From the minute I exited my plane at Male International Airport, a rush of warm air struck me and I finally felt on holiday. As a true sun worshipper, I will take a summer beach vacation over a winter holiday any day of the week. I was incredibly excited for the chance to soak up copious amounts of sunshine and build up my tan with the new opening of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort. Upon making our way through customs, and collecting our luggage, we spotted a man holding up a “Westin Hotel” sign. He greeted us warmly, volunteering to rid us of our bags, and leading us to our awaiting car. We drove a short 5-minute ride to the Transmaldivian Airport terminal, where all seaplanes to various resorts depart from for the next leg of our journey.
The seaplane transfer to The Westin Maldives is roughly 40-minutes. Unfortunately, the hotel is yet to complete their lounge at the seaplane terminal so we waited in the Transmaldivian lounge. When we thought Male customs was bad (lines can be horrendous depending on the number of aircraft that has just landed – so be warned!), Transmaldivian the sole seaplane operator prove to be incredibly unreliable and the true meaning of “island time” resonates. Three hours after landing in Male, we finally board our seaplane, bound for The Westin.
The seaplane ride itself lends way to one of the most scenic and breathtaking flying experiences you can imagine, with time literally flying by offering an incredible aerial view as we fly over the atolls, witnessing every imaginable shade of blue. The aquamarine water proved intoxicating to look at, playing ‘I spy’ to spot beautiful white sand islands dotted around the Maldivian atolls, admiring the many resorts and floating bungalows sitting atop the water. As we made a quick stop to drop off some guests at a neighbouring resort, I immediately began to fill with excitement with what awaited at the next stop. Today proved an unlucky day, as the weather was extra windy and we were forced to land on a floating barge a few hundred meters out from the island. Hobbling off the aircraft across the barge and onto a swaying boat, I hoped this was the end of the hiccups and luckily I was correct.
A lightening fast speedboat took us the 3 minute ride to the island where we were greeted by the hotel manager, many staff and our butler, Arafat. He offered a tour of the island, but we opted to head straight to our room, exhausted from the long trip.
Our new home for the next five nights was an Overwater villa. Having recently opened, The Westin Maldives is wonderfully new and in top condition. The amber timber floors and walls, create a natural feel, echoing the island filled with palm trees. I loved the sleek modern style fused with traditional wood finishes. Meanwhile, gigantic floor to ceiling windows line the entire front of the villa, inviting you into the glistening sky blue water mere meters away. I couldn’t wait to jump in!
On the right side of the villa is a small living area with a reclining chaise, separate sofa, flat-screen TV, and desk space loaded with power-points and USB outlets. In the middle of the floor is a glass bottom square, reflecting the aqua blue water into the room and truly bringing the ocean into our villa. A cool selection of ocean themed coffee table books, sit next to the sofa titled “The Book of Shells”, “Spineless” about sea creatures, “The Blowfish’s Encyclopedia”, “Pristine Ocean” and “Stories of the Sea” beg for some great holiday reading.
In the middle, sits a dining table facing squeaky clean bay windows looking out to the ocean. Next is the signature Westin bed, holding up their “Sleep Well” mantra in the Westin’s Six Pillar’s of Wellness. Luscious, soft and heavenly, fitted with the highest thread count sheets, the hotel brand prides itself on this specialty, even offering the bed up to purchase in its entirety from mattress and pillows through to sheets.
Behind the bed is a passage with 2 large wardrobes, aptly designed next to a bench for suitcases. Finally the bathroom, gleaming white marble basins, a huge walk-in shower boasting both ceiling or hand-held spouts. A large bath tub sits in the middle of the room looking out toward the ocean. Every detail is impeccably considered, down to the clear strip in the frosted glass that sits perfectly at eye-level as you sit on the toilet and admire the wonderful aqua oceanic landscape from your perch. One of our favourite parts is the automatic toilet, which as you open the door, has a lid that opens to greet you and inside the toilet bowl a light switches on. The toilet has many characteristics such as washing & drying features operated via the remote beside, yet I was too afraid to sample these out. This is the same across all toilets in the resort, and it’s an interesting touch.
