Quotes from Chefs and Explorers...
“The six days I spent at Soneva Fushi were pure joy. It is an exquisite island, whose concept for sustainable living and eating is exactly what the world needs now. It was a pleasure to cook dinner here with all the wonderful bounty that comes directly from the organic gardens. They however certainly did not need my help for the good food provided from all five restaurants on the island. The island is completely perfect.”
Skye Gyngell, head chef at Petersham Nurseries, a quirky café in London treated herself to a week’s holiday at Soneva Fushi to celebrate the recent accolade of being awarded a Michelin star. Petersham Nurseries and Soneva Fushi share many values, both have been described as magically whimsical places in the most idyllic of surroundings and both are known for their emphasis on sustainable gardening using seasonal, fresh produce on their menus.
Whilst holidaying at Soneva Fushi, Skye also prepared a special 4-course dinner for guests in the resort’s restaurant Fresh In The Garden, a venue suspended high in the jungle trees above the aromatic organic gardens. Guests were also invited to join Skye for a one-off cooking class, with dishes using simple, clean and clear flavours, with food described by a guest as ‘food that sings in the mouth as well as visually on the plate’.
2010 was a good year for Skye. She was also named as a UK winner in the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards 2010 and her third book `How I Cook` won the Best Woman Chef Book category. She will now compete against winners in the same category in other countries for The Best in the World.
'Soneva Fushi is living the Slow Food philosophy of Good, Clean and Fair and showing the way to a sustainable future in the Maldives. The look of pride on Nihal's face when he shyly presented me with a basket of beautiful freshly picked herbs and salad leaves from the organic garden at Soneva Fushi reminded me of how much we chefs owe the garden heroes.'
'Yesterday was a truly momentous day - my grandson took his first tentative steps in Ireland and I a 62 year old grandmother went snorkelling for the very first time at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives - how cool was that ! '
'Cycling on my trusty black bike under the jungle canopy at Soneva Fushi with my hair blowing in the breeze was SO exhilarating, I felt I was 18 again!
Darina Allen (born 1951 in Port Laoise) is an Irish chef, TV personality and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland.
A graduate of the Dublin Institute of Technology, she is the author of several successful books on the topic of Irish cuisine. She is a leader of the SLOWFOOD movement in Ireland and instrumental in establishing a network of farmers' markets in the Cork area. She lives on her organic farm, Kinoith, in Shanagarry. Allen has been voted Cooking Teacher of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
Owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co Cork, Ireland, teacher, food writer, newspaper columnist, cookbook author and television presenter. School is situated on an organically run farm.
“Maldivian Islands have fish with fabulous textures, different from what we usually have at home, delivered daily by local fishermen. Fruits and vegetables are very interesting, but Soneva Fushi also has a spectacular garden of aromatic herbs and vegetables. They are the dream of any chef”.
“The Soneva Fushi’s guest is the same as Mugaritz restaurant’s client. Dealing with them in a different environment certainly brings us a rich knowledge”.
“I know Soneva Resorts and its way of understanding the business for years. I share with them the philosophy of sustainable luxury and the way of understanding the pleasure moments that life provides. The beauty does not have to quarrel with the satisfaction that brings respect the nature, the environment and local culture”.
“I love Soneva Fushi and be lost through any corner of the island or swim in the turqueoise water surrounded by colorful fishes. But I think that dinner at the restaurant Fresh in The Garden and then pass through the observatory to look one of the clearest skies in the world is something extraordinary. I haven't seen a sky like that in the Australian desert”.
“Have you tasted these chefs food?
What in the world would they need me for! These are the best!”
"The thing about the super service you get in this place is that they make you feel like it's very hard to do something wrong. That goes for children too. I don't think anyone here would say: Sorry that's not possible." a new deffinition of paradise...
Mankind always compare. Even if she sometimes should not. If you seen the exctract of life, the definition of paradise, we should not compare because where can we go after this?
I have seen many places, but i have never experiensed the enviroment, the extremely high service level and amazing food and cooking skills that I did on Soneva Fushi!!
I want to be able to go to other places but I think I will always compare it with the Maldives. Soneva Fushi is truly addictive!
From the first second to the very last. It's like a dream you dont want to loose.
So to the staff of Fushi; keep up the pride in what you do. You make the guests feel very special! And where I go ever after I will hear myself say, ‘we will always have the Maldives...’”
Swedish chef of the year 2011
What do you think of the gourmet experience at Soneva Kiri?
It was of a very high standard. I had been hoping to experience some quality Thai cuisine and I wasn’t disappointed. What really impressed me, though, was the scope of food available at just about any time of day. We all fancy a burger whilst on holiday but to find a handmade version in a homemade bun was a real treat.
