A foodies guide to Noumea

A foodies guide to Noumea
By admin


France has always been at the forefront of culinary sophistication. But not everyone can afford the time or the money to make the 24 hour flight to the other side of the world to experience it. But here’s some news that might come as a surprise to some – the grandeur of Paris meets the beauty of the Pacific in the French territorial capital of Noumea. This cultural destination is closer to Australia than New Zealand and it has all the perks of France without the drag of distance.

You see, the producers in New Caledonia have done the travel for you. They import goods from France so quality is assured. Take any street that stems off Coconut Square, the colonial centre of Noumea, to discover European boutiques stocked with designer clothes, handbags and homewares. Diners eat al fresco at restaurants that offer both gastronomic and provincial French cooking with regional wines stored in cool, glasscordoned rooms ready for sommelier selection.

The markets in Noumea preserve the French tradition of buying from the street. Stalls are piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables with the occasional box of dragon fruit adding a tropical twist to the mix. Ice shrouded fish is sold over a tall counter and marketers yell over the sounds of accordion music played live in the courtyard.

Noumea is a mecca for short-distance Francophiles. Here are five foodie highlights to whet your appetite.

CHEESE

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It would be a crime to travel to the French outpost of New Caledonia and not take advantage of imported French cheese. In the big supermarkets of Noumea, there is an open deli cabinet with a wide range of French cheeses that are served and cut into sections by hat-wearing staff. To accompany your cheese plate, some products have a Melanesian twist, such as foie gras infused with vanilla from the Loyalty Island of Lifou.

WINE

Quality French wine, at a fraction of the price you would pay in Australia? That’s reason enough to take a bottle of wine to match your cheese. The best regional wines are the Bordeaux, Burgundy and Cotes du Rhone. At the largest French wine shop in Noumea, Le Pavillion des Vins, the shelves are stocked with recent screw top blends, massive magnums and top-drawer vintages from boutique vineyards. The shop is divided into the appellations that define French wine. Out the back of the shop is evidence of the containers that enable the bottles to make the long haul to the southern hemisphere.

CREPES

The great French institution of crepes thrives in Noumea. The best creperie is named Le Rocher. In a high open air setting, the restaurant overlooks the blue water of the Baie des Citrons. The crepes come sweet or savoury and are cooked in an open kitchen with four hot plates for toasting the thin batter.

CHOCOLATE

French ingredients are cornerstone to the rich taste of Noumea’s chocolate. Patrick Morand is an artisan chocolatier who runs Chocolat Morand in Noumea. Passers-by can watch the chocolate being made by hand through a window on the premises. Morand believes that French cocoa makes his chocolate taste so good. “I take the technique and equipment from France but I take inspiration from New Caledonia by using passionfruit, lemon and combava,” he says. Combava is a Pacific island ingredient, also called kaffir lime. The dark chocolate ganache is infused with this exotic ingredient and it tingles on the tongue.

BREAD AND PASTRY

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Baguettes, croissants, traditional bread and pain au chocolat always taste better in France and, by default, New Caledonia. Cyril Pignault, baker for Le Fournil Gourmand believes the big difference comes down to a small ingredient: flour. “France has better, richer ground. You can taste the difference between Australian flour and French flour.”

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