The uplights around the villa create pure sophistication across the suite, which using sliding dividers can be divided into 1, 2 or 3 rooms. The villa is the perfect amount traditional with understated elegance & modern accents uniting to create interiors that would gratify all. The room’s entrance tempts you with its stocked mini bar, sporting an elaborate silver juice press to help us fulfil Westin’s “live well” mantra by starting the day with a fresh orange juice each morning. The hotel greeted us with a bottle of prosecco, some sweet treats and fresh fruit. As soon as our butler Arafat leaves, my mother cannot help herself and slices open an orange to make use of the juice press. “Mimosas!” I exclaim, rushing toward the bottle of prosecco, popping it open to combine with the juice. Oh my, they truly taste better with these fresh oranges!
A long deck runs the entire length in front of the villa, with an outdoor waterfall shower welcoming you to cool down, two comfy lounge chairs and a table & chairs. A ladder offers to help you climb into the water to refresh! We spotted dozens of fish and used our ladder as a launch point for snorkelling throughout our trip. I have never seen such vividly coloured bright fish in my life, that I am in pure amazement and awe. The reef drops off into the most incredible depth and in such a way that is simply jaw-dropping.
There are also a range of other villas located on the island itself. These offer private beach access and dreamy infinity pools mere footsteps from your bed. Gorgeous island greenery frames the garden looking out to the sparkling blue ocean and beyond.
The evening we arrive, the hotel is hosting its weekly drinks with guests, so we quickly freshen up and head to the Sunset Deck. Located above the main building, this alfresco bar is decorated with palm trees in its view on the west horizon, perfectly positioned for a prime vantage point of the daily spectacular sundown. The cocktail menu is very impressive, with handcrafted drinks that are wonderfully balanced and beautifully presented. We chat amongst other guests and hotel staff, savouring our yummy drinks after our long day. The sunset is brilliant, fusing deep pinks & purples across the ocean, that slowly melt into the horizon.
After a few cocktails, we wander down to Island Kitchen the main dining venue on the island. It features an international menu catering to all tastes with dishes of Indian, Chinese & Maldivian origins, as well as your all-time classics. We opt for Tandoori lamb chops and Pan seared Duck Breast with butternut puree, fondant potato, wild mushrooms & jus gras. The organic Australian lamb is fatty and juicy with a finger-licking coating of tandoori spices roasted in the hotel’s tandoori. The duck pairs nicely with its accompaniments however the potato fondant is undercooked, and the duck is only warm, not hot. The sides of Cauliflower & ham and Parmesan chips are good and simple. Given how creative restaurants are getting with cauliflower these days and how lip-smacking good it can be, I was expecting more, but none-the-less it does read as the description lists.
For dessert I choose the Chocolate Petit Pot, a rich little jar filled with dark chocolate mousse and topped with a coffee mascarpone Chantilly and a scoop of coconut ice-cream. This is delectable with a dark rich velvety texture. It hits the spot leaving us comfortably full, before we return to our villa to lay our heads to rest on the Heavenly bed.
Upon waking up, we make a coffee with our Nespresso machine and sit on our deck, appreciating calm blue ocean before us, absorbing the sounds of water washing underneath. As we admire the peaceful atmosphere, a dolphin’s dorsal breaks the surface a few meters out from the villa, topping off the morning ever so perfectly! We decide on a morning walk around the island, letting the waves hit our feet and running our toes through the sand. The island is a nice size, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to walk the circumference, with inviting beaches the entire length begging you to take a dip!
Each morning we got into the habit of visiting the fitness centre. The hotel runs yoga, core, HIIT, meditation and other classes daily helping to keep you in shape whilst on holiday. The gym is equipped with new start of the art equipment including treadmills, cross-trainers, bikes and weight machines. The expansive glass grants guests a view of the sky blue water and beach outside, framed by the towering palm trees, whilst they work up a sweat.
