06 September 2012

Noumea Part 2/2 ~ Hail the Supermarche

In our last post on Noumea we talked about the joys of eating out. But Noumea's ultimate pleasure is eating in. In this little piece of France in the Pacific, self-catering is half the fun of the holiday.

New Caledonia is probably best known as a beach and nature holiday destination. If you're not interested in lazing about on the sand there is hiking in the countryside. We met some intrepid Sydney based Parisians who were going to trek for seven days across the island. Not sure how they were going to fit the bottles of wine in the back pack though.

Our favourite attraction in Noumea is this, the humble supermarket.

Supermarkets in Noumea are basically French. There's French everything. We were in heaven. The Pacific Franc was almost on parity with the Aussie dollar so we didn't have the often cited problem of Nouméa being expensive. Our favourite supermarket was the Michel Ange, about 10 minutes walk towards the city from our hotel in Anse Varte. It had an excellent deli. There was a wide variety of well known names like Carrefour and Casino, it's worth checking them all out as the range varies. Apparently the big Carrefour out of town was the best supermarket of all.

Even simple things like a tin of veggies becomes exciting when the label is in French. There was soooo much stuff we wanted to try but you need years, not days to work your way through a whole supermarket. We could have spent a month in the biscuit section alone.

You can even get frozen frog legs.

The supermarket deli has lots of local made produce as well, all with a French touch.

Trying out the french cheeses and meat goodies was a holiday highlight, much cheaper than Australia.

Noumea is also great for getting stuck into French wine. You can get a reasonable bottle of turps for $10 or so, prices are higher than France but hey, we're in the Pacific. Fancy pants French champagne was a good buy, prices seemed about the same as Australian duty free.

Top shelf Australian Fruity Lexia attracts a luxury tax however. Almost $25 a cask! Strewth! Dom Perignon was on the next shelf, the bottom shelf, go figure.

As well as local beers (Number One for your standard lager and Havannah for an amber ale) there are some Pacific brews floating around as well. Hinano from Tahiti was good.

One of the foodie highlights of Noumea is one of the simplest: freshly baked baguettes. These are available everywhere, from supermarkets such as this, to corner stores to servos. Fantastic.

A local baker proudly shows us his woodfired oven (dang we didn't we take his photo?). Baking goes all day so you can always get your baguettes super fresh.

Mr Shawn's ultimate Noumea foodie highlight was simply ripping off a hunk of fresh baguette and slathering on some French inspired local produce, such as duck rillettes and magrette de canard. And French butter...

Another treat from the deli is this Tahitian salad: raw fish, coconut and lime, it's divine.

Another Noumea pleasure are bakery sweeties, think French pasty. Shawn's Dad would often wander off on a walk and come back with a box of these. The éclairs became a fast favourite.

Some great sweeties from an Algerian deli in the Latin Quarter, below an Algerian restaurant. There was food influence from many French speaking countries.

Locally made banana coconut jam. A dollop on fresh baguette with a bit of cream. Party.

Roast chook venders are around, we saw more in the country than in town. We got excited when we saw a sign for 'roti' until we realised it meant rotisserie.

Noumea is purdy.

Noumea food nerd attraction #453 is the butchers. Boucherie Du Val Plasisance is opposite the Le Miretti-Gascon restaurant.

There's not a lot of selection but what they have looks great. There is a small beef industry here and there's loads of venison.

The butcher also does small goods which he makes himself. We snacked on venison terrine, great on fresh baguettes.

We load up on local duck confit from the butchers at about $16 each. These came with a mound of duck fat, scraped off and in the bowl behind. We couldn't believe how much yummy fat they were coated with. If only we could bring it home...

Shawn's mum bakes the duck confit and rustles up some potato chips cooked in duck fat. Yes, chips cooked in duck fat is as good as it sounds.

In Noumea's town centre there's a local fresh produce market, the Marche Municipal,  open something like 4.30am to 12pm. We visit mid-morning on a Monday and it's pretty much dead.

We're told to visit on Saturday morning when all the locals gather, the difference was amazing, it's busy and cheerful, folks from all walks of life are here, even Queenslanders.

Shawn's Mum looks happy because she's just bought some live mud crabs for about $14 a kilo. We saw them for $40 a kilo at home the other day.

