The best Boracay food and restaurants

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Sitting on the plane bound for Singapore at the moment and thinking back on the Boracay experiences from the last seven days. Boracay, as you may know, is an island in the South China Sea, mainly famous for its pretty beaches, more specifically “White Beach”.

Prana Restaurant
But if you know me, you know it won’t be just beach life. One has to eat too. On Boracay, we stayed at the Mandala Spa and Resort, situated among lush greenery on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. Since we arrived quite late we opted to have our first meal there, a miniature tuna dish and healthy Thai red curry with whole grain rice in the resort’s Prana restaurant.

Mandala Spa and Resort
Mandala Spa has a massive focus on health and relaxation. So much that we were upgraded to a “Digital Detox Villa” that lacked both wifi and a TV. Even worse, the mini bar was only stocked with things like dried mango, healthy nuts and organic wine. That is no wifi, no tv and no beer. I felt like I was part of the movie “Couples’ Retreat”. Fortunately things improved. The TV, i could not do much about, but we cheated on our digi detox-room with locally purchased sim cards. To be honest, the reliability was quite poor, but it worked better than no internet at all (to the resort’s defence there was free wifi in the lobby). We also bought local beer from the local super market, and abrakadabra, the only-organic-wine-issue was a thing of history as well.

In all seriousness, the Mandala Resort and Spa is probably one of the better places I’ve stayed in, and despite I can’t really live without internet, the villa, the surroundings an the staff was really great. The food’s a bit expensive though, and portions are a bit small. You do feel however, that there is some serious thought into the options, all I tried was quite delicious despite being made extra healthy. Especially their breakfast dishes were really delicious, although slightly pricy compared to other options on nearby White Beach.

The food of Boracay

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Above: tuna main course, as well as quinoa pancakes with mango for breakfast at Prana, Mandala Spa and Resort.

If healthy holistic food is not what you’re after in Boracay there are several other options waiting for you. We did quite a lot of research before our trip and tried a lot of different places on Boracay and being an island, there aren’t any fantastic food experiences, but still very good food to be had. Below are my favourites.

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Above: Choriburger, wonut and giant pancakes at Sunny Side Cafe.

Sunny Side Cafe

Our first day we had dinner at the Sunny Side Cafe. The Sunny Side Cafe has (at least) two sister restaurants on the island, Spicebird and Super Magic Burger, and is a modern hipsterish coffee shop meets restaurant. They are serving western-style breakfast dishes like French toast, pancakes, grilled sandwiches and really good coffee as well as twists on local favourites like the Chori-burger, a delicious spicy chorizo burger with a sweet and spicy tomato dressing, served in one of Sunny Side’s fluffy brioche buns. We actually went back several times to the SSC and enjoyed both their eggs benedict made with perfectly poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise and thick cut bacon. I also tried their ginormous pancakes with cream cheese and mango. Sort of pricy for Boracay, but very good food and drinks. Not to miss is also their dessert “wonut”, which is a deep-fried waffle which we opted for having served with fresh mango, whipped cream and nutella. So unhealthy, so delicious.
Prices: $$$

Location: pretty close to station 3


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Above: Pandan pancakes filled with “lechon” suckling pig, as well as stir-fried lechon at Mesa.

Mesa
Mesa is a sort of fancy Filipino restaurant chain that we saw both in Manila and on Boracay. One of the perks of eating at Mesa Boracay is that they have extended the restaurant (although many White Beach restaurants did this) on to the beach itself. So you sit on the beach itself enjoying dinner. From my experience this is something you usually have to pay extra for in certain resorts. So I found it very nice. Anyway, the food at Mesa is very nice and especially so is the crispy lechon. Lechon is basically a roasted suckling pig, a very popular dish in the Philippines. At Mesa, you order from 1/6 of a lechon (which the two of us did) up to an entire pig. The lechon is served two ways, sliced in pandan pancakes and then the remaining lechon is stir-fried in chili and garlic. Sort of like peking duck. Except for the pandan pancakes that were on the dry side, the both dishes were really delicious. The stir-fried suckling pig (note that they stir-fry the already crispy roasted pig) was really something. Best dish we had on Boracay, but also the most expensive at around 1 000 ++ Php.
Location: Close to station 2 at the Henan Resort (former Boracay Regency).
Prices $$$

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Above: Pizza at Aria.

