When we stepped onto the jetty at Soneva Fushi we had high expectations. We have been here before, and to Soneva Kiri in Thailand so we were pretty confident that we knew how things would pan out during our stay. In true castaway style, off came the shoes (the term barefoot luxury means exactly that here) and we were introduced to Sayeed, our ‘Mr Friday’ who basically does your thinking for you. This allows you to drift about, just enjoying yourself and generally checking out from the dull responsibilities of daily life. So Far, So Soneva.
Soneva Fushi is situated on the pristine, tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll. The landscape is lush with giant twisting trees, creeping vines, palms and plants growing everywhere. The natural habitat has been preserved wherever possible with birds squawking and rustling in the undergrowth along with lizards, butterflies and even the occasional rabbit. Yes, there are rabbits living in luxury at Soneva Fushi and, understandably so, they seem very happy indeed.
Our home for a few days was an eco luxury playground, we even had a gym and a guest bedroom (if only we’d have taken you with us). To say we were impressed would be an understatement. We loved the open-air seating area to relax in upstairs, and the swing seat downstairs. Our kitchen came complete with coffee machine, wine fridge and state of the art wine preserver to keep our favourite 2 bottles at the perfect temperature once opened. There were two breezy indoor-outdoor bathrooms downstairs, along with his and hers sinks, a sunken bathtub and outdoor showers which you could enjoy whilst being under the trees and sky. Billowing nets surrounded our comfortable four poster bed and the lounge area had sofas that would seat 10 people comfortably. Open the giant doors (which were something to marvel at) and explore further outside to find a private pool, hammock and stretch of white sandy beach leading down to the Indian Ocean. We were happy to be back and our expectations were being surpassed already.
The Vegan Food
It’s hard to know where to start when describing the plethora of vegan dining options at Soneva Fushi. We were literally blown away by the plant based food available so where better to begin than at the start of the day with breakfast. The vegan breakfast at Soneva Fushi was nothing short of outstanding. The choices were immense but at the heart of everything on offer was the fact that all the food is of an exceptional quality. There are too many options to ever get bored, which is good because once you check in, you won’t ever want to leave. Head to the bakery section and find a whole ‘Vegan Corner’ where freshly baked breads packed with whole grains await alongside vegan croissants and vegan Danish pastries. And sat just near these baked delights, in perfect swirls of deliciousness was the ‘fermented coconut butter’. It was divine, this buttery spread. Luscious. Lavish in taste and texture. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect vegan croissants and this buttery decadence.
There were also steamed vegetable bao; fluffy, fresh and flavour packed making them very morish and hard to resist. Other hard to resist items included the vast array of drinks on offer, which filled many pages of the menu. Juices and smoothies of each and every variety; for tea and coffee lovers there was a huge selection of fine teas and cold brew coffees. We enjoyed creative coffee combinations such as ‘Tropical Pandan Brew’ with fresh banana, pandan, coconut milk and Meraki single origin cold brew coffee as well as caffeine free options like the ‘Turmeric Latte’ with cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric which was simply divine.
When we weren’t eating vegan croissants slathered in fermented coconut butter and dollops of homemade jam, or polishing off the stuffed bao, we were bothering the Sri Lankan chefs to make us hoppers. For those who aren’t familiar with these Sri Lankan delights, hoppers are light, crispy, bowl shaped pancakes made from a fermented rice flour and coconut batter. Despite them being one of the most gorgeous things on this planet, and a staple in Sri Lanka, they don’t often make it into a resort breakfast menu outside of the country. Except at Soneva Fushi where the food offering seems to have been designed to take in all of our favourite foods. Alongside the hoppers there were South Indian dosa (another favourite of ours) and both were accompanied by dahl, coconut chutney, sambal and potato curry. If only every breakfast could be like this.
When our helpful man Friday Sayeed dropped us at the new over water dining venue ‘Out of the Blue’ for lunch, we realised that things have changed here. Things that were previously amazing have become extraordinary. Imagine dining surrounded by the most pristine ocean you’ve ever seen with views that dreams are made of in every direction. You get the idea. This addition to Soneva Fushi is truly wonderful and we really, really loved it.
