March Issue 86 - Spoilt for choice -

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Published March Issue, Mark Scotting
Turoro Restaurant and cafe Tapas
Spoilt for choice – the fresh tropical produce, seafood and local cuisine of Rarotonga.

I was lucky enough to indulge in a little R&R this last week, spending a relaxing, albeit hot and somewhat sticky, seven days on the popular Pacific Island of Rarotonga. A change of plans while I was away meant we have a little extra space in Plate today, so I’d like to share the Rarotonga experience.

Food is an inseparable part of any trip or holiday, trying local produce and dishes while overseas all adds to the experience, both the good and the bad. If you are anything like me, you’ll look for recommendations because, let’s face it, we are not looking for the bad.
So I had a look on Trip advisor’s top five ranked restaurants in Rarotonga

March 2019
  1. Beluga Café
  2. Tuoro Restaurant & Café
  3. Charlie’s Café
  4. Tamarind House Restaurant
  5. Little Polynesian Restaurant

Turoro Restaurant and cafe Tapas
Pictured above - Tuoro Tapas, Fresh Seafood Spring roll, Mahi Mahi, Calamari. Thai fish cakes, bruschetta and prawn salsa
Pictured right - Tuoro's Finding Nemo - grilled Mahi Mahi with a Pawpaw salsa
Pictured Left- Tuoro Tapas, Thai beef basketsSan Choy Bau- minced chicken and vegeables on salad, Pork dumblings with Thai drizzle.
Turoro Restaurant and cafe Finding Nemo
I had also been told you must try ‘Beluga’ and Tuoro Café, as well as Trader Jack’s (by all accounts a local institution), the Punanga Nui Cultural Markets on a Saturday morning and the Koka Lagoon cruise with traditional Island BBQ lunch. Have to say, I wasn’t disappointed in any.

Beluga - Main Road Arorangi District, was a little difficult to find, the signage understated to say the least. Good atmosphere, friendly staff and mostly importantly ‘great coffee’ to go with brunch.

Tuoro Restaurant & Café - Blackrock Villas Boutique Resort, Blackrock. My personal favourite for the week - Great setting and views, originally from Cambridge, Michelle and Andy McFarlane were great hosts, with Chef Paul Dwayne utilising fresh local produce and serving up a couple of delicious Tapas platers, they were a real winner. I must agree, Tuoro Café is must try when you are in Rarotonga.

Tuoro's Michelle McFarlane and Chef Paul Dwayne
Tuoro's Michelle McFarlane and Chef Paul Dwayne - pictured
Cook Islands legend Jack Cooper’s – Trader Jacks, situated on the Avarua Harbour, having been almost destroyed by cyclones on three occasions, is another on the must try list.

Ex Wellingtonian Jack Cooper is well known for his colourful language and is considered ‘The Gordon Ramsay of the Rarotonga Hospitality Industry.’ The Trader Jacks Chefs special seafood plater with it’s smoked marlin, Te Ika Maka and yellowfin tuna is a must for any seafood lover.
Chop suey from the Punanga Nui Markets is a local favourite and understandably so, the Saturday morning markets have a delicious selection of local fruit and vegetables available, Bananas, Star-fruit, Pawpaw, Dragon fruit and Avocado.
I wasn’t able to get to Charile’s Café, Tamarind House or the Little Polynesian this time round, but have heard only good things about them. With such an eclectic variety of eateries on the Island and the addition of a few more 'must try’s' from the Locals I suspect the next visit may have to be a couple of weeks.
Trader Jacks seafood Basket
Lastly, the Koka Lagoon cruise and traditional Island BBQ lunch, don’t expect anything flash with your lunch prepared by the boats crew, it is tasty, honest, down to earth food, the people (crew), entertainment and the lagoon cruise certainly put this on the must try list too.

Koka Lagoon cruise - Lunch spread
Back to reality today and as I crawled along bumper to bumper on a monochrome greyed tarmac heading into the city of Sails, I couldn’t help but think, ‘there is something to be said for the laidback Pacific Island lifestyle.

Yes, I’m looking forward to another visit, may have to make it sooner rather than later as we look forward to the cooling winter temperatures in NZ.

Mark Scotting
NZChefs - Plate

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