Aria
One night we did a short break in our Filipino eating experiences since we were both desperately craving pizza. We did a little research about the local pizza situation, and based on empirical evidence from a walk-by combined with written reviews we went for Aria restaurant. Aria is an Italian restaurant located adjacent to D’ Mall near Station 2, and I read good things about their truffle pasta, but it was pizza that was the focus of the night. We ordered a Greek pizza, with olives and feta, and a “Diavolo” with mozzarella and spicy salami. Pizza’s were surprisingly great and I really enjoyed mine. The dough was nearly perfect but the mozzarella cheese could have been better.
Prices $$$

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Above: Smoke Resto, bulalo and crispy pata, at Smoke Resto.

Smoke Resto
When visiting Manila, one of our taxi drivers started chatting with us about Filipino food, and I asked him about his favorite dish. “Bulalo” he answered, and as it happened, Smoke Resto on Boracay had been awarded for the best bulalo in the entire Philippines. Smoke Resto is an authentic Filipino place situated in sort of an alleyway just off White Beach. We arrived quite early and was immediately seated at a table, however just a couple of minutes later the place was full and a line had formed. We ordered (of course) the bulalo, which is a soup with beef shanks and marrow bones that are cooked for a long time to make a really flavoursome broth as well as melt-in-your-mouth-tender meat. I can see why they won their award, a seriously tasty soup. We also tried “crispy pata” which basically was a deep-fried “schweinshaxe” or pork shank, and we also had their beef in dark soy and garlic sauce served with rice. All their dishes were quite simple in look and ingredients, but so tasty, as well as inexpensive. An added benefit was that the place felt really authentic, much more so than many places on the White Beach Strip.
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Above: Garlic fried chicken at Gerry’s Grill.

Gerry’s Grill
We visited Gerry’s Grill first in Manila and then again on Boracay when we learnt of its existence. Food was as good as in Manila and we tried their pancit noodles, their pork floss adobo, garlic fried chicken, water spinach and grillad pork skewers. Everything delicious, although not spectacular. Prices are very good though.
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Above: D’Talipapa market action as well as our prawns that was bought at the market and then cooked at Sababi Paluto restaurant.

D’ Talipapa and Sababi Paluto restaurant
The local wet market on Boracay is called D’ Talipapa and is located along the main road a few blocks from White Beach. We had a bit of a struggle to find it, but if you walk up to the main road along the street up from White Beach that passes a McDonald’s, you’re on the right way. When you reach the main road, turn right and just walk a couple of meters until you see signs to D’Talipapa. You can also reach it through the alleyways from White Beach strip. Can’t really give a good description for that though. Well, the experience then. We visited quite early in the day, and the market was quite relaxed. The idea is that you purchase fresh or still alive seafood or fish from the vendors, you need to haggle a bit. We did not reach that great of a deal, but we were happy with the small discount we got as it was a fun experience first and foremost. We bought a dozen of prawns and went to the nearby Sababi Paluto restaurant since they had the most customers. Paluto means that they cook the food you bring according to your instructions, and we got a small menu with prices for the different options available and opted to have our prawns sautéed in butter, garlic and a hint of chili. The food took a little while to arrive, and meanwhile we could enjoy watching the grill chef cooking others guest’s whole fish fillets, making us regret only buying prawns. The food arrived and was really delicious. Although the prawns were slightly expensive, having them cooked was not, so all in all it turned out to be one of our both best and most inexpensive meals of the week on Boracay. Very recommended both for the experience and the tasty food.
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Above: Real Coffee Boracay’s chicken sandwich, coffee, juice and kalamansi muffin.

Real Coffee Boracay
They have dishes like grilled sandwiches but are famous for their kalamansi muffin which I found was the best of the things I tried. Coffee is also better at Sunny Side (above).
Location: just outside D’Mall with views over the beach from second floor.
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Above: Juice at Jonah’s fruit shake.