Add creative, fresh and vibrant plant based dishes to this breathtaking location and we were in vegan luxury heaven for sure. ‘Out of the Blue’ is no ordinary restaurant so it was perfectly fitting that the salad bar was no ordinary salad bar. We don’t normally write so much about salad but like we said, this place was exceptional. Daily treats of vegetable antipasti in all kinds of colours and varieties from simple yet perfectly cooked asparagus to sweet and spicy chargrilled eggplant. Plus lentil salads, hummus, leaves picked straight from the garden and a dream assortment of micro sprouts, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Not to mention a selection of oils and vinegars like no other, pistachio oil anyone? Menu items included guest salads from the legendary raw food chef (who we adore) Diane von Cranach, the lightest of tempura and a maki roll selection (a variety of nori wrapped vegetable and rice mouthfuls, served on a glass platter with pickled ginger and wasabi). It was all as perfect as the views.
Because this is Soneva and they go above and beyond with everything, they were also happy to create entirely new dishes for us. Like ‘Vegetables and tofu with yakisoba sauce, fried rice’ where the vegetables were cooked with a really light touch; seared on the outside so they stayed crunchy and full of taste. This dish had a single Brussels sprout which was exactly the way these controversial little nuggets of green should be cooked. Another off the menu adaptation that was a roaring success was the tofu satay. Served still sizzling over hot coals on an individual grill at the table, smoke drifted from the coals and mixed with the aroma of the marinade making it entirely irresistible. We dipped the bamboo skewers into the spicy peanut sauce and were transported to Indonesia. Expectations were exceeded yet again.
‘Shades of Green’ is where things got really exciting, this brand new restaurant at Soneva Fushi is 100% plant based. That’s right, you heard us correctly, ‘Shades of Green’ is a fully vegan restaurant (as well as being an incredible dining experience). Nestled in the heart of this Maldivian tropical island is a plant based paradise set within an organic vegetable garden, the location for the garden tour that started off our culinary adventure. During this tour we enjoyed rosella kombucha whilst foraging for amuse bouche hidden amongst the vegetable beds. We discovered treats like mini gem lettuce wrapped in rice paper with sesame and a mustard, yuzu and ripe banana sauce. The covert treasures kept on coming, imagine how happy we were to find cucumber with creamed nut cheese and herbed breadcrumb ‘planted’ in the morning glory garden? All of this was enjoyed with perfectly paired vegan wines. Sit around the fire pit as the crows roost and the bats swoop whilst wondering if this is all a magnificent dream.
The farm to table concept was born whilst Copenhagen based chef Carsten Kyster was staying at Soneva Fushi in 2018. The multi course menu changes with the seasons and is centered around the colours red, green and yellow. A fusion of Maldivian and Southeast Asian cuisine is skilfully combined with Nordic culinary techniques; these include salting, smoking, pickling and fermenting and are used to create unique dishes that are presented in six categories titled Cleanse, Raw, Crispy, Grain, Fire and Sweet.
‘Crispy’ arrived in the guise of a sliced asparagus salad with girolle mushrooms sautéed in truffle, Jerusalem artichoke chips and a mushroom dip which was so thick and oh so smooth. Dense, rich and creamy with a texture like clotted cream it was a veritable, velvety pleasure. A favourite was ‘Grains’ featuring red quinoa, beetroot, celery and leek with pickled wild garlic, pomegranate seeds, fried purple potato slices, tomato bouillon and almond milk broth. The nutty quinoa and earthy beetroot paired perfectly with the slightly tart bouillon and the creamy, almond broth. Superb. Our ‘Shades of Green’ experience ended with dessert, known as ‘Sweet’ per the concept. We expected dessert but we didn’t expect an innovative creation featuring smoked sweet corn ice cream, black rice paper, passion fruit, baby corn salsa and pineapple carpaccio. We read the menu, decided it was brave and kind of unusual but opted for diving head first into this crazy sounding combination with an open heart. The result? We loved it.
