Before the likes of Nobu coming on to the restaurant scene and making fusion cuisine fashionable, there was Trader Vic’s already in business in London back in 1963. Their general style of cuisine and decor is French Polynesian, but it is hard to categorise them. When you visit their quirky restaurant, you will see their traditional Chinese wood-fired oven that has been in place in the restaurant since they first opened over 50 years ago. You might also see their special Island Fusions Menu for the month of October 2016, which is a Mauritian pop-up collaboration with Shelina Permalloo, who won BBC masterchef 2012 and is the brains behind Mauritian Street Kitchen, Lakaz Maman and the very talented executive chef of Trader Vic’s, Shiran Fonseka.
The decor includes genuine artefacts from across the globe with Polynesian looking boats and statues being the standout displays. They do have a live band playing over the weekends, so a lively atmosphere is guaranteed with your dining experience.
I sampled their Island Fusion platter which is a great sharing board starter amongst friends and you can try more of Shelina’s excellent creations as well as a classic from the Trader Vic’s menu. The signature dish here is their spare ribs, which has been one of their best-sellers since they first opened. Normally I am not one for ordering ribs, as they tend to be bony, dry and the meat tends to be tough; this particular version is tender, succulent and moist. The key part of their success is cooking it in their special wood-fired ovens. The version made for the Mauritian pop-up is gently marinated with soy sauce and other spices and there is a dash of honey, to give the dish slight sweetness and stickiness.
The other dishes on the platter are all easy to make yet flavoursome creations that transport you to the island of Mauritius with their exotic ingredients such as the prawn and octopus croustillant with coriander and coconut satini. One of my favourites is a classic Mauritian street food dish, anana confit, which is wholesome pineapple flavoured with chilli and tamarind. It really lets the freshness of the ingredients speak for itself.
For main course, I had their divine, Indonesian Rack of Lamb. It is one of the most tender pieces of lamb you will find in London, no doubt due to the slow-cooking process over a hardwood fire. The dish is paired unusually with Singapore-style curried rice noodles and BBQ pineapple, mango chutney and peanut butter sauce. You get the familiarity of a rack of lamb but the exotic flavours and spices to accompany the dish.
You couldn’t leave Trader Vic’s without trying their numerous incredible cocktails. The original restaurant in America famously created the original Mai Tai® as well as over 200 signature cocktails. I enjoyed a very refreshing Pina Colada on my visit to match with the exquisite food.