Trader Vic’s is a Polynesian themed restaurant. It is a colourful, informal place aimed at a young crowd. Situated at a side entrance of the same building as London’s Park Lane Hilton, you know it isn’t going to be cheap. Apparently, the classic Mai Tai cocktail was invented at a Trader Vic’s restaurant back in 1944. The London branch is somewhat younger, having been established for some 15 years.
We visited on a Friday night, to find a fun atmosphere. There were Londoners enjoying the start of the weekend and tourists making the most of their trip to the capital. The sound system was on and the lights were low. First things first, we had to find out whether the Mai Tai cocktails were all they have claimed to be.
Him Indoors decided to go for the signature Trader Vic’s Mai Tai (£12.50). Strongly alcoholic but with a degree of fruitiness, Him Indoors dubbed it “wonderful” and one of the best Mai Tai cocktails he has ever had. Praise indeed, as it is his all-time favourite cocktail. I opted for the Mango Mai Tai (£12.50). It had lovely mango and pineapple flavours to hide considerable punch. Just what the doctor ordered after a long week at work!
Our reason for visiting is that I was invited, with a guest, to try their latest island-hopping “Island Fusion” pop-up menu. Trader Vic’s are keen to share the food of other tropical islands with their customers. Having already had pop-up menus based on the food of Jamaica and the Seychelles, they have teamed up with Shelina Permalloo, the creative force behind Mauritian street food restaurant Lakaz Maman and Masterchef winner from 2012.
Trader Vic’s, London is famous for its barbequed food. Chef Shiran Fonseca was keen to show me the two huge wood fired barbeque ovens in the restaurant, located behind a great glass screen in view of the bar. We opened the door and stepped inside, immediately being hit by the heat. The ovens have to be tended carefully and the food cooked with great attention to prevent over cooking. The steaks and ribs are cooked here, in separate ovens.
The Mauritian Island Fusion menu will be available for the whole of the month of October. The items are:
Trader Vic’s BBQ Spare Ribs (£14.00)
Prawn and Octopus Croustillant (£12.00)
Island Style Papaya Salad (£11.00)
Gateaux Piment (£9.00)
Anana Confit (£8.50)
Or you can opt for a Island Fusion platter for two with the full menu on one board for £19.00. Perfect for the curious!
I had the chance to speak to Shelina about the menu. She explained to me that she wanted to bring out the influences from her childhood and the most representative elements of multicultural Mauritian cuisine.
But what did I think about the food?
The house spare ribs were smoky and full of that flavour you can only get with a wood fired oven. I love finger food, and gnawing the meat off these ribs was always going to be something I enjoyed. This is a key dish from the Trader Vic’s menu.
Prawn and octopus croustillant was a cute little battered set of fritters where the seafood was “just cooked”. This is how I like to eat my seafood, so for me this was just right. Served with a coriander and coconut satini, this would make a lovely starter to share.
The papaya salad was made from green papaya, in similar fashion to the famous Thai green papaya salad Som Tam. However, this version is less incendiary with much less raw red chilli. Phew! I have found that although I love Som Tam, there are many I find I can barely eat as they are way too hot. This was balanced with a touch of sweet and the cashews and citronelle brought the flavours and ingredients of Mauritius to the fore.
Gateaux Piment I discovered is not actually a cake. My schoolgirl French misled me! It is a fried patty made of lentils, very like the south Indian and Sri Lankan savoury snack Vada. Served with a tomato and chilli chutney, this is vegetarian friendly, crunchy and spicy. These are my kind of snacks, crispy on the outside, crumbly on the inside.
The pineapple portion was drizzled in chilli and tamarind, giving a tiny burst of heat and a good dose of sour to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple. Anana confit, I have been informed (I have never had the good luck of visiting Mauritius) is a street food classic. I can see why it would be a fab treat you could eat at almost any time of day in the tropical sunshine. After a wet and rainy day, I felt a craving for sunshine.
I also had a great time enjoying a bowl of the excellent Rum Cava cocktail. Designed for sharing, you get rum, juice and cava with a healthy supply of ice and extra long straws for sipping. The cocktail was excellent and the presentation conducive to informal fun with friends. Love it!
Snigdha and Him Indoors visited Trader Vic’s as their guests. This review represents my genuine opinions. I have not received any payment or other incentive for posting this review.