Ayada Maldives is a private island luxury resort in the south of the Maldives; they’ve just won the World Travel Awards ‘World’s Leading Water Villa Resort 2014’ so you can already imagine that we’re talking about serious luxury here.
But serious luxury doesn’t always mean serious vegan luxury and vegan guests might be worried about going to a remote tropical island where the national cuisine usually involves some kind of fish.
Plus, our Vegan Food Quest isn’t just about looking for vegan food, it’s about looking for the best vegan food in the world.
We stayed for 4 nights and made every effort to test out their vegan friendliness – the team at Ayada Maldives want to introduce more vegetarian and vegan dishes onto their current menu, so we were happy to visit and test out their new ideas.
Hopefully by offering healthy and plant based options this will make them even more popular with guests, and also more sustainable, which we know it really important to the team at Ayada Maldives.
The island is very, very beautiful.
It has a ‘house reef’ that is alive with healthy, live coral, which is home to a myriad of tropical fish (including sharks and sting rays!) and has killer views which change as the sun sets and moon rises; we had fallen in love with this little part of the Maldives by the end of the first day.
But did the food match the same level of high quality luxury that we found in the resort?
The Vegan Food:
There were numerous places for us to eat at Ayada Maldives, each offering something different but all of them pulling out all the stops to make our experience just as luxurious as other non-vegan guests.
For breakfast we ate in ‘Magu’ where the fresh salad and juice bars meant we could get a huge fruit and vegetable boost to begin the day.
We also had fresh vegan sushi made for us each morning, with delicious spicy vegan kimchi, full of crunchy cabbage and carrot with a rich spicy flavouring that was highly addictive!
There was healthy cereal with black sesame soya milk, nuts and dried fruit, meaning that breakfast was not only delicious each morning but a really healthy experience too.
At dinner time, Magu has a theme every night and so dinner is never the same. We got to try out Mediterranean night where the vegan options included cold mezze, rich tomato soup and a spinach laden fresh pizza (with no cheese).
We were also there for Maldivian night where the chef made us a spicy rich Maldivian vegetable curry full of chilli, tomato and coconut flavours.
At Kai, Ayada Maldives’ restaurant that specialises in food from the Far East, the chefs used their skills to create a delicious vegan menu for us.
The papaya and green mango salad was full of the fresh flavours of Thai cooking and the Vietnamese hand roll was light and flavoured with fresh herbs, just like those we’ve eaten in the best restaurants in Vietnam.
Delicious mains of ‘Steamed Greens with Tofu’ (light, healthy, full of flavour) and ‘Seasonal Vegetable Curry’ (Chinese style with crunchy water chestnuts and shitake mushrooms) were followed by a decadent dessert of light, Maldivian banana fritters served with a homemade mango sorbet that was intense with rich, sweet mango flavour and one of the most delicious sorbets we’ve ever eaten.
Our global tour of fabulous vegan food was set to continue at ‘Zero Degree’, the laid back pool bar at Ayada Maldives where the views of the Indian Ocean over the beautiful infinity pool (which even sparkles with lights at night) were a beautiful backdrop to our tasty vegan lunches.
We couldn’t pick favourites from this restaurant as everything we were served was too delicious (a great vegan problem to have!).
Every day, Chef Putu seemed to come up with vegan dishes from a different part of the world which all had authentic touches like our gado-gado being drizzled with Indonesian ‘kecap manis’, a sweet, sticky soy sauce which is synonymous with Indonesian cuisine.
We quickly began to expect our lunches at ‘Zero Degree’ to be amazing but we were even more impressed than usual when we were served a vegan burger.
Traditionally a difficult vegan dish to get right, Chef Putu and his team produced a classic vegetable laden burger with pickles, fresh salad and ketchup, served with fries of course.
One of the great things about Ayada Maldives is it’s Turkish influence, which comes from the Turkish owner and architect of this beautiful luxury resort.
The best place to experience this is at Ottoman Lounge, where authentic Turkish coffee is served on silver trays which have been crafted with a bespoke design created just for the resort.
The setting is vibrant and colourful, the coffee is smooth and rich and the presentation made us feel like royalty.
More opportunities to have a luxurious drink served to you in paradise can also be found at Isle De Joie, a small island in the middle of the clear water of the lagoon where the very best wines are served to guests, accompanied by nuts, fresh fig jam and sesame crisp breads if you’re vegan (and cheeses if you aren’t).
The wine was lovely and the moon rising over the sea was one of those memorable moments where we were lost for words and just had to sit back and enjoy the experience.
Last but not least in our vegan culinary tour of Ayada Malidives, we ate spectacular vegan food at ‘Ocean Breeze’, surrounded by the sea in this elegant yet laid back bar and restaurant.
The choice of dishes was impressive but it was the taste and presentation that blew us away – this was seriously good vegan food!
We had a choice of two soups, both completely different but both delicious.
The ‘Apple and Celariac with Walnut Soup’ was sharp from the apples, with extra sweetness and sharpness coming from the addition of white balsamic, walnut pieces were suspended throughout providing a savoury, nutty balance to the sweet and sharp soup.
The ‘Green Pea and Mint Soup’ was fresh, light and tasted of green garden peans; smooth in texture, it had been finished with a swirl of rich coconut cream.
Main courses were equally as tasty and beautifully presented, the wild mushroom risotto with assorted spring vegetables was like a taste of Italy in the Maldives.
‘Herb Marinated Polenta and Grilled Eggplant with Tomato Reduction’ was wonderfully presented but tasted even better and was definitely a dish that would be at home in any fine dining vegan restaurant.
The polenta cake was fluffy on the inside, flavoured with fresh parsley and sun dried tomatoes, and crispy on the outside before being garnished with spring vegetables and edible flowers, the roasted eggplant parcel was stuffed with vegetables and sat in a ring of rich tomato sauce.
We chose homemade sorbets for dessert, made with coconut, passionfruit and strawberry. They were the perfect end to our fabulous, gourmet vegan meal and left us astounded at how sorbet can be so decadent.
The Vegan Essentials:
Our bed was wonderfully comfortable and 100% feather free; there was even a pillow menu with 4 vegan options to choose from.
The Spa was a peaceful and tranquil walled garden in the middle of a resort that was already very quiet and relaxed; the sounds of silence only being broken by wild birds and Baliniese music playing softly in the background.
There were a range of treatments on offer and also a beautiful looking, authentic Turkish hammam (the only one in the Maldives).
The spa uses and stocks products from ESPA, which are vegetarian and not tested on animals but do regularly contain honey, beeswax and keratin so are not suitable for vegans.
In room amenities were from luxury brand Bvlgari – we couldn’t find out whether the are vegan or not so we were happy to use our own.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict:
Make a reservation at Ayada Maldives for an opportunity to sample island paradise luxury, whilst getting to eat incredible vegan food from around the globe.
Eat in the different venues around the resort to experience all the different styles of dining, all of which will leave you feeling impressed by the great tasting and high quality vegan food (just what you need after a day being amazed by the underwater world that surrounds you).
Don’t forget to squeeze in a visit to Ottoman Lounge for one of those spectacular Turkish coffees.
Wherever you go and wherever you eat, the helpful staff, beautiful surroundings and amazing vegan food will leave you feeling like you’re getting the very best of vegan luxury.
We were guests of Ayada Maldives but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll,
Telephone: + 960 684 4444
Cost From: £550 / $825 per night (May 2015)