If you are worried that food in the Maldives is dominated by seafood, then you will be happy to know that is not true.
My husband and sister are allergic to seafood and I cannot take the strong taste of Tuna, so we stuck to the Chinese and Continental cuisine, which we found in almost every cafe and restaurant on the local islands.
We visited five islands in our six days including our base island, Maafushi, it’s neighbour Gulhi, private island resort Adaaran Rannalhi, a sandbank and Hulhumale. While we were provided with lunch at the sandbank and the resort (buffet), we tried a few cafes and restaurants on the other islands.
A lot of people enjoy the pub hopping, I enjoy cafe hopping. I love visiting cafes with appealing decor but at the same time, the food has to be delicious as well. Unfortunately, in the Maldives, the latter criteria was hardly ticked off, at least for us Indians who are used to strong flavoursome food.
I did not but I should have asked a local if they all like bland food or the restaurants are only conscious about losing the customers who cannot handle spice. Let alone spice, there were several instances when we even asked for salt. If you want to feel any better after we sprinkled more salt and chilly flakes, the food got so much better. So, there is no need to lose heart here.
Also, all the places we visited were very clean. We were surprised to see that the waiters there were mostly from Bangladesh and a few Indians as well. You will not face language issue as all of them know basic English apart from their own regional language. The eateries accepted both US dollars and Maldivian Rufiyaa. To be noted, you’ll have to pay 16 percent tax including GST and service charge.
Here is the list of cafes/restaurants we tried on our trip:
Harbour Cafe, Maafushi
This cafe was the first place we dined in at the Maldives. It was a beach cafe with a simple set up. But, we will always remember the cafe for the two cats it had. Pramod named one of them Maafu and the other Shi. (LOL)…Talk about innovation! We ordered veg fried rice, chicken bolognese pasta, a juice and sprite. I did not like the pasta so we ordered a club sandwich that included chicken and beef. It was so much better than the pasta.
To be honest, I ended up ordering a club sandwich at least two or three more times in the rest of the trip. Those places never went wrong with it, at least. The Harbour Cafe is right opposite the entrance of the Maafushi harbour. It has a huge board and can be spotted easily when you walk on the beach road.
Pizza and Pasta Mamma Mia, Maafushi
My favourite, in terms of food taste, was this small place in Maafushi. Neither did it have quantity issues nor was the pizza bland. We ordered a chicken pizza and Spaghetti Aglio E Olio. The pizza was huge and yummy. They provided us with powdered parmesan cheese for the pasta and that worked. Since the soft drinks were the cheapest (25 RF) among the other drinks, I always had either sprite or coke during lunch and dinner.
It had both indoor and outdoor seatings. We sat inside because of the AC as we had just returned from our outing. Although the outdoor seating also had a proper roof it was on the sand. That night, there was hardly any breeze that side so we chose to sit inside.
Palm Cafe, Maafushi
The beach road had a few cafes in a straight line and this cafe was one of them. The first time we went to this place, it already had a huge family and the waitress honestly informed us that they’ll be able to serve our food only after an hour and they were OK if we chose to leave.
We did leave but since the girl was so honest, we returned there the next day for our dinner. The service and food were decent and since it was outdoor seating, we had a great time, thanks to the breezy weather.
Summer Kitchen and Bakery, Maafushi
You’ll find this place on the same row as Palm Cafe. The seating was no different and so was the food. There were not many options on the local island so we tried as many places as possible and this was one of them. Not all the beach cafes had a TV but this one did. English football is quite popular in the Maldives and every TV just had the Premier League channel on during the weekend.
Premier Restaurant, Gulhi
On the small island of Gulhi, this was the only affordable place to eat and it was very much walkable from the harbour. We walked through some colourful lanes to finally get to this place. The walk, the views and then the ambience was all worth it. The bikini beach, which BTW was so much better than Maafushi’s, was right next to this restaurant.
But obvious, this place also had outdoor seating. Interestingly, the owner of this place ensured there was enough greenery around the place so there were many potted plants in and outside the restaurant. The event had a small and cute canopy made outside the door that led to the beach. It was a great spot for some Insta pictures! The food was just OK, nothing special about it.
Tandoori Flames, Hulhumale
After four days of bland food, I shouldn’t be blamed for craving for Indian food. Even before we left for our final island, Hulhumale, I began to look for places that served Indian food. That’s when I found Tandoori Flames, a Pakistani restaurant.
Coincidentally, it was Eid that day and my sister and I just knew what we would be hogging on – Eid ki Biryani! By now, we were used to walking and the place was less than a km from our hotel so we just walked.
Their chicken biryani was their specialty so we ordered that along with butter chicken and a few Indian breads. (Butter Naan!) I still remember, their service was a bit slow and how restless we were getting to finally eat some flavoured Indian-like food. Although it was a Pakistani place, the chefs and the waiters were from Bangladesh. They served the amazing food with a huge smile on their face and we sure had a happy and satisfying lunch.
The location of the restaurant was a bonus point as the lane next to it led to the beach. After a merry meal, we walked on the beach before we took the road and admired Hulhumale, one of the most colourful towns I have ever been to!
I visited a couple of more cafes/restaurants but I would strongly recommend just the ones mentioned here. Even if the food was not up to the mark, you will just come back happy because you of the hospitality you receive there. I’m not sure if that’s always the case in the Maldives, but I really got lucky to have encountered some honest and friendly people.
To Find out more about our Maldives trip, click here.