There's not too much going on in the renovation / preservation game in Noumea. Many of the historic buildings are in disrepair or not realised for their full potential. The area around the jetty is shamefully rundown, which is one of the first places most tourists see just off the boat. Just above Coconut Place in Centreville the streets start to get a little steeper to follow and the buildings sure start getting a little more colonial, some have been preserved here or at least are still intact. Zanzibar Restaurant is an exception to the disuse rule, the setting in an old bright orange terrace with green shutters helps keep this old building living and useful.
The name and interior design suggest something other than the very French menu and cooking style. We like the look of the balcony terrace as well. Beware of strange Queenslanders loitering outside.
You know you're in for something good when even the free starter olives are amazing - around the table we surmise various theories about what these little beauties are marinated in, ranging from cumin, to harissa to curry powder. They don't last long as we keep on needing to try more just to pin down the taste.
We got addicted to French style fish soup when we stayed in Paris a while back. This house fish soup with grated cheese and toasties was subtly fishy and seasoned just so. They say seasoning separates the cooks from the chefs and here it's done right. The soup is too good to worry about the grated cheese and mayo-ish side sauce, intended to be mixed into the soup for a deeper flavour.
Blue cheese croquettes yes, crisp crumbed lengths of blue cheese served with salad and raw mushrooms to counter the lard and some smoked duck just to arc it all up again. When pulled apart there was ooze and then there were aaahs.
Tartare de thon a la Caledonienne - New Caledonia tuna tartare - raw tuna diced tuna mixed with carrot, ginger, green onions, coriander, lemon, soy and olive oil and served with rice and salad. These raw tuna dishes are very typical of Noumea and they are an excellent lighter lunch, a totally opposite lunch to the croquettes!
The mahi mahi from the specials board itself didn't excite too much (sometimes fish is fish is fish, is fish) but the curry cream sauce and lentil/split pea risotto was sampled around the table with all round agreement that it was great. The dish the lentils were served in looked like a 1960s swinging chair.
Les crevettes Caledonienne with sweet potato puree and rice. Shawn's mum is super fussy about her prawns, luckily New Caledonia has excellent crevettes, they are usually small in size but pack a lot of flavour, with a chumpy texture to them that makes stand out when cooked. These were flambéed in booze and excellent.
A salad gourmand is not a dieters friend, with foie gras on toasties spread with onion confit (jam to you and me), on a salad of lettuce and tomato oomfed up with slivers of smoked duck breast. It's a grand salad but not quite what was hoped for. It's a matter of personal taste but we prefer our foie gras without a sweet jam, the salad from O'Boucher is still the fave.
The white chocolate brownie (or blondie) with strawberries and cream was a complete winner.
The table was divided over the creme brûlée. The top was appropriately crunchy but the bottom hadn't quite set, it was more of a runny custard goo. Though delicious, it didn't meet the exacting standards of the chief brûlée taster.
There's room for big groups - though booking would be wise.
Zanzibar drinks menu - click to enlarge.
Zanzibar menu - click to enlarge.
Zanzibar menu - click to enlarge.
Starting to feel like those two folks...
At the back of the restaurant on the way out to the bathrooms is little garden filled with stacked rock sculptures. Groovy.
Zanzibar is at 51 rue Jean Jaurés, Cetreville. Ph: +687 25 28 00.