It’s likely a mystery for many, but for those in the know, New Caledonian cuisine is one of the island nation’s biggest draw cards – and with good reason. For Aussies, New Caledonia offers a culture of French fare on its doorstep; for everybody else, there’s the allure of Melanesian, and specifically Kanak, cuisine.
Most visitors to the island initially shoot for a typical French experience – and in capital Noumea, there’s no shortage for Francophiles and Gallic gourmands alike. Try the small, but atmospheric Chez Toto, Au Petit Café, or l’Ed'Zen to sample dishes like blanquette de veau, duck confit, and delicious foie gras. Or for amazing views, and haute cuisine to boot, nowhere beats Le Roof, which sits overwater at beautiful Anse Vata Bay.
Families are well catered for too in Noumea, with any number of eateries like Le Bilboquet Plage offering broad menus for kids and adults alike – and charming service to go along with it.
New Cal spoils cheese and wine lovers, boasting some of the finest vintages from France (and indeed the world). The Domaine du Faubourg wine bar is your best bet for a truly French experience, and has one of the most well stocked bars you’ll likely see anywhere. The cheese tasting plates are equally indulgent, and more like a whole meal, with crusty breads, olives, raisins and quince on the side.
But New Caledonia’s gastronomy goes well beyond its wonderful French food. In cosmopolitan capital, Noumea, visitors have a vast menu of global cuisines from which to choose.
With its abundance of high quality seafood, as evidenced by the sashimi grade tuna on offer at Noumea Market, Japanese food fares very well here. And that’s important when many of your visitors are discerning Japanese tourists.
Italian is also done well here. For instance, diners can enjoy some excellent pasta and pizza at the aptly named Pizza and Pasta restaurant in Lemon Bay, where the food is far better than the uninspiring name suggests!
Outside of Noumea, guests can enjoy a variety of cooking. At or near the top of any list should be local favourite (and arguably the country’s national dish) bougna. A traditional Melanesian stew, bougna usually comprises some fish or chicken, root vegetables and cooking bananas slow cooked in coconut milk over the hot stones of a ‘Kanak oven’. Bougna, along with other local classics, are best shared with the local tribe or during Kanak homestay experiences.
Aussie travellers can experience tastes a little closer to home with an outdoor barbecue at Nemeara Farm, where you can try some locally hunted venison and wild pig as well as tour a farm. Elsewhere, there’s Le Refuge du Cerf guesthouse, with its views over the lagoon, or the laid-back La Fare Gourmand, where patrons can dine among greenery whilst gorging on desserts most fancy restaurants would boast about.
To gain a better understanding of French/Kanak fusion (as well as a full stomach), visitors can check out the wonderful cooking class at Lezard House, a restaurant/kitchen/bnb, where visitors can train alongside acclaimed chefs and then enjoy the fruits of their labour with a fine feast (with some French wine of course).
New Caledonia’s plentiful world-class hotels and resorts also offer some great opportunities to experience local cuisine at its best. But visitors can enjoy a more relaxed, and fun, experience at a local café, where you can just watch people whilst sipping on some great locally sourced coffee (and in New Cal, the coffee is always good).
Otherwise, like in France, just pick up a baguette (which taste much better here than in Australia), some fine cheeses, and a little French wine, and enjoy an impromptu al fresco meal.
In its #tastenewcaledonia campaign, the country is focusing on attracting tourists through its cuisine. You shouldn’t need a lot of arm-twisting.
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