the row­ing ma­chine. But at least this

to­ken ef­fort gave me the ex­cuse to spend the rest of my time at the spa.

Like the cui­sine at the ho­tel, the sig­na­ture treat­ments in the spa take in­spi­ra­tion from their sur­round­ings. The Chakra Bal­anc­ing body treat­ment, for ex­am­ple, uses warmed vol­canic stones, while an­other uses co­conut, in­fused honey and sugar to give you a full-body trop­i­cal scrub.

Ex­pert fire­works

I went with the Ylang Ylang Ritual: foot cleans­ing with Ylang Ylang flow­ers fol­lowed by a rich, nour­ish­ing body wrap and a re­lax­ing scalp massage. Af­ter the treat­ment, where the sooth­ing and calm­ing skin­care prod­ucts trig­gered what felt like an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence, I lin­gered on the loungers and en­joyed some fruit-in­fused wa­ter. Like the in-room scent menus, each wa­ter blend is de­signed to el­e­vate (mint tea and fresh mint leaves), re­store (gin­ger with fresh le­mon juice) or help you un­wind (cit­ronella, Mau­ri­tian honey and Mau­ri­tian green tea).

Le Saint Géran – a leg­endary ho­tel that dates back to 1975 – re­cently un­der­went ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions, in­clud­ing to Villa One, the is­land home that once ac­com­mo­dated Nel­son Man­dela.

Mea­sur­ing 622m², with two bed­rooms, two bath­rooms, lounges, a spa­cious ter­race over­look­ing the azure In­dian Ocean and a pri­vate pool, the villa has its own ded­i­cated host team and per­sonal chef, with bot­tles of vin­tage cham­pagne and XO Mau­ri­tian rum at the ready to wel­come you to the is­land par­adise.

Should you choose to ven­ture out, the re­sort of­fers pri­vate din­ing un­der the stars in the One&only Tipi. De­signed by Bri­tish fashion de­signer Alice Tem­per­ley and si­t­u­ated on the scenic penin­sula, its bo­hemian chic ex­te­rior is hand-stitched with jewels that sparkle in the sun­shine. In the evening, a Mu­rano chan­de­lier il­lu­mi­nates the wooden floor and float­ing fab­ric that acts as a golden white frame. Ex­pect fire­works, lo­cal mu­sic and a mag­i­cal night un­der the trop­i­cal sky.

How else can you re­lax at Le Saint Géran? You can take a stroll through the re­sort’s gar­dens, which con­tain around 4,000 palm trees, many of them planted by the caddy master. He is one of around a dozen em­ploy­ees who still works at the ho­tel 40 years af­ter it opened.

Or you could do as I did and chill out in a ham­mock. As writer Sandy Gin­gras said: “At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to mo­ment. We live by the cur­rents, plan by the tides, and fol­low the sun.”

Left: Sweet snacks tempt in L’ar­ti­san café. Below: Ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­gance. Right: What could be more ro­man­tic than din­ner on your own pon­toon? Bot­tom row: Beach­side pool, is­land flavours and palm trees ga­lore

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