Head to New Caledonia for a long weekend and live the French life.
Feel like a weekend of indulging with exquisite cheeses made from unpasteurised milk, crisp baguettes and perfect croissants, all finished off with a glass of French champagne?
It doesn’t have to be a dream, New Caledonia is closer than you think at around two hours flying time from Brisbane to Noumea.
While Paris is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, is the haute cuisine hub of the Pacific with over 150 restaurants.
Expect to enjoy a great deal of French food with an intriguing mix of fresh local Melanesian fare here. You know you are in a country that appreciates good food when even the croissants at the airport cafe are near perfect.
Of course, on a Pacific island seafood is plentiful and freshly caught prawns, lobsters, oysters, marlin, mackerel, crab and mussels are frequent menu stars. You’ll see most of these straight from the boats of local fisherman, along with an interesting mix of local produce, at the Port Moselle market. Indulge in fresh papaya, pineapple and passionfruit at the market and then relax with a buttery croissant and steaming coffee. It is open daily from 5am except for Mondays.
Your ‘must try’ list should include bougna, a traditional Melanesian dish that wraps a combination of chicken, lobster or fish with yams, bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk in a banana leaf which is then steamed in an earth oven heated by hot stones. Small mangrove oysters and New Caledonian prawns are a feature of vol-au-vent des fruits de mer, a pastry filled with seafood and cream sauce, which is another dish to try.
Other culinary highlights include the endemic Ille des Pins escargot – huge, tender snails that only grow and can only be eaten on the Isle of Pines.
Even a wander through the supermarket is a gastronomic experience in Noumea. The cabinets are full of cheeses, many made from unpasturised milk and therefore unobtainable in Australia. The charcutterie range is extensive and even the baguettes have that crisp texture that screams French.
Select a hotel with a kitchenette and you’ll find self catering is an easy option. Just head to a supermarket and stock up on local treasures and dine like a king on your hotel balcony. The Chateau Royal Beach Club Resort and Spa has great kitchen facilities and a view that will entertain you while you dine. There’s also a Aquatonic Pool heated to 32 degrees Celsius with massaging jets, geysers and jacuzzis.
An easy way to access these French delights is with an Arc en Ciel Flavour n’ Savour tour which will take you to the Port Moselle Market, a creperie restaurant and a wine cellar. You can also enjoy an authentic local two hour cooking class with a French chef via Arc en Ciel.
While you can’t bring cheese back to Australia because of quarantine laws and there’s also alcohol restrictions on those bottles of French champagne, you could fill up your 23 kilograms of Aircalin luggage allowance with imported French delicacies, teas and chocolates.
Find out more about visiting from New Caledonia Tourism.
Kerry Heaney travelled courtesy of Aircalin and New Caledonia Tourism.