Noumea may be the main city, but there is so much more to see… Don’t be afraid to explore the rest of the South Province, discover the North, and eat out of the ordinary!
- South Province:
O’ Jardin de Marie :
To be honest, the supermarket was closed and we needed a quick bite to take away on the beach. So we tried this little snack for an easy and cheap meal-to-go. “O’ Jardin de Marie” is a family-run style place that offers sandwiches, salads and hot meals. You can savour them on the nice hidden terrace or choose the take-away option. The food was good, well-portioned and reasonably priced. But it was rush hour and they were out of bread, out of smiles and we had to wait 30 minutes for some lettuce and boiled eggs. My advice: if the nearest supermarket is open, just buy some warm rice, some Tahitian salad and you’re good to go. Sorry Marie!
We like: Honest and affordable food. Good quality/price ratio.
Not so much: The lack of (or dysfunctions in) organization. The somewhat rude service and certainly rude customers we encountered that day (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt though, maybe it was just a bad day).
O’ Jardin de Marie
11-12, Lotissement Joseph R.T.1, 98840 Tontouta Tel: 83 07 20
Price range: $-$$
La Foa :
Chez Jasmin :
Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Well, with its movie theatre, its beekeeping equipment store and its splendid choice of at least three restaurants, La Foa is nothing short of the South Province’s Las Vegas. Or maybe not. But Chez Jasmin, the food is very good. Humble and flavourful Asian cuisine, friendliest staff ever (the restaurant is run by an adorable couple) and nice quiet terrace. I ate my very first bami –the famous Indonesian dish made of rice noodles, soy sauce and various proteins- and since everything is cooked fresh on the spot, the kind lady had no objection to prepare mine with shrimps only and no meat. Full vegetarian options also possible.
My companions had classic Vietnamese caramel chicken and ginger chicken sautés, it was flawless.
Cherry on top: frozen oranges and lemons on the dessert menu! One of my favourite sherbets/ice creams as a kid.
We like : Everything.
Not so much: Oh, just one thing. FLIES! It’s nobody’s fault and it’s quite inevitable in the area during summer, but it’s a real pain in the ass.
RT1 – 98 880 La Foa Tel.:+687 44.55.70
Price range : $-$$
- North Province :
Koulnoué Village :
Ah, the North… Once you’re driving amongst the lush green hills of « Col des Roussettes » (named after the endemic flying foxes), you know there will be no Burger King anytime soon. The North has something better to offer than fast-food: dense vegetation, picturesque roads, laid-back inhabitants who wave their hand at every passer-by, lots of super friendly wandering dogs. You will also find a mesmerizingly blue lagoon, sparkling patches of earth due to gold and silver mica, vast fields owned by the stockmen -these proud Pacific cowboys. But North Province is above all the land of Kanak soul, with acres and acres of deep forest that seem untouched but are in fact quietly populated by tribe people who managed to coexist in peace with their environment. Like in the South though, you will also see bleeding mountains, pierced by nickel extraction and factories. But the northern landscape still gives the illusion of untouched territory, resistance and respect for all things sacred. A wonderful discovery and probably one of the faces of New Caledonia I like the most.
Our first stop was in Napoémien tribe, close to Poindimié, for an unforgettable bougna (I’ll tell you all about it in our next post). We then stopped for the night at the Koulnoué Village Hostel in Hienghène. Our goal was plain and simple: enjoy a last night of comfortable bedding, hot shower and non-camp-food (even my love for canned sardines has its limits) before a full week of making friends with mosquitos under the tent.
So it was with the utmost joy that I discovered an all-you-can-eat buffet at the hostel. All. You. Can. Eat. BUFFET. All-you-can-eat buffet! Do you remember Ross’s enthusiasm (and excess of euphoria) upon eating maple candies in Vermont, in TV show Friends? That’s me with an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This one was cool enough, with lots of fresh stuff, salads, cold meats, fancy breads, hot sides and choice of grilled meat or fish. The only picture I managed to snap was of this extremely refined creation, an audacious twist on classic Italian gastronomy: tomato-orange cheddar slices salad. If you’re an ardent tomato-mozzarella connoisseur, yes, Koulnoué Village just blew your mind. (To be honest I didn’t taste it, so maybe it was not that bad).