I have two children – one spent the whole week eating hot and spicy local dishes whilst the other was well satisfied by the imaginative children’s menu available. Great use was made of local ingredients in both the traditional Thai cuisine but also in other aspects of the menu. We loved all the different freshly squeezed juices served before each meal, for example.
Special praise must go to the pastry department because I ate some of the finest pastries I’ve had anywhere in the world. Service was excellent. Every member of the front-of-house team was charming and always happy to help. As a restaurant owner I’m all too aware that 90% of my customers never get to meet me, so your staff ‘on the floor’ have to be the face of the business – I hope we do half as well as Soneva resorts.
On the drinks side the wine lists were excellent – even a fine Thai wine which was great. Cocktails were competently made and imaginatively served.
But the best bit was breakfast! A treat I rarely enjoy these days. The spread was magnificent – always fresh and much of it made to order in front of the customer.
How does the food compare to Michelin restaurants in Europe?
Sadly, much of Europe’s food is served in the most soulless of restaurants by waiters who are weighed down by rules and regulations governing food service which were probably written 100 years ago! One of the reasons I have moved away from ‘fine dining’ is simply because it involves so much pomp and ceremony. You’ve got it just about perfect: fabulous food served in relaxed surroundings and stunning scenery, all with a smile. I am certain if you were to pick up The View restaurant and plonk it in the middle of London it would be awarded a Michelin star.
Did you learn anything about Asian cooking /ingredients during your trip?
I am a big fan of world cuisine. I love experiencing food from different cultures from all parts of the world but Thai cuisine is something special. Anyone visiting Soneva Kiri must go to Benz restaurant – in fact, it should be compulsory in the terms and conditions! I have eaten five or six truly memorable meals in my life, meals that stand out due to their imagination and flair, and Benz has joined that list (see Khun Benz profile below).
I have come back to the UK brimming with ideas – on my first day back we were ordering lime leaf, lemon grass, galangal and coriander. We will be squeezing ginger, bashing lemongrass and pummelling chillis all summer! So yes, I learned lots in the kitchens at Soneva Kiri and that inspiration will live on in my menus.
Did anything surprise you?
I loved the ethos of Soneva. Here at the Victoria we are fully committed to responsible sourcing of all ingredients from suppliers who maintain a strong commitment to ethical farming, fishing and food production. I am an ambassador for the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods Campaign and also for an organization called Compassion in World Farming so it was great to find these ideals in place at Soneva. I wasn’t expecting to see such genuine commitment but was pleasantly surprised.
What did you create for Soneva Kiri guests and what was your favourite dish?
The main focus of my visit was a six course gastronomic tasting menu which featured dishes that have appeared on my menus back in the UK. I was delighted that each event sold out and we had some good feedback.
Funnily enough the most quirky dish was also the biggest hit. As a pre-dessert I hollowed out some raw egg shells and filled them with a coconut mousse and in the centre I spooned a little passionfruit syrup and served it with a finger of toasted brioche – like boiled egg and soldiers!
The finest cooking in Thailand?
Paul Merrett was obviously wowed by the food at Benz, our traditional Thai restaurant at Soneva Kiri. The delightful Khun Benz is the cook behind its success. She first met Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, the founders of Soneva, by chance over 15 years ago at a roadside shack in Thailand. So impressed were Sonu and Eva that they persuaded her to come and cook full-time for them in the Maldives. After a long tenure at Soneva Fushi Khun Benz is now back in her native land, running Benz restaurant on Koh Kood, a beautiful stilted wooden building among the mangroves fringing Klong Yai Kee, accessible only by boat, lit only by lanterns and fireflies. There’s no menu; Khun Benz simply creates new dishes every day from whatever is freshest at the market. The freshest fish, the freshest meat, the freshest vegetables, the freshest herbs. There's nowhere quite like it on the planet, and no better cook in Thailand.
Michelin-starred chef Paul Merrett, noted restaurateur, gastropub champion and regular presenter of cookery programmes on the BBC, visited Soneva Kiri over Easter to cook for guests. We wanted to hear his expert opinion of the culinary offering at Thailand's most luxurious island resort.
"Soneva Fushi is quite simply the closest thing to Paradise I have been lucky enough to visit. At 100 acres, the island was much larger than I expected – a tropical rainforest fringed by powder white sands and impossibly blue waters. I find it difficult to keep still for very long, but fortunately there is so much to do on Soneva Fushi. I had a great time exploring the lost world of the island’s jungle interior on foot and bicycle which was teeming with wildlife from hermit crabs to flying foxes. I snorkelled amongst parrot fish, rays and turtles, and windsurfed across the lagoon under a hot Maldivian sun.
