The 19th December marked the beginning of Christmas 2016. I took the plane from Paris Orly to Southampton, and my mum was waiting for me at the Arrivals gate to take us both straight onto Lakaz Maman, the Mauritian restaurant of Masterchef 2012 winner, Shelina Permalloo, which she’d been eager to take me to for years.
In 2014, Loums and I spent nearly three weeks Mauritius visiting his maternal family, and I hope to return in the near future, as there’s truly nowhere like it. The majority of the Mauritian population are mainly Creole, Indo-Mauritian and Sino-Mauritian, therefore it comes as no surprise that food is a huge way in which the country celebrates the cultures which make it so unique. On a typical day, our food diary would look like this: Breakfast – Fruit, spicy eggs and strong coffee. Snack – Pineapple and chilli. Lunch – Something with merlin or spicy vegetables which we could takeaway with us or if we were somewhere fancy, I would always go for a Cari. Dinner – Well, we would have anything and everything which we were excited to try from samosa’s to Mine Frite to a rougaille, all washed down with a cold glass of Pheonix beer.
My mum and I were the first customer’s to arrive, and who should open the doors to us, but Shelina herself! She was of course, extremely welcoming and sat the two of us on a table for four so we would have enough space for all our dishes, made sure that we had everything we needed, and then left us to peruse the menu.
Stepping into Shelina’s restaurant, was like stepping into a restaurant next to Pereybere beach, the interior was vibrant, cosy, and typically Mauritian. We decided to get three starters to share, and the second I saw Anana Confit with chilli and tamarind, I knew we had to go for it, we then ordered Vindaye Salt Cod, which Loums’ mum loved to make on a regular basis, and Mauritian Style Octopus. Loums bought me ananas aux piments on our second day in Mauritius and it quickly became a staple for the rest of our trip, so tasting it again with Shelina’s twist of adding tamarind and a lovely rich soy dressing, was wonderful.
Next up were our mains, and we both chose the mouth-watering Cari Lakaz Maman. A Cari is a traditional Mauritian dish which consists of chicken, fish or mutton served in a rich sauce, served with rich and a few accompaniments, and Shelina secured the title of Masterchef winner by cooking Cari Mutton in the final! The dish which I’ve posted above is a very traditional take on the Cari which we ate at Maison Eureka, and it will always be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. So again, when I saw it on the menu I was eager to get that feeling of being back on the island, while also being intrigued to see Shelina’s take on it. I chose to have my Cari with braised mutton, where my mum opted for the red snapper. The sauce was light, fragrant yet rich, the mutton was tender and the sauces served with it were the salade aux tomates which is another of Loums’ mum’s favourites, and a coconut lime pickle to soak into the rice. It was sublime.
We were almost defeated by our mains, but were determined to get the full Lakaz Maman experience, so dessert had to be done. As scrumptious as the Sticky Mauritian Ginger Cake sounded, after such a big meal I decided to go for the Roasted Pineapple with Sugar and Spice, with the additional flavours of rose water, crushed pistachios and mango sorbet. It was absolutely packed with flavour, the idea of adding the touch of rose water just lifted up all the other flavours and it was the perfect end to a great meal. I’ll get the Sticky Mauritian Ginger Cake next time!
During our time there, we actually got the chance to talk to Shelina, where I told her about Loums, his family and our trip there (in a nutshell!) Towards the end of our meal, we asked if it would be possible to get our picture taken with her as a keepsake for us, but also for Loums’ family, and we were so happy that she said yes!
I will take any and every opportunity to return when I’m next back in Portsmouth, we had such a great time, and as we were leaving, I loved the subtle nod to the official National animal of Mauritius – the dodo.