On the north western coast of Mahé, in the bay of Beau Vallon, you’ll find The Boathouse Restaurant – home to Seychellois cuisine so authentic, it is considered the best Creole food in all of the 115 islands.
“We used to live here; me, my brother, sister and my parents. It was our home.” Françoise smiles as she hands me a beer. The sunset tints the entire restaurant in a rich golden yellow. “My parents were teachers at the time, but they weren’t making very much so my dad decided to start cooking for people, for tourists coming by … just two to four people a night. He was the original cook.”
Today, almost 20 years later, Richard Mancienne’s Boathouse is an iconic institution familiar to most of Seychelles, hosting evenings that come alive in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, great food, and great value for money.
“Why did you call it the Boathouse?” Secretly I wish I could live here, cook Creole food and stay forever.
“My uncle does boat charters, he has a big boat, he takes people out and he used to run the business from here …”
“So it is him sitting behind the stall?”
“No, that is my other uncle, I have a very big family.”
(I don’t get seasick, I think to myself. I could totally help with the charters. I could stay forever!)
“My dad, Richard, built this whole building. He has always liked designing … almost as much as cooking!”
As I sat dawn for dinner that night I tried to come up with a decent description for Creole food, but alas. I’ll to stick to Seychelles Tourism Board’s fine description, as I think it actually hits the nail on the head: Creole cuisine has all the subtleties and nuances of French cooking, the exoticism of Indian food and the piquant flavours of the Orient … all in one.
“So you would say that you guys do some of the best Creole food in Seychelles?”
She laughs. “Yeah, yeah. I would say that.”
I wonder if I told them I’d wash dishes for ten months of they’d teach me to cook like this. Being way to shy to ask, I settled for again realising how important food is in the celebration of heritage and an authentic experience. It is important to not just see a place, but taste it – in turn savouring it till the last bite and not gulping it all down like a take-away that could be ordered over some brand’s counter anywhere else in the world.
Words and Pictures: Daréll Lourens
With special thanks to Seychelles Tourism Board , Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label and Air Seychelles. Opinions expressed are my own.