Pictures: Jim Freeman and supplied
Pictures: Jim Freeman and supplied

Luke Dale-Roberts went island popping in Mauritius

By Jim Freeman Time of article published May 31, 2018

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When the drought situation in Cape Town was so dire it looked as if the city’s taps would run dry by April, Luke Dale-Roberts of South Africa’s top-rated restaurant began looking at options for keeping his business alive.

He’d previously been invited to stage a pop-up at Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort and Spa in Mauritius but declined because of pressures of work. Now, he felt, the time was right to transplant The Test Kitchen’s (TTK’s) operations almost in its entirety to the Indian Ocean island.

In mid-April, Dale-Roberts and 17 of his staff opened the doors of The Test Kitchen Mauritius and stayed for the six weeks.

Had you travelled to Mauritius before?

My wife Sandaleen and I have been here a couple of times with our son Finley. We’ve stayed at the local Club Med as well as the more upmarket Beachcomber because we like being able to holiday as a family: all-inclusive resorts are brilliant for kids because of the range of activities they offer. It sounds naff but it’s easy and there’s no drama.

We’ve never been ones for shipping Finley - who’s 11 - off to the “Kiddies’ Club” to get him out of our hair, so it’s great when there’s a comprehensive programme in which all three of us can participate.

I’m also not one for sitting around with a book when I’m on holiday and like to stay active.

Your thoughts on hotels that discourage children?

These are usually at the “upper end” of the market. We once stayed at one but couldn’t relax a minute because Finley was quite a bit younger and we found ourselves trying to rein him in and this spoilt the holiday for all of us all because we were afraid of offending rich fuddy-duddies. The whole family dynamic was ruined.

A lot of high-end resorts are becoming child-friendly. I was pleasantly surprised by Le Touessrok in this regard.

Tell me more about Le Touessrok

The property is stunning. It’s massive and the hotel covers 300000m2. The restaurants are brilliant I loved the Indian restaurant, and happy hour before dinner was the coolest thing. You sit in a sandpit lined with cushions and get cocktails as well as proper bubbly and wine. The drinks are free everyone loves getting something for nothing because it makes them feel spoilt. I’d love to go back as a guest with my family.

How successful was the pop-up?

It flew. We could do a maximum of 50 covers a night and we did that almost every evening. The amazing thing was that more than half the diners were residents. Word got around the island.

Did you incorporate island influences into the menu?

Our initial menu was straight out of Cape Town. However, one of the resort chefs took me to the Flacq fresh produce market soon after we arrived. Mauritian ingredients are very cool and our second menu included a lot of them.

We made breadfruit crisps on a lobster salad with a coconut dressing. I also used breadfruit on a foie gras dish that blew the locals away they’re used to breadfruit cooked in a curry.

We used a vegetable called shu-shu - the flesh and tendril-like leaves - with fish and green papaya with desserts.

There is also a selection of fish that’s far better than you get in Cape Town. One of the most amazing was red grouper.

What are your long-term plans?

To open a cookery school in Sri Lanka.

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