Ok it is true: Port Vila counts some good (and quite expensive) restaurants; there are also quite a few places that pretend to be classy and are indeed average, except for the bill. In almost none of these will you be able to taste local food: never mind traditional kaekae!
To me, eating where the locals eat is often the best choice. It must be sad that some dark, empty and very discouraging 'local' restaurants did not attract us.
But right beside the Au Bon Marchè Supermarket (probably the biggest and best stocked in Vila) there is this fast-food like place, with an excellent view on the harbour (the same you get from the very much more expensive 'Chill' one floor above) and its underwater life. Rice with meat and vegetables is always freshly made, and really tasty. the place is clean the ladies at the counter quick and polite. and it's cheap! What else could you ask for?
Last tip: do not get any of the ice cream from the freezer: because power goes off every now and then, they are probably undergone several cycles of re-freezing: not recommended.
Favorite Dish: Chicken with rice and vegetables. The asteak is also good
Nambawan Cafe is the hot spot to meet people in Port Vila. Go there for Breakfast, buy your copy of the 'Vanuatu Post' and just sit there watching the movement goin' on.
Pop there again for a Tusker beer or a fresh fruit juice, or a cocktail, at 5 pm and enjoy the sunset.
This is the time for yacht people to get off for a beer.
Favorite Dish: Fresh fruit mix.
Tara Beach is about a half hour drive from Port Vila and is located on Devils Point Rd. The laid back resort and outdoor restaurant is right on the beach which adds to its dining experience. The local owners Sala and Lei Vatoko are both wonderfully hospitable and have a wealth of knowledge about thier island home. Carl will greet you with a beaming smile and attend to your every need. The food as you can see from photos is a mix of local and western fare and is very well presented. All local produce is organically grown and very tasty. Local beef from Santo Island is truely the best you will find anywhere in the world you cant leave without having a steak at a local restaurant. Seafood is fresh and well presented. Tara beach is situated on Mele Bay so swimming and snorkling is safe from the sand beach or have a paddle on the kayaks while waiting for your meal. Guests are welcome for day trips or meal and make sure to ask if Sala is around you wont be disappointed and if you are truely lucky get him to sing a few tunes he is Vanuatu's own "elvis"
Favorite Dish: Lobster Mornay .........delicious flavour not overdone with sauce flavours to take away from the experience. Magnificent!!
Chill Restaurant was another place I would have liked to have tried again. We went there after the Kava tour and we were pretty tired and about ready to hit the sack. We hadn't had dinner though, and wanted something light after the snacks we'd had on the cruise.
We decided to share a pizza and salad and have a dessert each. The pizza was great! Can't remember what type it was, but it was very nice.
I had waffles with coconut icecream. The waffles were I think a little overcooked, but the coconut icecream was delicious. My partner had the Nangai nut icecream slice, which was quite frozen and a bit of a chore to eat, but it was yummy nevertheless.
Favorite Dish: Pizza!
The Cafe Au Peche Mignon regularly receives rave reviews, and it's well-deserved. The place is always packed and popular with locals and tourists. The display cabinets show off the chef's gorgeous-looking pastries and desserts. Unfortunately, we never got around to trying any of them, but we did pop in for lunch one day and had pizza and beer. The pizza was quite tasty and nicely cooked, and the prices were reasonable.
The atmosphere of the cafe was a little bit strange. All the seating was alfresco, and in Port Vila that means hot. Luckily, it's also completely enclosed so it's out of the sun. Unfortunately this also makes it seem somewhat claustrophobic. It was generally nice once seated though.
One time we decided to just get some ice-cream from the sidewalk bit. Paying for the food this time was a bit of a drama. One person served us the icecream and then we had to queue up at a separate till to pay for it. The staff were rushed off their feet and yet refused to be harried, so we found ourselves queued up for quite a while.
Favorite Dish: Well, I only had the pizza, but it really was quite nice!
The best food in town by far was to be had at Tropik Bistrot.
It's a very unassuming place, a little bit on the cheaply decorated side. The place was empty that night, we were the only customers, so we took a seat outside where it was a bit cooler. (Even though the sign claimed it was fully airconditioned, it was cooler outside).
The menu was full of interesting temptations. For entree, I settled on the Heart of Palm Salad. Oh my! Sooooo delicious! And my partner had the Mangrove Crab Salad, which he said was very nice too.
For mains, I decided on the Coconut Crab (after prodding from my partner and after checking with the waitress that the stocks weren't being unnecessarily depleted - in fact, this was the first time in a long time that they'd had it on the menu, apparently). The crab was served with a delicious spicy sauce, and the whole combination was divine, I loved every minute of it!
My partner decided on the Rib Eye Fillet with Vanuatu Pepper Sauce. He hesitated here, because most of the other meat he'd tried so far had been rather disappointing. However, he was very pleased with the steak here, cooked to perfection. I had a taste as well, and normally I don't like steak but this was indeed very nice.
Happiness all round!
For dessert we had crepes - crepes suzette and banana crepes. They were OK, but not as good as the two previous courses.
All in all, this was a wonderful place. The food was fantastic, and the staff were friendly and attentive but not overly so. The best service we had during our stay.
The bad new is, on the plane on the way home, we saw an ad in the paper saying the place was for sale. Hopefully the restaurant will stay open!
