20 September 2021

Shady spot between the palms at The Residence
A 10 for Mauritius
...but my curry gets a 7! Strictly star Bruno Tonioli spices up his cookery skills on an Indian Ocean break
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've become very fond of Mauritius. This was my third trip to the island but the first to the east side - previously I'd been to resorts on the Morne peninsula in the south-west. This time I went to The Residence, a 50-minute drive from the airport, situated on Belle Mare - one of the longest and most beautiful beaches on the island. People choose it because it's a very good place from which to explore the east coast, which is full of coves and lagoons.

The hotel's design was inspired by the island's stately turn-of-the century plantation houses. The facilities, however, are very 21st century and the service is on the ball - extremely attentive. From the superb restaurants to the cool, calm spa sanctuary, The Residence is exactly my kind of place - somewhere I can enjoy peace and quiet in glorious surroundings.

Dine on the beach at The Residence
Tranquility by the sea
I was eating like a pig! But my absolute favourite place was the oceanfront Plantation restaurant, which specialises in fresh seafood and Creole cuisine. In the evening they stage traditional Sega dance performances and also host other local entertainers. Every night the hotel arranges a menu themed on explorers. On Marco Polo night everything was Chinese, with Portuguese cuisine for Vasco da Gama night and a Columbus night themed around the Caribbean, after his New World discoveries.
My real holiday pleasure, however, is to enjoy good food. At The Residence it was a wonderful mixture of styles; clearly the chefs draw heavily on traditional Mauritian cuisine which, due to the various colonial influences, has splashes from India, France, Britain, Malaysia and China. A particular highlight was the buffet. I'm not usually a big fan of buffets, but there was such a glorious variety - a bit of Indian, a soupcon of Thai, a tasting of French.
"The Residence is exactly my kind of place - somewhere I can enjoy peace and quiet in glorious surroundings."
I was so enthused by this cultural melange that I was invited to improve my cookery skills under the tutelage of hotel chef Ram Appadoo.

I love cooking - well, I am Italian! There isn't an Italian who will tell you he's not a good cook (and there isn't one who won't say that the best meals are those his grandmother used to cook). I was shown how to make a lovely Mauritian curry, which is much lighter than Indian curry and you can make the whole thing in half an hour. What I like about Asian fusion food is that you use local fresh ingredients.

The curry I cooked was very similar to the one I make at home. I don't use ginger but I do use garlic. I cooked the curry on the hotel's veranda - and then I got to taste it.
"I love cooking! There isn't an Italian who will tell you he's not a good cook."
The Resisdence, inspired by old plantation houses
A Colonial Ocean Front Suite at The Residence
I'm not sure what Ram thought of my cooking: perhaps he should have had a little paddle with a score on it and he could have shouted: 'Seven!' But I didn't give him a chance to speak - after the cooking I was starving and I piled in. Actually I think it was probably worth a 'nine'. If you wanted to be critical you could say that I rushed it a bit - I didn't cook the onions properly, they were too watery.

And I should have waited before I put the chicken in. My verdict: it had plenty of flavour, an explosion of exotic spices. That's Bruno, you know: hot stuff… like a firecracker! For most Italians, ordering a curry is a bit of a journey into the unknown. I didn't know what a curry was until I left Italy and came to the UK. Second to eating, my favourite pastime on holiday is reading.

On this trip I was looking forward to a new Jo Nesbø book - I'm a big fan of the Norwegian crime novelist. And to have some variety I always take a good history book - this time it was about Augustus and the rise of the Roman Empire. I was in book heaven. The holiday was the perfect break before I had to head back to the US for my 20th series of the US spin-off of Strictly - called Dancing With The Stars. Last year's UK series of Strictly was the 11th.

It's been a lot of work over the years. The right food helps me ward off bugs from all the flying I have to do when I commute between London and Los Angeles. And touch wood, I've stayed surprisingly healthy. To help boost my immune system every morning I have raw ginger, blended with orange juice. And I eat a lot of garlic. And when I get to LA on a Sunday night I always have a spinach and raw garlic sandwich - it's a bit whiffy, and you probably wouldn't get too close to me after that - but it seems to keep me healthy.

Original article published in Sep 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
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