Fiji’s Café Society

Article originally published in LUXURY Holidays & Corporate Travel magazine Issue 26, 2015.

A high-end holiday usually involves a certain amount of high-end dining. There’s nothing wrong with that – a meal in one of the world’s great restaurants can be a memorable moment in anyone’s life. But luxury needn’t be limited to exquisite mouthfuls of the finest foie gras. Sometimes the luxury you desire is a perfectly made espresso or a freshly baked croissant. It’s times like these when you long for the relaxed ambience and down-to-earth excellence of a really good café.

Fiji may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of cafés. However, there’s no disputing the excellence of the produce and the high standards imparted by the well-established tourist industry. There’s now an increasing array of informal dining options in and around the major resorts, tempting you with the quality of their food and the friendliness of their service. Check them out next time you’re in the islands

Café O
Residents of Auckland’s Grey Lynn holidaying in Fiji may do a double take – their much-loved local Café O has taken root in Nadi. This represents a return to the café’s roots, as Café O is the creation of the brother/sister team of John Oyagawa and Cherie Oyagawa-Smith. The Fijian-born siblings have brought their philosophy of fresh ingredients, excellent coffee and modern Pacific cuisine back home to Nadi. You’ll find it at Café O in Eden Plaza, with a second café due to open this year in The Palms on Denarau island.

Café O offers breakfast, lunch and coffee in a modern yet casual and comfortable setting. Cherie has long aspired to opening a café with a refined culinary style and family atmosphere. If you love home-cooked treats with a dash of sophistication, Café O is well-worth a visit.

Visit them at: Eden Plaza, Queens Road, Martintar, Nadi

The name expresses the philosophy – a meld of Fiji and Italy. Bulaccino is what you get when you add European café style to the homegrown delights of Fiji. The café lives up to its name with immaculately made espressos, cappuccinos and lattes, plus an carefully designed menu based on organic produce from its own farm. Expect the most delicious pineapple, avocado and honey, served with all its natural goodness intact. There’s also a selection of freshly baked breads and pastries, including gluten-free options.

Bulaccino has proved a hit in Fiji, and the owners now operate three delightful cafés in Namak, Denarau and Suva. This family-run business blends the best of local produce with world-class presentation and friendly service. It’s become a Fijian legend.

Visit them at: Namaka (Nataly Building), Queens Road, Nadi; Garden City, Grantham Road, Suva; near Sheraton Villas, Denarau.

Taste Fiji Kitchen
Based in Martintar, Nadi, Taste Fiji Kitchen offers a tempting menu of café favourites such as pancakes, eggs benedict and fishcakes. However, there are some subtle but crucial differences. The fishcakes have a hint of coconut and are served with herb salad and pickled radish. The pancakes come with a choice of local ricotta, pineapple and Savusavu chocolate ganache. The eggs benedict are served with the classic Hollandaise sauce, as well as a choice of Moca spinach and Vuda leg ham.

As you can tell, Taste Fiji Kitchen is all about combining gourmet-standard Fijian ingredients with the classic appeal of café cuisine. The chefs showcase the best of local produce and work with local suppliers to incorporate novel ingredients where feasible. For instance, the usual almond flour in gluten-free baking has been replaced with locally ground tavioka flour or breadfruit flour with desiccated coconut. The results are wholly delicious.

Visit them at: Lot 1 Cawa Road, Martintar, Nadi (opposite St Mary’s School) 

L’Epicier at Hilton Fiji
Denarau needs no introduction. Fiji’s main resort island is home to some very swanky five-star hotels – and a growing number of relaxing cafés. L’ Epicier is a prime specimen. It’s the perfect place to pull up a chair and listen to the espresso machine hissing and gurgling as the barista expertly whips up your order. Supplement the caffeine hit with a side order of delicate pastries and you’re ready for another hard day on the beach. Or order a gourmet pizza and enjoy a relaxed lunch.

Visit them at: Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, Denarau Island

Grand Pacific Hotel Suva
To experience a different side of Fiji, book a few nights in Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel. Its history dates back to 1914 but its fit-out is totally modern. Their delightful Swiss Bakery is the place to drop into if your sweet tooth is demanding to be fed. Mouth-watering pastries and cakes, made to centuries old European recipes, will lure you towards the display cabinets. They take baking seriously here, as evidenced by the café’s world record-holder status for the longest swiss roll ever baked. Even if you aren’t tackling such a gargantuan delicacy, we’re sure you’ll be more than satisfied with the bakery fare on offer.

Visit them at: Grand Pacific Hotel,
Victoria Parade, Suva

La Parisienne at Sofitel Fiji
There are four excellent restaurants to meet your alimentary needs at Sofitel Denarau. For informal French-style dining, La Parisienne ticks all the right boxes. In addition to great coffee and café-style breakfasts and lunches, La Parisienne offers a delicatessen for those times when you fancy a bit of self-catering. A Fiji holiday should be all about relaxation, and this resort’s café gets the balance right between European sophistication and laidback Fijian style.

Visit them at: Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau Island

Nadi Fresh Produce Market
It’s not a café, and it’s certainly not an opulent experience, but food-lovers will want to get a taste of what’s on offer in the Nadi market. Bright green chillies and nostril-tingling Indian spices are piled alongside island staples such as taro and pineapples. Kava root is one of the specialties of the market, although it may be a treat that’s best left to the locals to prepare and serve. More familiar favourites, such as pumpkins and beans lend a touch of homeliness.

One thing is certain: there are no middlemen here. You’re buying produce from the people who grew it. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Visit the market at: Hospital Road, Downtown Nadi

Flavours of Fiji Cooking School
Attending a cooking class has become one of the mainstays of a luxury holiday. Some even go so far as to make a cooking school the entire focus of their break. Millions of hours annually are spent stirring ragu in Tuscany and chopping coriander in Southeast Asia. And now Fiji has entered the cookery class game, with a first-rate cooking school on Denarau.

Flavours of Fiji gives you a unique opportunity to explore the diverse flavours of this island nation. With its mix of traditional Fijian ingredients and the spicier offerings of the Indo-Fijian population, there’s certainly a foundation for some interesting culinary explorations. The School offers half-day cooking classes in a range of styles, including Fijian Feasts, Indian Thali and Tropical Sweets. There’s even a Kids’ Kitchen class for the budding Masterchef in your family.

The amenities and equipment are first-rate, with individual cooking stations in a large air-conditioned facility. Using fresh seasonal produce to create island favourites, the chefs share their traditional techniques, reveal clever tips and give you all the guidance you need to re-create the dish they’re showcasing. Classes are limited to 12 people at the most, so you’ll never feel lost in the crowd. And of course, you get to enjoy a gourmet meal with refreshments at the end, before going back home with a new set of recipes to add to your repertoire.

Visit them at: No.5 Denarau Industrial Park, Denarau Island