By 9am the sun is already beaming down. We walk into breakfast and are greeted by the attentive Island Kitchen team. We get to know them well from Amyz, Rafhan “Surfer boy” and Zaith. We sit by the sparkling pool, gazing out to the ocean and sipping on our freshly made coffees. The breakfast selection is extensive with everything you might want and more. It includes your standard Western items: a wide selection of pastries (including activated charcoal croissants), muffins, cakes, donuts, bread, fresh fruit, yoghurt, muesli, nuts, cereal, freshly made juices as well as other exotic items such as Japanese egg omelettes, cheeses, cured meats, Middle Eastern dips & crudité, smoked fish, chargrilled Italian vegetables, condiments, pickles and salad ingredients.
The chef’s will happily curate made-to-order pancakes, waffles and crepes or eggs of your choice. The hot food changed daily with roasted glazed legs of ham or roast chicken, to scrambled eggs, international dishes, Maldivian tuna curries, roti, stir-fry noodles, fried rice, congee, miso soup, bacon, hash-browns and much more. An ice-cream station with a delectable selection of toppings from chocolate chips and sprinkles through to homemade biscuits begs to add some indulgent sweetness to the start of your day. My favourite dish was the crumble pudding on our first morning, filled with apples and custard that proved delightfully sweet and delicious!
After breakfast we lounged by the infinity pool looking out to the ocean. The main pool is long enough to do laps, so I would spend the time after breakfast redeeming myself with some exercise. Each day was spent reading and lounging by the pool with breaks in between for scrumptious lunches at Hawker, our favourite lunchtime spot.
The Westin offers a range of cooking & drinking classes including a culinary master class of either pastry, Japanese or regular cuisine, Wine classes focused on wine tasting as well as Mixology Classes to discover the art of crafted cocktails. Given how wonderful & warm the kitchen staff including chef’s John, Loela and Channu, I am sure these would be wonderful experiences.
Our lunchtime spot Hawker, is a beachside eatery located on the white sand, only footsteps away from the pool. It fuses different Asian cuisines together for delectable light lunchtime bites. Hawker embodies a rustic feel with wooden tables, surrounded by palm trees to keep a gentle breeze and bean bags to enjoy a cocktail or perhaps post-meal snooze in. The menu features delicious cocktails and a extensive selection of non-alcoholic iced-teas with a variety of fruity flavours and it became my hobby to go through the menu sampling each one.
With our toes in the sand, and the ocean breeze putting our minds at ease, we were delighted when our first course arrived. Each day we intended to try something different starting with light and refreshing salads. Our favourites were the Maldivian calamari salad with baby calamari, pickled daikon, chilli, ginger, iceberg lettuce, lime and lemongrass dressing. The wonderfully tender calamari was blanched and served with an array of flavourful accompaniments and zingy dressing. Meanwhile my favourite that I ordered everyday, was the Smoked Eggplant with Crab featuring Maldividian rock crawler crab, egg, shallots, spring onion, mint, coriander. The dish consisted of an entire eggplant roasted in a wood oven, granting it a lip-smacking smoky flavour. It was escorted by delectable mixture of crab meat in a mayonnaise dressing, topped with a soft poached egg and bonito flakes. The addition of the bonito flakes complemented the smokiness with a whole new level of flavour thanks to the saltiness.
Other starters we enjoyed included the Som Tam Thai with Green papaya salad, chilli, garlic, long bean, fish sauce. As a classic Thai Green Papaya salad, it was abundant of flavour and full of health. Whilst the Short Rib Lettuce Wraps with Vietnamese style braised Black Angus short ribs, rice noodles, spring onion, chillies were a nice light start to the meal. Iceberg lettuce cups were filled with airy light vermicelli noodle, with tiny little pieces of tender beef short rib.
We tried an array of skewers including the Sate Daging: Indonesian beef satay, fresh onion, peanut sauce. These were gorgeousy tender and abundant of flavour. The Sate Ayam of chicken satays, fresh red onion, herb salad, spicy peanut sauce were much the same, but the beef was actually the favourite. Meanwhile the Chaca Skewers with white fish marinated in lemon, turmeric, dill, green onion were a little different, with a zingy marinade and meaty fish pieces.
The Shrimp Pad Thai with Thai shrimp, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, peanuts was by far one of the standouts. Not too sweet, not too salty, but perfectly balanced, it came served beautifully in an egg wrap with wok-fried prawns neatly arranged on top. A must-order! The Malaysian Char Kway Teo with rice paper noodles, shrimp, Chinese sausage, fish cake, bean sprouts was a spicy chilli sticky sauce with bursts of flavour brought by the Chinese sausage through, however maybe a little too oily for our liking.
