From the descriptions we found on the web we thought Restaurant 1881 in Nouville would be a snooty upmarket affair but it's typically New Caledonian casual.
The prices are also typically New Caledonian, around 2500 XPF for a main course, however Restaurant 1881 does two and three course deals for 2950/3350. We've read the dinner menu is more high falutin', so we head out for a big lunch instead.
The dining area is in a resort style bungalow jutting over the water, it's quite a spot. It's a little way out of town but easy to get to, we caught a number 10 bus all the way from Anse Vata, getting off outside the University and we could have walked back if the mood took us. The restaurant is a little hidden behind the University car park, but look for the little pier on the way and you'll know where to get off the bus/park.
The entrance is through a couple of back gates and through the main lounge area. The place doubles up as a lounge bar at night.
Lounging is what the locals do well.
The restaurant space is small, the best seats are along the front windows where the view of the water is better. It was a shame the plastic windbreaks were down, the view without would have been grand.
There's always a dilemma when you get a choice of three or two course. Then you need to pick between them all. The specials at the time we went, they change regularly.
A not so exciting entree, pretty much smoked salmon with cream cheese and some crisp breadsticks, timbale de chevre frais au saumon, creme de ciboulette. Each time we eat in Noumea we learn a little bit more about French food and a few new words for next time - the word for today was 'ciboulette' - chives.
Pissaladiere de crevettes, vinaigrette aux condiment aka prawn tart. This was one of the best dishes of the trip: a few prawnies and caramelised onions on top of super flakey pastry. Insanely good.
Cuisse de canard confite, jus au romarin. The duck confit was a corker, rich and plenty of it. Winning with this one too.
Tournedos de tazar roti, huile de tandoori, jambon serrano et tomates sechees. The one spice French cuisine doesn't seem to be afraid of is curry, it often pops up in meal lists or as a flavouring. The tazar (a big fish popular as a catch in sports fishing in the lagoon) is good and dense, while the Spanish flavours mixed with the spiced oil add some flavour hits.
The last main of veal in cream mushroom wine sauce (piccata de veau au marsala et champignons de Paris) was OK but the kind of dish we could cook ourselves, and the sauce was too sweet for our tastes. It was more homestyle than cheffy.
We only really wanted entree and main but it was only 400 XPF more to add dessert, who could resist? Nems de banane au coco, sauce chocolat, sorbet coco. The nems are like spring rolls filled with banana and coconut, with some coconut sorbet on the side. One for fans of banana fritters.
The speared strawberries and cake (brochettes de fraises et frambois caramelises, biscuit armande, coulis de fruites rouges) took longer to say than to eat. There could have been more coulis or done with some cream, it was a little dry. Still 400XPF well spent.
The dining space after the lunch service, a peaceful spot and great for a group.
Restaurant 1881 is located amongst a bunch of ye olde historic buildings celebrating the customs agents and prison commandant from the 19th century penal history of the island which you can explore after you dine.
The lounging area.
The resident pussycat shows off some more of his lounging skills.
There's a main menu to make choices from if the specials don't please. Don't mind the idea of a snail tarte.
We end up spending the rest of the afternoon walking home from Centreville. There's a number of historic buildings downtown from roughly the same period as 1881. It's a shame many are neglected and run down. Sometimes gentrification can save historic buildings if it's done in the right way.
The view from the top of Mount Coffyn, on the walk home.
Always a good way to walk towards Anse Vata is though the large dog park. We've been known to sneak into the off-leash area for a quick pat.