Coffee bar at the market. There's not many dairy cows in New Caledonia so fresh milk is scarce, best take your coffee black...

The land isn't ripe for cultivation so fresh fruit and veggies are comparably expensive, though Mr Shawn was in hog heaven as local papaya was in season for around $3 a kilo. There were lots of pacific style root vegetables like taro and cassava on offer, but most stuff is imported.

The market has several pastry vendors...

And a butcher or two...

We find a Chinese stall holder selling some street food snackages. Some kind of fried prawny fishcake.

Spicy coconutty stuff in sticky rice.

A sweet'n'savour sticky rice number.

Random local deli in the suburbs. There were many places that had ready made meals to take home and eat.

Shawn's mum cooked up the muddies from the market, these were the sweetest, tastiest muddies we've had in memory, no kidding. [Later we're told by lady in Shawn's Mum's French class that New Caledonian mud crabs are so delicious because they feed on coconut palms].

Local prawns are also excellent, love their purdy blue colour.

Friendly locals wagging goodbye. We don't want to leave.

Self-catering is by far the best when you stay in an apartment. We stayed at the Best Western Premier La Promenade and would happily do so again.


  1. Sigh...a month in the biscuit aisle sounds grand...not so much frogs legs...but they'd be crunchy so why not.

  2. Oh yeah! When I was in Noumea (2005-2008) I lived right near a supermarket and I loved buying meat and smallgoods from there. Duck rillettes, mmmm. I don't know if you noticed that the pate and rillettes are displayed in nice-looking large dishes, but here's a tip: if you happen to buy the last bit of pate/rillettes in a dish, you can ask for the dish and they'll give it to you to keep!

    The chicken at my supermarket was also outstanding - a natural pinky-red colour rather than the pale-pink chicken we get in Australian supermarkets. Once I bought a whole chicken to roast and the deli guy used a blowtorch to burn off the last few feathers! I loved those deli guys - they really knew their stuff and were always ready to offer cooking suggestions.

    Being an Aussie who loves a tall cold glass of milk, I really missed being able to buy fresh milk every day. You could buy it in one-litre bottles from my supermarket, but rarely. I figured out that it usually arrived on Tuesdays and was gone by Wednesdays. It was absolutely DELICIOUS and well worth seeking out.

    Thanks for the blog and cheers again from Katie

    1. Dang, knew we should have tried a roast chook!y

    2. We forgot to mention how utterly friendly and welcoming folks were in the delis, supermarkets and butchers.

  3. Fascinating read, having backpacked around France I couldn't help noticing the similarities between France and Noumea and its just so cool that Noumea is so close to Australia.

    I'm not surprised you did a lot of self catering in Noumea because I did exactly the same when I backpacked in France. I traveled with a Trangia metho stove. I often stayed in hotels that didn't have cooking facilities, so I used the Trangia to cook meals. Often I remember sealing the gaps in the door so that my cooking smells didn't attract the attention of the hotel owner. Inside I would cook up a storm. The produce you could buy in French supermarkets was so high quality and so cheap. You couldn't go wrong cooking what you bought because it was such good quality. In Bordeaux you could buy 1L P.E.T. bottles (identical to the ones used on bottled water) of local wine cheaper than bottled water or soft drink, oh and the Fromage (cheese) was simply superlative. What would French food be without the baguette (forgive me while I crap myself laughing mentally comparing a baguette from Woolies and the real deal).

    Your photos of Noumea simply brought back my memories of France. These days with a mortgage and being unemployed the possibility of returning to France seems somewhat remote. On the other hand Noumea seems as complicated as a trip from Sydney to Darwin.

    Man you have no idea how much you have inspired me to want to visit Noumea.

  4. Ditto - there's just no comparison of freshly baked baguettes to what we get here. Love travelling with a trangia!

  5. Sounds great, I`ve been to Noumea once before, but on a short business trip only with basically no spare time. I l did love the feel of the place.
    I`m going again very soon - tomorrow that is !!! . So all the things mentioned here I`m going to visit / do ( I`m even staying at the same hotel ) I agree with the other comments - its like the south of France, but much much closer.

    1. Can we hide in your luggage? Would love to be heading back. We were drooling at the pork and duck rillette at Victor Churchill on the weekend at $70 a kilo and wondered if the one we had in Noumea was better?


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).