Jonah’s fruit shake
On main road, so a bit of treck through alleys if you’re going from White Beach as we did. Worth the walk though, ask a local if you can’t find it. Note: it seems like there was (or still is) a Jonah’s on White Beach itself, but we couldn’t find it. So we walked from about Gerry’s Grill towards the main road and managed to find it after asking a few locals. It’s not far, and the fruit juices and shakes are delicious.
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Foodetc’s (spaghetti) Bolognese


Bolognese, preferably with spaghetti despite the above pappardelle, is probably my all time favourite dish. Read below for my go to recipe when it comes to the classic. If you want it healthier, remove the bacon and the finishing butter which however do add a lot of taste to the dish.

Recipe is for, roughly, four persons.

What you need
500 grams of minced beef
1 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
1 (relatively) small piece of celeriac
50 grams of pancetta/bacon (optional)
3-4 tbsp dried oregano
2 chicken stock cubes
20 cl red wine
1 tin canned tomatoes (I use Mutti finely chopped tomatoes)
butter
sugar (optional)

Serve with
Spaghetti or pappardelle (I use Martelli or De Cecco)
Parmesan cheese
Red wine (sort of optional)

How to cook
1. Peel and dice carrots and celeriac into small cubes, about peanut-sized. Also peel and finely slice garlic and onion.

2. Slice pancetta or bacon (optional) into thin strips. Fry until cooked through, but before it starts to crisp.

 3. If you haven’t used bacon/pancetta heat olive oil in a saucepan or a cast-iron pot. If you have, just add the vegetables to the already hot bacon pan and use its fat to fry. Start with the minced beef, and fry until it is starting to brown.

3a. If you are feeling ambitious set aside, and then fry all the diced and sliced vegetables in olive oil in a separate pan until soft, but not browned.

3b. If you are not feeling ambitious, just chuck the veggies into the beef pot and fry together with the minced beef until soft.

 4. If not already mixed, combine vegetables and fried minced beef into a saucepan. Add canned tomatoes (and some extra water if needed), red wine, stock cubes and oregano. Cover with a lid and let simmer on medium to low heat for at least an hour, but preferably three hours or more. Check and stirr once in a while. Add more water if it gets to dry/reduced. Add a pinch of sugar if needed (taste after 15 minutes or so of cooking).

5. When about 25 minutes remain of the bolognese cooking; add salt to and heat water for the pasta (it should taste almost like sea water). Cook the pasta al dente (check the package for directions if needed).

6. When pasta is almost done, turn off the heat on the bolognese sauce and add a knob of butter (optional but very tasty) as well as some additional oregano to it.

7. When pasta is done, strain it but reserve some of the cooking liquid. Then add spaghetti, bolognese sauce and two or three tablespoons of the cooking liquid (eg. the salt water) in a bowl and mix. You can also add pasta, some of the sauce and cooking water into the pasta pan and cook together on medium heat for about a minute to flavour the pasta with the sauce. It makes the dish much tastier, trust me.

8. Serve sprinkled with grated or shaved parmesan. A glass of red wine is (almost) mandatory with this if you are a wine drinker.

Eating in Manila



After an amazing flight in Thai Airways’ first class (no, I did not win the lottery, I just saved up on air miles) we touched down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport for three days of eating and exploring the Filipino capital and mega city Manila.

Since we got a really nice price (for a Peninsula) we opted to stay at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, situated in Makati, one of sixteen cities that make up Metro Manila – an area with a 35 million population.

Our first day was spent mainly lazying around the hotel and its vicinity. We had a pretty good, but by Manila standards hideously expensive, dinner in the hotel’s Spices restaurant featuring Pancit stir-fried noodles with pork, chicken and prawns. We also had Inihaw Baboy, a grilled pork dish.


  
 Intramuros, inside the old Spanish walls

Our second day was spent touring Manila’s walled city, or old town Intramuros (inside the walls) built by the Spanish in the late 1500s. We selected to get a private tour with “Yolo Tours” which for a reasonable price merged their Intramuros and food tour into a one day experience.

We begun by visiting the Manila Cathedral where we managed to walk right into an Easter mass attended by lots of locals. The Philippines is quite religious and roughly 85 percent consider themselves Christian.

