Once upon a time, back in 1973 when the first two resorts were opened, guests to the Maldives ate fish curry, rice and bananas, and drank tea. Just like the Maldivians. Because that was all that was available.
Funnily enough you can’t get an authentic tuna curry now, outside of the staff canteen, but the quality and range of food available is beyond question.
As a general rule you get what you pay for. But this isn’t always the case. Some resorts put more effort and resources into their cuisine than their star rating might suggest. Others put their resources into the rooms and facilities at the expense of the food budget. I am clear on this in the resort reviews themselves.
Although the majority of guests will be on full board, with most of the remainder on all-inclusive or half board arrangements, there are resorts that do breakfast only or even room only. If you wish, you can make a meal package deal with these resorts (which are not the top-end ones) although it is expected that guests will dine away from the main restaurant – in their rooms or in one of the haute cuisine restaurants.
Be warned: having a meal with drinks in a Maldivian resort is either expensive or very expensive. Guests on half board can go to a speciality restaurant in the evening and get a discount on the bill – usually in the range of 15% – which could be better. Another half board arrangement allows the guests to choose in addition to breakfast either lunch or dinner. In this way, the guests can still get their two paid meals and go out for a little special something in the evening.
The buffet is the standard meal in almost all resorts. What differs is the variety, quality and presentation. Some resorts have a great spread but it never changes; other buffets look good but taste bland; others are unexpectedly excellent.
Buffets are ubiquitous because they can satisfy everyone. But you can dissatisfy yourself easily if you mix fish, curried chicken, lasagne, olives, cheese and assorted vegetables on one plate. The key to enjoying a buffet is to keep coming back. That is, first peruse what’s on offer, then take a plate of just one combination of starters or main course. You can then keep coming back for more – or for a change – until you’ve had enough.
It used to be that you would queue up and walk down a long line of tables to fill your plate. Now most resorts have broken this up and have stands for the different courses, meats and vegetables. Now too there’s some action with live stations for pasta tossing, carving joints or sizzling fish steaks.
Set plate, à la carte and special dinners
The set plate meal is found only in the most economical and the most expensive resorts. In the cheap hotels it is simple fare but generally good and a pleasant change from the round of buffets. In the high-priced resorts it is chance for the guests to be served at the table and for the chefs to showcase their impressive gifts.
The à la carte restaurants have longer menus that remain the same for a number of days at least. Most commonly these are Thai, Italian, Indian, seafood and grills. They are often located, temptingly, right on the beach or over the water.
Finally, there are the ‘special dinners’. For a modest extra sum you can take part in the barbecue or the seafood special on the beach. For somewhat more it could be a candlelit lobster dinner for two on the sand, your veranda or in some secluded spot. Other venues could be a sandbank surrounded by water or a desert island to yourself. Resorts have got very inventive with what you can have and where you can have it.
The Maldives can be a very romantic place.