People told us the South Pacific island of New Caledonia was a little piece of France with a lot of azure water, but we didn’t truly believe them until we touched down in the capital. Noumea is set on a hilly peninsula surrounded by sweeping bays and a handful of virtually untouched islets just off the coast. The scenery screams South Pacific, but the food scene is French fusion.
Expect to see baguettes and gooey French cheeses sold alongside coconuts and yams at the local market – the tropical and Gallic blend of influences makes the island such a delicious destination for foodies. Here’s our guide to eating your way around town:
Spring rolls for breakfast?
Noumea’s no-frills snack bars have adopted several classic Asian dishes over the years, so it’s not unusual to see locals slurping bowls of Vietnamese pho for brunch. Head to the Chinatown district and look out for vendors ladling nem from the deep-fryer. Deliciously naughty, this grease-laden street-food looks like a fat spring roll and consists of minced pork, beef or crab wrapped in a wonton and plunged in bubbling oil.
If you prefer to start the day with something sweet, head to Noumea’s oldest bakery – La Vieille France (77 Rue de Sébastopol). The team start baking at 2:30am, making 20kg of croissants every day. Like kids in a candy shop, we grabbed doughnuts, strawberry tarts and chocolate eclairs before trying to sample all 32 flavours of macaron – the Coca-Cola variety was interesting. Their speciality is the Coeurs de Voh, a heart-shaped chocolate made in honour of the stunning heart-shaped magrove glade north of the main island of New Caledonia.
If your sweet-tooth still isn’t satisfied, or you need a few souvenirs, make a beeline for Chocolat Morand (9 Rue Porcheron) in the old Latin Quarter – this is artisan chocolate-making at its best. Classically French-trained owner Patrick sources chocolate from all over the world to feature in his inventive creations. He’s keen to show off the latest recipes (the guy has more than 200 up his sleeve) so samples are forthcoming – we suggest you request the delicious 55% dark French chocolate filled with a mint and green tea white chocolate ganache. Other flavours include mango, Szechuan pepper, basil and mandarin. Need we say more?