During the World War II Intramuros was heavily damaged (according to our guide basically flattened out) by American bombings of the occupying Japanese invaders. One church in the area managed to survive the war though, the impressive San Agustin Church that was opened in 1607. A hidden secret rests in the church’s ceiling and walls. What you ask?  Read on next week and I’ll tell… Just kidding. The secret: All the stone carvings are actually painted.

  

  
  
  
 Bull’s ball soup in Binondo

After the interesting and sometimes sad history lesson of Intramuros, Manila and the Philippines we went on to Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown.

Our first stop was the Café Mezzanine, a place that the local volunteer fire brigade additionally had as their hang out between alarms. We did not experience it, but the restaurant has their own alarm bell, signaling the firemen when there is a nearby fire. We were their for a couple of dishes. First and foremost the soup number five.

Soup number five is a potent (pun intended) soup with bull’s testicles as its main ingredient. It felt somewhat appropriate to enjoy balls for which the restaurant profits went to the volunteer firemen which definitely showed some balls putting out fires in their spare time. How was it then? The soup’s broth was quite tasty. Salty and fatty. The bull’s balls themselves weren’t the best thing I have had, but tasted basically like fatty beef.

We also tried the slightly more easily digested pork and chive dumplings which was dipped in a soy, chili and kalamansi (local lime:ish fruit) dipping sauce.

Next stop was “Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant” where we had crispy Filipino spring rolls, or “Lumpia”. We also had a quite delicious crispy fried oyster cake; sort of like an omelete-pancake with fresh coriander. The final thing we tried at Sincerity was “Machang”, sticky rice with pork and chicken mixed into it, and then baked in pandan leaves. Filipino paella, according to our guide.

Next stop was a fried “Siopao”, a steamed bun, sort of like a bao. The bun was filled with salty and slightly sweet pork, and was in addition to steamed fried on one side.

 

I love Halo-halo

Since we took the tour on a Sunday, a few of the restaurants that was normally on the tour weren’t open. Because of this our guide threw in a few extras and we got to try our first halo-halo at national chain Chowking.

Chowking’s halo-halo was surprisingly good to be honest. Halo-halo means ‘mix-mix’ in Tagalog and that pretty much what you do. You receive a bowl with ube (purple yam) ice cream, evaporated milk (the stuff you cook for dulce de leche), leche flan (egg custard), coconut, shaved ice, jack fruit strips, sweetened white and black beans, plantains and jelly which you mix-mix together. It’s fresh, it’s desserty at the same time, and it’s really good.

After the final food item had been injested the tour finished and we went back to our hotel to pass out for a while.


  
Filipino food in Greenbelt

After waking up from our bull’s ball and halo-halo inflicted sleep we needed more food. Close to the Peninsula is the Greenbelt shopping area, a mall complex with restaurants, shops and so on. By advise from our guide we went to a Filipino restaurant there called Gerry’s Grill. We tried “Sizzling pork sisig”, fried pork parts (such as snouze, liver and ears) that was served with kalamansi lime and suppossedly is a popular beer snack.

We also had lechon kawali which is roasted suckling pig belly. We had it with garlic rice and wilted water spinach and it was quite enjoyable and price (1100 php for two including 2 beers each) felt reasonable for the area.


    

One of the best hotel breakfasts and THE BEST goat tacos

Day three was spent lazying around the hotel for the first part of the day. The Peninsula served up a really good breakfast buffet with both tasty bread (usually hard to find); crispy bacon (also rare on buffets); fresh tropical fruit; yoghurts; cold cuts; local food like pancit noodles, garlic rice and pork adobo; pancakes; waffles – they also had an egg station and my first ever seen juice station. In addition to that they had some seriously good homemade pastries. My favourite one was a mango and vanilla cream Danish pastry with the fresh melting-in-your-mouth mango slices and the soft smooth vanilla cream contrasted by the perfectly crunchy danish. Mm-mm-mm.

After hyper-ventilating for a couple of hours we were again hungry. Based on advise from a couple of friends we set foot on a place called “El Chupacabra”, or “the goat sucker”. The chupacabra is a goat blood-sucking creature that according to some is a myth.

Nevertheless, we were their to suck some goat ourselves, and after some initial confusion we managed to find the place in an alley close to Makati Avenue (totally walkable from Peninsula/Greenbelt Area).