Favorite Dish: It's a toss up, the heart of palm salad was delicious and unexpected, but the coconut crab was to die for!
We didn't eat from Michener's a la carte menu, but as part of our package, we received a complimentary candlelight dinner on our balcony. (Seems practically all guests get this inclusion.)
This was arranged through Michener's Resaurant - we had a set menu to choose from, so we arranged the date and time and pre-ordered our 3-course dinner. They were quite punctual and the service was good but unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed with the food itself.
Let's get the bad part out of the way first. The entree and dessert were OK, but the main was, well, terrible. My partner had the beef, which was not just rare, it was quite raw inside, and in addition to this it was just a bad cut of meat, gristley and chewy. I'd ordered the Wahoo fish wrapped in banana leaf, and I was fairly disappointed with this too, it was quite dry and inedible.
However, the entree was reasonably filling. I had a smoked marlin and salmon salad which was actually rather delicious, and my partner had the coconut prawns, which was nice but we'd had better at Shooters. We both had the chocolate tart for dessert which was also delicious and a generous serving to boot. It was just a shame the meat was so inedible, it spoiled the evening a little bit.
The service was good - the waiter went away after delivering each course and we just dialed the restaurant to get the next one, which was delivered within 5-10 minutes.
We also received a complimentary bottle of Hardy's sparkling wine with the meal. It wasn't that nice, the complimentary Grandin we'd received on arrival at the resort was better.
Favorite Dish: The chocolate tart!
We'd read a lot of good reviews about the Flaming Bull Steakhouse, but it didn't really make our list of "must do's". Nevertheless, we found ourselves there after our trip to Hideaway Island. I especially wanted to go because of the rumoured cocktail in a coconut shell, I really wanted one! Alas, they'd run out of shells :(
However, we decided to eat there anyway, and the cocktail was nice even served in a normal glass. We had calamari (which were cooked to marvellous perfection) and a burger and chips, which was purportedly very nice as well.
Favorite Dish: The Calamari was fantastic!
Tilly's is one of the top places in Port Vila. We decided to have a tapas lunch there one day before our tour, so the experience was brief. But oh was it good! The service was fantastic - attentive, but not pesteringly so. The feshly squeezed lime juice was light and sweet. We ordered 3 tapas dishes (calamari, koftu, and pork dumplings), each of which was quite delicious.
And best of all, the view over the water was to die for.
It would have been nice to have had another meal here, we defintely would have gone back if we'd had more time.
We went on a half day excursion to Hideaway Island. We had about an hour to kill before the ferry was due to take us back, so we decided to order some chips. The chips arrived, steaming hot, just as we had to leave, so we had to gulp them down in about a minute before we had to rush off. Coupled with the hideous price tag, I'd suggest avoiding this one.
We spotted Cafe du Village during the sunset cruise, and decided it was so cute we had to have dinner there. We took a seat outside beneath the lush flowering vines that trailed over the pergola. We took in the gorgeous evening view over the harbour towards Iririki Island.
Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. The food was average and the service was... overly attentive, bordering on pestering. The waiters had nothing much to do so they kept asking us if everything was OK. Not that they weren't friendly, they were really quite nice but we got kind of sick of saying everything was OK.
Foodwise, the garlic bread was huge! We had lamb and fish for mains, both were disappointing. Dessert was nice though, we had Banana Flambe` and Crepes Flambe`.
Sara Beach is run by a local man called Roy. He (or his wife, though we never saw her) does all the cooking and there is only one dish to choose from - lunch. It's basically a combination dish of various local produce. There was some meat, some root vegetables, and some rice. It was reasonably tasty and I think each plate cost in the region of 1000VT.
Since we came on a private bus, our driver and guide got their meals for free. Either that or we had to pay for them, I'm not entirely sure!
Bali Hai Cafe was a good place to grab a bite to eat without having to think too hard about it. We had a couple of meals here. On our first night we couldn't be bothered going into town, so we found a table by the pool and had some cocktails and browsed the menu. They did have a nice range to choose from. We settled on the Tahitian Fish Salad, which was absolutely delicious! and a burger which was apparently quite nice.
Another time we just grabbed some bread and dip to snack on during happy hour; it was nice but unfortunately it wasn't big enough.
We also had lunch here. Both of us decided on the coconut chicken wrap. It was OK, but not overly memorable.
You can download the menu from the resort's website.
Favorite Dish: Tahitian fish salad. Delicious and my first time trying a "local" dish.
Shooters is a strange pub that appears to have taken the Playboy Bunny symbol and run with it. There is the seedy pub section, and then there's the elegant dining section, a strange mix. We went for dinner, and had garlic bread (which was huge!), coconut prawns (delicious!), lobster (also yummy but not very filling), and steak (apparently not so great but OK).
Favorite Dish: The Coconut prawns were delicious!
Jill's cafe is one of the few places we went that was obviously frequented by many locals. It's easy to see why. Serving sizes are generous and the prices as below average. We went for breakfast on our last day, just to try something different.
I had the 3-egg mushroom and herb omelette with fruit on the side, and my partner had an all-american breakfast - bacon, eggs, hash browns etc. Both were delicious.
They were a slow to take our order, but once taken the food came reasonably quickly. Probably not a place to go if you're in a rush, though.
Favorite Dish: 3-egg Omelette. It's huge! But wonderfully flavoured.
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