The Otak Otak was a Sri Lankan prawn, Maldivian reef fish mousse with spicy peanut dipping sauce. In this dish we had no idea what to expect. Our waiter explained it was wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf so we were surprised that what came out was pieces of tender naked meat in a flattened sausage way. It was tender and yummy, but something I had never quite experienced before.
For dessert we indulged in the Halo Halo – the perfect dessert for a hot Maldivian day. The dessert was a bowl of crushed ice, coconut cream, jelly cubes, red beans, homemade leche flan & ice-cream. It was delectable and a new favourite dish that I have since found out is available in Sydney’s Chinatown that I intend to try. The chef also treated us to a new dessert of Red velvet cake with layers of cake between vanilla mousse, caramelised banana and mango gelée. The cake was almost too gorgeous to eat with wonderfully constructed layers and colours coming together on the plate with squirts of mango & berry coulis and fresh berries. Be sure to try it on your visit!
We also indulged in the Crispy Roti with caramelised banana, chocolate sauce. As a huge fan of banana and chocolate, I couldn’t wait to see what this sweet roti was like. Filled with gooey caramel sauce, caramelised bits of banana sitting within a pan-fried, it was drizzled with chocolate sauce.
The days were spent snorkelling, lounging by the pool as well as the extra bit of indulgence via The Spa. The spa is located in an overwater pavilion with floor to ceiling glass giving way to pure uninterrupted blue. One instantly feels relaxed and at ease as they enter the soothing confines of the aromatic space, sitting in the waiting room awaiting their treatment. The rooms contain empress style wicker cane throne’s, which each guest sits in as their feet are washed.
Our favourite restaurant on the island was The Pearl, a Japanese style venue sitting out over the water in a huge pavilion. The interiors were sleek and elegantly styled with beautiful lounges, handsome plush arm-chairs and a huge high sweeping ceiling. In the middle of the room, the head chef John works away at the sushi bar preparing fresh sashimi and nigiri. Each Saturday they have themed nights including Ramen & Gyoza, All-You-Can-Eat Sushi or hand-rolled sushi Temaki Parties.
The Pearl has two kinds of menus available Five or Seven Courses, depending on how hungry you are! Both times we opted for the Five Course which changes daily and can be personalised. Our first course was a delicious assortment of ‘Kobachi’ or bite-sized Japanese delights Dashi Maki, Black God Gyoza, Edamame, Tsukune and Nasu Dengaku. The Dashi Maki was a square of the traditional Japanese egg omelette, the black cod gyoza was juicy and delicious, I loved the unusual little chicken meatballs ‘Tsukune’ and my favourite thing of all was the Nasu Dengaku miso eggplant. The second course was ‘Mukozuke’ with New Style Salmon Sashimi, with cured salmon sashimi in a sweet sauce topped with sesame seeds & shallots. The next was an interesting one Lobster teppanyaki. Anything lobster is nice, but I feel the lobster was lost here, becoming tough and chewy, I did however love the glazed vegetables paired with it. Our final savoury course was Assorted Nigiri, with fresh tuna, salmon, eel, and scallop.
For dessert the Green Tea Cheesecake was nice, topped with crumble, little meringue droplets, squirts of cream and fresh berries. In its essence it was a simple cheesecake infused with matcha, offering a pleasant subtle sweet finish to the evening.
The second night we dined at The Pearl, chef John truly outdid himself creating a hand-crafted experience. We started the meal with fresh clean assorted sashimi to cleanse our palate. Next was the most incredible melt-in-your-mouth miso cod. Having had this dish at Nobu’s around the world, they have mastered it here, with its simple yet graceful presentation finished with a pink pickle on top. The cod was lusciously fatty combining with the salty sweetness of the miso for a orgasmic flavour. Next was the selection of tempura combining huge meaty prawns and vegetables fried in a lightly battered yet perfectly crunchy shell.