We ordered the spicy goat meat taco (cabrito) and the “al pastor”. Both were seriously good, I would stretch as far as to say that the goat taco was the best I’ve ever had. Spicy, tender meat, super-thin corn tortillas and simple yet delicious condiments. Good prices too, so definitely a must visit if you like tacos and find yourself in Manila.

  

  
A tenth of a sunset and Jollibee

The rest of the day was spent in the giant Mall of Asia where we went to see the Manila Bay-sunset. Although we couldn’t see that much of it due to clouds, it was pretty cool to stroll along the water together with lots of local couples and families hangig out there. By recommendation from our food tour guide we also tried Philippino fast food-chain Jollibee that has spread as far as Doha Qatar lately. Wasn’t terribly impressed unfortunately (sorry Filipinos) with my Champ burger.


The last meal

Our last meal (okay I had one more of the awesome Peninsula breakfasts, but that does not count) in Manila was the Halo-halo Harana. The HHH is one of Peninsula Manila’s signature dishes and is a fancied-up version of the Filipino national dessert. It contains leche flan, chickpeas, sweetened kidney beans, coconut gel, the purple yam ube ice cream, sago, evaporated milk, jackfruit, creamy coconu and rice puffs. This was really a treat, but on the other hand it was about 850 php including service and taxes which would’ve been expensive for a dessert even in Sweden. It was so good though!

After the final mix-mix our time in Manila had come to and end. We’re currently enjoying one of the prettier places I’ve been to: the island of Boracay, under an hour’s flight from Manila.

A weekend of pasta in Rome

Visited Rome in November 2015 for a weekend of eating, sightseeing and general indulgence. My judgement might be slightly affected by the fact that I totally love Italian food and that the weather was 20 degrees celsius and the sun was shining. Something very important for a Swede coming from the borderline winter that is November. In short: I loved Rome, its amazing pasta, its sights, the easy walking everywhere and the friendly atmosphere in the city.

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Must visit: Colosseum.
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Must visit 2: Fontana di Trevi.

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Delicious pizza slices at Il Melograno, close to Fontana di Trevi.

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When in Rome (sorry), eat gelato! And oh how good this gelato at aptly named Wonderful Ice Cream was.

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Pantheon by night.

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Before the trip I spent considerate time researching the city’s best carbonara. One of the often-mentioned places was Armando al Pantheon. Of course I had to visit (reservations recommended), and I wasn’t disappointed. The best carbonara I’ve ever had. Creamy deliciousness with egg yolks, crunchy, fatty and salty guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) and pecorino cheese.

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A decent Saltimbocca alla Romana, not nearly as good as the carbonara, but totally edible. Pounded veal with ham and sage, cooked in a white wine reduction.

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Tasty Tiramisú. Still at Armando al Pantheon.

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Next day: The Vatican. To get into St Peter’s square itself, there’s no need to queue. To get into the museums, you can either wait in line or buy a fast track ticket. Since we had limited time we opted to buy fast track tickets from the Vatican Museums website and saved ourselves a few euros by not going through an agency. Link to where we bought our tickets, we paid roughly 20 euros a person and did not wait at all to get in.

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A decent, although not fantastic pizza diavola (spicy salami) at Il Pozzetto.

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Fast forward to dinner at Ristorante da Alessio. Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes to start.

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Truffle risotto. Not spectacular, but quite tasty nevertheless.

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Sort of thick spaghetti served with a very tasty tomato and guanciale sauce. Of course topped with pecorino cheese. So good!

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This was really good. A hot sizzling pan with slices of beef, potatoes, courgettes and (I know, wrong country) béarnaise sauce.

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The Vatican as seen from Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castle featured amazing views over Rome in all directions and is definitely worth a visit.

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The last meal in Rome: Tonnarelli cacio e pepe at Cotto, next door to our hotel. A delicious classic with pasta, pecorino cheese and black pepper made silky smooth combined with some of the cooking liquid. A great end to a great weekend. Pasta is, and has always been, my favorite comfort food. Usually I get disappointed when I go out and order pasta, but of course, Rome did not let me down.