The lunch menu, unfortunately, was a bit disappointing –and also a challenge for my immune system. My dish (the “Polynesian style fish in coconut milk”, aka my beloved Tahitian salad) featured indeed abnormally big chunks of white fish in enormous quantities. In spite of being really hungry after a morning spent kayaking back and forth the nearby river, I felt really full and a bit grossed out quickly enough. But I forced myself to eat half of it anyway (in my family, Waste is Evil, and my survival instinct isn’t the strongest sometimes). Then, my brother tasted a bite of my fish salad and immediately spat it out (his survival instinct is top shape). “You know that neither fish nor coconut milk are supposed to make your tongue numb and itchy, right?” he simply said, before continuing to eat peacefully his own perfectly safe Caesar salad.
Less than 10 minutes later a sudden and violent headache hit me, I became red as hell, with bloodshot eyes, itchy skin and a slow but noticeable swelling of my airways (it was not Quincke edema though). My brother casually handed my 2 pills of a powerful antihistaminic he always carries in his bag just in case, and I became normal again after about half an hour. Why he’s never been featured in a Man vs. Wild episode yet is beyond my understanding.
All in all, enjoy the buffet but beware of raw fish or any “risky” foodstuff, they seemed a bit on the nonchalant side about it. And keep in mind that New Caledonia is among the areas affected by ciguatera, a low but nonetheless real risk.
Price range: $$
R.M.4, Hienghène 98815, Nouvelle-Calédonie Tel.:+687 24.24.77
Kejaon camping table d’hôte :
Do you really hate translucent lagoons and soft, golden sand beaches? Do you feel bored or anguished to death when watching a moonset in the bright purple sky at dawn? Is there only indifference and despise in your heart for paradisiac atmospheres, does it ache for the hustle and bustle of a good ol’ subway station at rush hour? Then run ! Run for dear life! Because peaceful Poum and the tropical, out-of-this-world setting of Kejaon camping is going to stress you out.
Whether you stay there or not, the owners offer a table d’hôte every night, and people staying at nearby campings are more than happy to join in (everyone has their limits when it comes to canned sardines).
Just picture the long wooden table, the flowery, blue tablecloth garnished with seashells, the dim lights of candles and the sweet sound of a pacific breeze in the palm trees. Aaaah… Cliché never felt so good.
This pretty place is the dream of Charly and Jade come true, a friendly french-vietnamese couple who will give you a warm welcome and a nice chat in English, French or Vietnamese (whatever you fancy). Amongst many tasks, Jade is in charge of the cooking and she is doing a great job with local delicacies (seafood and fish are quite literally from sea to plate) and a mix of Pacific and Vietnamese inspired flavours.
It’s super fresh, tasty and healthy. And the dessert was perfect after a hot evening and a day spent at sea: a lovely tapioca, beans and coconut pudding, served chilled.
Jade told us that night that she had only learned cooking with her family a few weeks ago, during a trip back home in the South of Vietnam. Amazing right? We could never have told (and remember, my bro is Mr homemade curry paste). Way to go Jade! 🙂
BP 115 Route de Boat Pass, 98826 Poum Tél.: + (687) 900 555 Courriel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Price range : $
Ecomusée du café / Coffee ecomuseum :
This is not a restaurant but really worth your (coffee or tea) time. In a lush, green and peaceful setting, this tiny ecomuseum highlights local coffee culture and serves exquisite cuppas. I know absolutely nothing in terms of beans, and I was in a particularly oblivious mood that day, so I forgot every precious information that was given to me about the name, aroma and intensity of the blends. (Probably a good time to mention that my everyday job is journalist right?)
But the staff there is extremely knowledgeable and give excellent advice, just ask them! The girl we met that day, Lindsey, was a pleasure to talk with. I sipped my hot beverage on the terrace, contemplating the coffee trees, and it was blissful. If you are in Voh (and frankly it’s a must-see), don’t hesitate to pay a visit to the Ecomuseum, and drink an excellent coffee accompanied with homemade sweets.
Adresse : BP 50 – 98333 Voh ; Courriel: email@example.com Tél.: 75 95 65
Price range: $
Next on Almamat(t)ers: We stay in the North of New Caledonia to show you how real bougna is made.
 Local Melanesians