This evening the restaurant was filled so we had sat at the large bar surrounding the chef’s sushi station. However this worked to our advantage, with Chef John creating a hand-crafted Omakase experience for us. The word, Omakase, translate to “I leave it to you” hence it allows one to entrust themselves to the chef. The guest is placing the choice of ingredients and plates in the hand of the sushi chef, itamae ultimately creating an experiential and unforgettable meal. For those new to this concept, it’s all the rage in New York and London where diners sit at a sushi bar, watching their food being made, and served individually in a personalised format by talented sushi chefs.
Chef John handcrafted a selection of nigiri. This included salmon and kingfish were utterly beautiful. Whilst a plate of grilled eel nigiri, my mother and I’s favourite proved sticky and sweet. The final plate of fatty tuna with shiso and caviar proved the ultimate finale, all the flavours uniting together to create a dreamy sensation.
The meal concluded with a yummy chocolate brownie, with kiwi coulis, berries and meringue. With a layer of frosting on top, I dug in for this first! The brownie was a rich and chocolatey, but we were full from the meal (and rightly so). Filled with food, we hobbled back to our villa, collapsing into our bed for the night.
One evening we were lucky enough to be treated to a sunset dolphin cruise. Setting off at 5.30pm, we sped off on the island’s speedboat into the horizon. It would have been nice to have some snacks or sparkling on board, so perhaps take along a bottle of your own, or ask the hotel to provide, as a nice touch to top off the sunset vibes.
After an hour or so of searching for these sea creatures, travelling the Laccadive Sea and its channels, we had still been yet to sight a fin! As time ticked by, it was looking grim, “Only twice before have we never seen dolphins!” said the captain. But then in the distance, we saw some action! As we edged near, dorsals surfaced around the boat, with more and more appearing. The spinner dolphins jumped high in the air, putting on an enchanting show as the sunset hovered over the horizon. The magical animals surrounded the boat jumping below the bow, and playfully in the waves, so close I could hear their distinct sounds. My heart was filled with utter excitement. The kind of emotion I felt was indescribable, the most pure feeling of utter happiness, warmth and joy. I couldn’t stop smiling, grinning from ear to ear the boat ride back.
After the dolphin cruise, we enjoyed a few cocktails at the Sunset bar, along with delicious bar snacks of Beef sliders, and Camembert cigars. The cigars were cheesy and gooey, highly recommended to soak up one too many cocktails! We made good friends with the bartender, whose skill and craftsmanship did not go unnoticed during his creation of our delectable delights!
The hotel was at low occupancy during our stay and this was a positive. The staff all knew our names with a “Good Morning Miss Nicole & Miss Sally!” as we walked into breakfast. We got to know each of the staff, who worked across venues and as such become familiar faces, happy to help with any request you might have. We loved chatting to them about the island, about the Maldives, about their homes and they were so welcoming and friendly, I could not say a single bad word. The chefs go above and beyond to cater to your needs, with Island Kitchen often making dishes upon request permitting they are not too busy! Or ask them for perhaps a nice little sandwich or two for the ride home and they will happily oblige.
On our final night, I mentioned to the pastry chef Loela, how much I loved chocolate. She then custom-made a dessert of soft centred chocolate fondant, with a silky rich smooth filling inside. Served to us by the pool, with the reflection sparkling and chocolatey goodness in my mouth, it was the perfect concluding dinner ahead of our departure tomorrow.
The last morning of the trip, I indulged in some of the made-to-order pancakes and waffles, and can happily confirm both hit the spot perfectly. The chef even treated me to a special treat of crab avocado toast. Crispy sourdough was topped with fresh avo and copious amounts of a dreamy crab mayo mixture, finished off with a mint leaf. To wave us goodbye, some dolphins appeared a few hundred metres out from the beach and everyone “Ooo-ed” and “Ahh-ed!” over their breakfast. It was the perfect farewell. As we sat back, I looked out across the crystal blue water, I felt restored, replenished and content, never quite ready to leave paradise but happily refreshed. They say “the ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagine and brings eternal joy to the soul” and the Maldives is the perfect place to immerse one’s self in this, with the ocean never more than a few meters from you as you eat, sleep and play.
For more information on The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort Baa Atoll, visit their website.
I Ate My Way Through stayed as guests of The Westin Maldives