Four days in the Maldives

Since visiting Fiji a couple of years ago while living and studying in Sydney, Australia, I’ve had a desire to visit more island paradise places. Fortunately for me, we had a trip for a friends’s birthday in Thailand coming up in March, earlier this year, and managed to find a ticket that would take us from Stockholm to Male, the capital of the small island state of Maldives, and then back from Bangkok to Stockholm for less than $800 a head. After finding another good deal on IHG’s website for a four day stay at Holiday Inn Kandooma ($250/night for two) we were on our way!

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After a really nice, slightly boozy, flight from Stockholm to Dubai (the four of us going to the Maldives managed to end up on the same plane as two other friends headed for the party in Thailand) we touched down in the capital Male, a really stunning place in itself. But we were going further and boarded a hideously expensive boat transfer straight away after picking up our bags in the airport. The hotels, at least the resort islands, do in many cases have their own counters in the airport, so you just walk there and they’ll take you to your boat. This was the case for us, going to the Holiday Inn Kandooma, a 45 minute boat ride from the airport.

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Kandooma Island
The island of Kandooma is pretty much paradise. White beaches (three of them), crystal clear water, tropical fishes, and no crowds. Most other visitors to the island seemed to hang out near the pool and beach adjacent to it and the lobby area where the restaurants were located. So we pretty much had one of the beaches to ourselves. Perhaps because this was close to where the small reef sharks swam (yikes).

The food
The one problem with finding a semi-bargain trip to The Maldives is that it’s not really going to be an affordable trip no matter how much you try. The prices for food on Kandooma Island was priced from roughly $20-25 (plus the 21 percent ++ tax) for something like a burger, a pizza or a pasta to about $60-70 (++) for a steak at the island’s fancy restaurant The Kitchen. We tried most option except for the buffet restaurant which charged around $60++ for an all you can eat buffet each night.

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Pad Thai in the Bokkuraa Coffee Club. The island least expensive place. Still expensive though. But at least the food was tasty, nicely presented and you got enough of it to get full, which is always a plus at $25 a course. 🙂

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Of course I had to sample some local stuff. This was a Garudhia soup – a clear broth – with slow cooked tuna, lime, chili and garlic. Served with rice it was decently filling and really nice. Especially the slow cooked tuna was peppery and delicious.

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A local “Dhoni” or fisherman’s platter with tuna steak, grilled prawns, mussels, squid, fried rice, grilled vegetables and salad. The fish and seafood could have been a little more carefully cooked. But still a quite unbeatable plate of food given the location and atmosphere.

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Fortunately for us cheapskates, breakfast was included, and this is where we really pigged out. Breakfast was served until 10:30 am each day, and at 10:00:ish we dove in. The breakfast was really one of the best I’ve experienced. Especially if you wanted to fill up to be able to avoid having lunch, saving ourself 50 bucks or so. There were dumplings, eggs, rotis (made a la minute by a dedicated roti chef), delicious curries, noodles, bread, pastries. Everything was really fresh and well made, and the chefs seemed to really enjoy what they did.

The Kitchen
The reason why we visited the Maldives in the first place was that we were on our way to Thailand to celebrate one of our friends turning 30. Since the soon-to-be-old friend was with us visiting the Maldives we of course had to celebrate the actual birthday as well, even though the big party was to be in Thailand a couple of days later. The fancy restaurant on Kandooma Island was called The Kitchen, and to The Kitchen we went.
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First up was an amuse in the shape of a deep fried seafood and chicken wonton. Tasted like it looks. Nothing spectacular.

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A delicious Black Angus tenderloin with herb butter and garlic mash. Crazy expensive but so, so good.

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And finally a complimentary happy birthday cake. One thing should be pointed out though. Food was really expensive, but fortunately drinks weren’t as bad. A beer was $5 and a bottle of wine about $40. So while still expensive, not as crazy expensive as some of the food.

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Well, after four days of lazying on the beautiful beach, eating lots of delicious food (and enormous amounts of the complimentary snacks that came with beer purchases) we boarded our boat back to the airport and flew off into the sunset to the “land of smiles”.

If you want to read my TripAdvisor review of Holiday Inn Kandooma. You’ll find it here.