Sunday, September 10, 2006
We have just returned from our week of Paradise in The Cook Islands, as you can see from the photo, it is gorgeous over there & the pic doesn’t even do the place justice. We even got to spend a day & night in Tahiti as on the way there some very strong winds – apparently 120kms/hour, prevented us from landing so we had to divert, thanks to Air New Zealand for providing all we needed it was actually really enjoyed rather than being the disaster it could have been. They put us up in The Intercontinental which was beautiful, we spent the day swimming in their gorgeous & mammoth pool, walking around & chilling out. As for the food, well I know resorts aren’t usually the best but I have to say the buffet lunch was pretty awful so the eating extravaganza I had planned was not off to a good start.
All in all our food experience did not end up being that great apart from a couple of good feeds, for the most part I thought it was pretty awful, so as you can imagine I was very disappointed. Most of the food is imported from New Zealand which brings the prices up for a start, they are more or loss on a par with Australian restaurant prices which I wouldn’t mind paying if the quality was the same. The fact that it wasn’t & there really weren’t any cheap & easy options available for dinner didn’t make me any happier paying these prices. Lunch was a bit better with more available & at more reasonable prices. We had a tropical breakfast included daily which was fine, not much can go wrong with cereal, fruit, toast & pastries after all! I hate to write about bad experiences but really wasn’t left with much option. So anyway that being said now I will tell you about the good bits.
When we finally made it The Cooks, our first port of call was the stunning Island of Aitutaki, the photo is actually One Foot Island which is one of the surrounding motu’s (Islands). We did an Island cruise taking in a few surrounding Islands & some snorkelling – fantastic, and we had a local lunch on Honeymoon Island put together by the cruise people. This was great as they laid out a platter of traditional fruits & vegetables including Sea Grapes, these were very weird looking, a small branch with lots of very small ‘green grapes’ attached, squeezed with lime juice very tasty & apparently very good for you too, paw-paw, guava, lady bird bananas (as you can imagine I made the most of readily available bananas & stuffed myself with them for the whole week), some baked tapioca pudding – yum, steamed tapioca, purple kumara, fresh coconut & some fresh tuna sandwiches. Most of it was delicious though I was a bit iffy on the kumara & steamed tapioca. It was all served in a tiny little open hut on woven plates lined with freshly picked leaves of some sort, really enjoyed this experience.
That night was Sunday & not much is open on Sunday nights in Aitutaki so we opted for Te Vaka Bar & Grill, we caught a taxi there & the lovely driver gave us a piece of sponge cake for the ride that she had freshly baked that afternoon, it was delicious & moist & as you can probably tell the people here are very friendly, a very nice experience & cheap too! The restaurant was in a lovely open air building with the usual wicker furniture & Island feel, the food here was quite nice too, not fantastic but pretty good. Michael tried the Cook Islands speciality ‘Ika Mata’ which is fresh tuna marinated in lemon juice then tossed in coconut cream with onions, garlic, tomato & cucumber, he gave it the thumbs up, being pregnant I had to take his word for it as raw fish off the menu for me for now. I had Garlic chilli prawns, these were good too, with the marinade all making a lovely thick jammy sauce for the prawns. Michael then had some coconut topped Mahi Mahi (very nice fish if done the right way – we had a lot of it over the week) with calamari & I had an Island chicken curry, absolutely huge servings, don’t think I even ate half of mine. I then had some ice cream with freshly grated coconut & chocolate fudge sauce, their desserts were not overly creative! All in all it was a pleasant experience.
As you can probably tell by now they are very big on coconut on EVERYTHING in The Cook Islands, I was ok with it at first but by the end of the week hated it as most of the time thought it was way overdone & think it will be a while before I eat anything with coconut again which is a shame as I really like the stuff.
Anyway back on the mainland, Rarotonga a couple of places worth mentioning. FBI fish and chips , near the main bus stop in town. As we were getting off the bus we could smell it and you know what that smell does to you, we had no choice but to then find the place & order up. The fish was Parrott fish & the batter was light & crispy & all seemed to be cooked in nice fresh oil & at NZD11.50 for the 2 of us very good value for a change.
We went to Trader Jacks for dinner one night which is apparently the place to go, unfortunately I thought the food was crap here, our char grilled octopus was very tough & chewy & the coconut braised lentils it was served on well, yuk! For the mains Michael had some Wahoo fish, pan fried with garlic, lemon, fresh herbs & fries, this was nice & simple & really good, I ended up eating half of it as my Mai Mai wrapped in banana leaf & served on a bed of ginger, coriander, chilli & COCONUT cream was disgusting, I had one bite & didn’t go any further. So I was pretty hungry after this & ordered dessert, Chocolate & apricot cake with chocolate fudge & ice cream – bad mistake again, cake was dry & I don’t know what the fascination is with bloody vanilla ice cream & hot chocolate fudge on anything either! The place had a good feel & was fun but I would definitely order plain if going again, the bar pizzas looked & smelt terrific too – maybe that’s the way to go?
For our last night we went to Tamarind House, recommended as the best spot on the Island I had high hopes & it didn’t disappoint, the setting is a majestic restored colonial era building & the piano player perched in the corner all night also added to the ambience. Michael started with the seafood chowder, another Island specialty which he enjoyed & I chose the chicken & mushroom won tons which were delicious, I finally learnt not to order Cook Islands food which I have developed an intense dislike for! For mains I had some smoked salmon spaghetti & Michael some Island style swordfish, we both left very happy customers for once.
All in all it’s a gorgeous & relaxed place for a holiday, Aitutaki was the highlight & highly recommended but if you go don’t have too high expectations for the food, hope I am not being too critical here, who knows maybe its just my pregnant taste buds after all.