Soneva Fushi has a very strong sustainability ethic and it was fascinating to visit some of their pioneering environmental projects such as their solar farm (the Maldives’ largest), the desalination plant and their recycling and composting centre. My evenings began with a leisurely 45-minute stroll around the island’s perimeter, the soft sand squeezing between my toes as I watched the baby reef sharks dancing in and out of the surf. I’ll never forget the sight of a pair of dolphins silhouetted against the setting sun as I sipped an ice-cold mohito from the Me Dhuniye bar. Life doesn’t get much better than this I thought to myself. I have never eaten as well as I did on Soneva Fushi and much of the food is grown on the island or fished from the waters surrounding Soneva Fushi. The service was out of this world, the staff so welcoming, friendly and eager to please. The culinary highlight was dinner on a sandbank, some half a mile out into the lagoon. The other dinner guests were whisked over by the resort boat, but I was determined to get there under my own power so paddled my way across in a kayak. Thankfully the tides didn’t carry me away and 14 minutes’ hard toil later I was greeted by Abhuli, my Friday, with a towel and a fresh king coconut with a straw – surely the most thirst-quenching drink in the tropics.
That evening I gave a talk to my fellow dinner guests about my adventures in the polar regions and how these wildernesses are being transformed by global warning. It was particularly poignant to have been speaking on a sandbank in the Maldives, because even though the Arctic Ice Cap is thousands of miles away, the melting ice caps are going to have a direct impact on low-lying nations like the Maldives as global sea levels continue to rise. My attitude to climate change is one of hope, but we need to act now. And Soneva Fushi is setting the world an example about how we can all live sustainably without having a negative impact on our daily lives. It is a very special place and I feel very privileged to have stayed there."
‘Cooking at Soneva Fushi was a unique experience. It was truly inspiring to see their environmental programme, from the recycling to the organic gardens. Picking the herbs and vegetables in the morning and then cooking them for dinner, this is how I want to cook everyday.’
British TV Presenter and Explorer
Soneva Kiri on the Thai island of Koh Kood spoils senses you never even knew existed. Set on an island surrounded by tropical forest you are marooned in luxurious style. The open bath and shower looking out onto the water and Cambodia beyond and the wrap around private swimming pool were beyond indulgent.
The no shoes or news policy soon slows the pace of life and before long I had lost track of the time of day. The sustainability of the resort is astonishing and it manages to feel like it has merely joined the landscape rather than overwhelmed or ransacked it. Trees have been left in their original positions (there was one coming through our bathroom) and the architects have merely worked around them.
Eating fresh produce grown on the island and fish sustainably caught from the ocean makes you feel like you are a part of the environment working with it rather than against it. Heavenly doesn't even begin to describe Soneva Kiri.
Astronaut – first space craft landing on the moon 1969
“My family and I love Soneva Kiri because there is so much to do here. You could keep coming back and still find something new. I know about the ‘No News’ idea, but I have stayed in touch a little with the world’s going on whilst here, but it’s wonderful how much less important the emails seem from here. That’s a good thing! We’ve all enjoyed the scuba diving, snorkeling and even washing down the elephants. It’s great to relax on holiday, as I have maintained a travel schedule that most twenty-year-olds would have a hard time matching.”
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Round the world Sailor – 1st to sail single-handed non stop around the world in 1969
“We have loved Soneva Kiri – it is a fabulous place. And it has been fantastic to meet Buzz, something I’ve wanted to do all my life, so I’m very grateful to Sonu for having given me that opportunity. I offered to take Buzz sailing, but he grinned at me as if to say he thought it would be a bit slow for him! Holidays are a rare occurrence for me and this one has been very special indeed.”
TV presenter and world adventurer
Did you enjoy Soneva Kiri? What did you love about it?
I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was better than I could possibly have imagined, the most beautiful villas with their own swimming pools. I loved the attention to detail and genuine kindness of the people there which is what truly made it a wonderful place to stay and a pure piece of paradise.
Is it a resort you would recommend for families and why?
I would definitely recommend it 100% to families; it’s a very kid friendly place. When we were there, there were loads of kids and there are tons of things for kids to do.
Did you think Soneva Kiri and the surrounding island Koh Kood are good for adventurous activities (eg kayaking on mangroves)?
There’s a lot to do, as well as sailing and diving there are also plenty of staff on hand to help you with canoes and explore the neighbouring island, with its stunning white sand palm clad beach.
Did you meet any interesting people at Soneva Kiri and how did that make you feel?
We met a couple of families while we were there who had the same age children as ours which was fantastic but as well as that I had the honour of having dinner with Buzz Aldrin, the pilot of the first spacecraft to land on the moon. He was fascinating. There’s definitely something for everybody on the island!