Unique location. Unique concept. Unique cuisine.
Our meal amongst the treetops at ‘Fresh in the Garden’ was blessed with sensational starlit skies so it only seems right that we were seated at the ‘Moon Table’. The circular table and wide cushioned seats make it perfect to sit back and gaze skywards in between courses. There was also a wooden walkway that led to ‘The Observatory’; we headed after dinner to savour the close up views of the planets and stars through the high powered telescope. Just another way at Soneva Fushi to make you feel happy to be alive.
But it wasn’t just the treetop, starlit setting that made us happy to be alive; course after course of vegan delights took us to food nirvana. Fig with a trio of beetroot (heirloom, golden and red), cashew cream and orange vanilla reduction disappeared within moments. When you find yourself trying to scrape the sauce off the plate you know it’s particularly good eating. Next up, cauliflower, white asparagus, tahini sauce and black truffle shavings; creamy, lemony, smooth and comforting. We find ourselves scraping the sauce off the plate again. Each plate is small, delicate and light, yet rich and full of flavour. As the sky darkens there is a star filled feast for the eyes to mirror the feast on the plates in front of us. It’s a truly multi sensory experience. Eggplant steak, sushi rice with seaweed, Provençal vegetables, sesame, soya sauce, ginger, coriander, onion and rocket. This is a medley of flavours which manages to pack a huge umami punch and works so well. Our ‘Fresh in the Garden’ finale was cubed fruit salad with raspberry soup and green apple sorbet which delivered the zingy sweet flavours of a tropical summer. A light and sweet end to our garden fresh meal.
‘So Guilty’ and ‘So Cool’. We so wanted to stay here forever. ‘So Guilty’ features a selection of handmade chocolates, truffles and pralines that would make Willy Wonka feel somewhat inadequate. Far from making us feel guilty, spending time in this candy fantasy land made us very happy; we’re just those kind of people. Plenty of vegan options with our favourite being the dark chocolate rice crispy clusters which were perfect partners to the fresh ice cream and sorbet available from ‘So Cool’. This was one of the first places we visited (of course) and found that the usual delicious sorbets that previously resided here now had friends. A lot of new friends, some of which were actual ice creams. If these ice creams and sorbets were people they’d be catwalk models, supermodels even. Glamorous flavours like ‘yuzu and coconut’ mysterious flavours like ‘liquorice’ or ‘red rice’, tropical goddesses like ‘screwpine’ or ‘pineapple, ginger and coconut’. There were than 10 vegan friendly flavours and it was impossible to narrow it down to less than a favourite 5. In fact, we liked every last one of them…
The Vegan Essentials
Of course vegan food is the number one ‘vegan essential’ we’re seeking, but it’s those extra planet saving touches that really ignite our passion. Soneva Fushi certainly excel when it comes to going above and beyond, making sure your stay is not only vegan friendly but is planet friendly too. ‘Eco Centro’ is their ‘waste to wealth’ integrated waste management system that sees a phnemomenal 90% of all waste recycled. Soneva Drinking Water has been filtered, mineralised, alkalised and bottled on site in reusable glass bottles since 2008. They have a whole menu of vegan pillows to choose from whilst the bathroom amenities are animal friendly and supplied in refillable, ceramic containers. No plastic water bottles, no plastic drinking straws and no bathroom amenities in plastic containers. Soneva are ahead of the game and have been doing this for more than 10 years, they even encourage guests to take home any single use plastic they bring to the island. And worry not, those of you who enjoy a glass of wine or two you will find plenty of vegan wine on the extensive wine list…
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict
Check in to Soneva Fushi for a paradise island retreat where you can truly escape it all; wander barefoot around this private island resort where health, well being and sustainability are fully embraced. Make a reservation to dine at ‘Shades of Green’, the first and only 100% plant based restaurant in the Maldives, you will be impressed with the creativity and realise that Soneva Fushi are leading the way for luxury vegan travel in the Maldives.
We were guests of Soneva Fushi but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views
Telephone: +960 660-0304
Cost From: £1250 / $1580 per night (September 2019)