The Lighthouse Restaurant, Baros, Maldives 7th September 2014 ★★★★★
The Waterside Inn on your own bloody island.
But if we are going for simple summations: ‘Holy…Cow’. Quite fitting then that, as we take our seats in the veranda bar, looking over this stunning atoll in the Arabian Sea and sipping on our Martini’s (definitely not stirred) we are presented with nibbles of Wagyu beef. Considering I am a man of food at heart… and stomach, it is perhaps a rumbustious revelation that this is my first taste of a massaged moo-er: I can tell you this my beloved blogworm: I have never been chirpier; I’ve sampled soup less tender. Other tidbits presented with the quite distinguished Noilly Prat-er included a fantastic tuna spring roll. But there was never any doubt as to what was the showstopper.
Aptly whetted we make our way down to the dining area. The Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar is housed in a tent come tee-pee – the signature landmark of Baros Maldives and built over the lagoon. It is beautifully constructed on the edge of Baros – this tiny island in the Maldives which, in 1973, was only the third Maldivian resort opened for tourists (of now 192) – with jaw-dropping views out toward the capital of Male. Male and its neighbouring airport island (Yes, genuinely, even the airport get’s its own island out here) are a twenty minute speedboat gallop and so they are but a blip on horizon. The views are almighty and unless you have the binoculars on full strength you’ll only ever see sea.
We are seated outside on the encircling decking, awaiting a contemporary fine-dining experience for which anticipation could not possibly mount higher; the girlfriend and I have been looking forward to this for months. The wine list arrives: there is no need as we are but three yards from the walk-in ‘cellar’. It is filled with the cream of France, Australia, Chile… the list goes on. We go for a French Pinot Noir. Bread arrived too; choose your bread, choose your oils and balsamic – choose whatever you please; everything is catered for here.
Amouse-bouche, my friends? I think I will. I don’t eat fish (I’ve said before) and it’s salmon en croute. I ate it. I hate salmon. I loved it. When you get that feeling that you’re dining in the best-of-the-best then pathetic personal indifference makes way for the brave and the bold and, in a restaurant like this, one is rarely still girlishly absurd afterwards.
Cold towels are gratefully received as we place our orders with the waiter. The entire experience of Baros Maldives is but boosted by its unimpeachable staff. The laid-back courtesy, friendliness and genuine warmth is charming – without exception the staff are fantastic: a continuous and ruthless drive towards making the guests’ stay as pampered as possible. After a few moments I ask Greta (my beautiful girlfriend – looking ever improved in her elegant white gown) if she noticed our white wine glasses being removed. It is stealth hospitality at its finest.
We began with starters of ‘Kadaif Pastry Wrapped Tiger Prawns, Lime Tossed Mizuna, Daicon and Cucumber, Mango and Passion Fruit Coulis’ – $28. They are incredible. Three manicured prawns wrapped, no doubt, painstakingly in spaghetti-esque pastry. Its’ condiments, I thought myself, were great and although the girlfriend didn’t disagree she’s just not a salad girl (I’m going to get a punch for that).
As our plates our cleared, mine clean – Greta’s with just the cucumber salad remaining, there is a commotion on the next table. A few other diners get up and the waiter comes to our table – ‘sharks’ he says quietly. Three reef sharks are circling below the decking. It is the first time I’ve witnessed sharks swimming in the wild – one thing that, perhaps, you wouldn’t see when sat on the river at Bray!
Our mains arrive. Or rather, the chef arrives to cook my main. ‘Seared Medallions of 300 Day Grain Fed Black Angus Beef Fillet, Truffle Scented, Shitake, Shallot, Asparagus and New Potato Stir Fry, Roasted Garlic Reduction’ – $ 58 from the Guéridon’. The guéridon is a small table with one hob to the right and a selection of ingredients to the left. My meal is in front of me. I asked for it medium rare – this was, I must admit, a risky test…I would much prefer my meat under than over and so I would normally ask, let’s say, my mum, for my steak cooked rare to avoid having to chew on it whilst hoping that Christmas doesn’t pass by without my noticing. A great spectacle it was, and, medium-rare it was.
Greta’s choice – the ‘Potato Gnocchi Tossed in Basil Tomato and Rocket Leaves – $28’ came out just as my fillet was being plated up in front of me; impressive timing. I must say, having seen the look on her face when I eventually looked up from my brilliant fillet, greatly complimented by it’s al dente asparagus and buttered potatoes, I had to try the gnocchi myself. Her face said it all but I thought I ought’ double check: It was indeed brilliant. The fantastically deep tomato sauce enriching the soft parcels of potato-ey dough. Excellent, indeed, but without meat…so…not a meal then. Back to the meat. It really is quite a task to get a fillet that tastes like a rib-eye. Browned skilfully (these medallions weren’t grey like you often get): it is of course the browning from whence the taste comes and this was superb. To do that and keep to a medium-rare is some challenge. I take some pleasing: this was simply exceptional.
I was hardly famished and would normally have dodged dessert. But how can you when the level of cooking has been so impressive. We had to try something. A chocolaty moussey fudge decadent delight with a chocolate cylinder of chocolaty goodness and a chocolate chocolate-y button on top. I’m no menu writer – and I don’t have the dessert menu to hand – but that’s what I’m sticking with. Me and the girlfriend have been together just over a year – but had we been married for that same amount of time – I think there might have been a deep routed argument over this particular chocolatey decadent mousse…divorce even. Neither was prepared to back away from the pud. It did not let us down.
And so, back to The Waterside Inn: this the closest you could ever get from sitting on the river in Bray. The only problem; being an eleven hour flight away it’s hardly what you’d call ‘close’ (not geographically anyhow) and yet really is the nearest I’ve come. And did I mention it’s on a Maldivian island. It’s on Baros, Maldives: conceivably the most beautiful island on earth.
Eleven hours? No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.
The price: £7.99 any pizza, any size – it is not. When you’ve factored in the flight and the stay on a world-class island… this perhaps would not be the cheapest dinner date. We are very lucky that my girlfriend has such a generous father!