Sails Restaurant, Muri Beach, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
There can be few greater pleasures than sitting at a table on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, looking out over a body of variously shaded turquoise water towards two smaller islands, one on the left that has a beach to which you can walk through the warm water and a smaller one on the right topped by palm trees. The menu of the restaurant from which you enjoy this view contains a main dish of local origin, Island Fries. As the name suggests, the generous basket that comes contains four items that have been fried: taro, the orange kumara or sweet potato, maniota or tapioca root, and something we took to be banana. Cooked in olive oil, it’s a very satisfying but starchy dish, that goes very well with a side serve of rukau, a dip of pureed dark green taro leaves that resembles spinach; a few days earlier we had enjoyed another version of this dish at a feast, where it had been more obviously cooked in coconut milk. Another dish that offsets the starchiness of the fries is the Greek Salad, although the way in which the fetta is crumbled throughout the dish limits its interest for vegans. To drink there is mango nectar, that oddly enough comes with a glace cherry; unfortunately the pawpaw nectar listed on the menu was not available. The restaurant also serves Matutu beer, which is brewed in Rarotonga, and ginger beer which is imported all the way from Bundaberg.
As we were enjoying our lunch taped music was playing in the background, and among the tracks was a slightly souped-up version of an old Harry Belafonte standard:
Oh island in the sun
Willed to me by my father’s hand
All my days I will sing in praise
Of your forest waters, your shining sand.
It’s hard not to feel sentimental at a moment like this.