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Life

Calmer Waters at Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji

Well on the road to recovery from cyclone winston, Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji is keen to welcome visitors to bliss out in its unique brand of tranquility. 

At the end of the day, according to Fijian legend, even the sun needs to sleep and it does so behind one of Fiji’s islands. Malolo, part of the Mamanuca group of islands to the west of the mainland, was believed to have been created by the gods as the sun’s bedroom, hence the local saying, “Na siga e dromu I Malolo”, meaning, “Malolo, the island where the sun comes to rest.” 

While Malolo is a usually a picture of serenity, back in February 2016 it, along with the rest of Fiji, endured Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall in the region. At its most intense, it saw winds of 230km/h. Amid the devastating damage that saw 40,000 homes destroyed, 44 people lost their lives and around 350,000 were seriously impacted. 

But in the aftermath, Fijians were keen to let holidaymakers, particularly loyal Australian tourists, know that they were still open for business. While some resorts were flattened, others sustained only minor damage and could reopen fairly quickly. Tourism is a key driver of the local economy and Fiji could not afford to have people staying away when it needed them most. 

Thankfully, although visitor numbers initially dropped, by October they were healthy again and Fiji is looking forward to returning to its position as an R&R mecca for work-weary Australians.

Malolo was one of the islands that was able to welcome tourists back reasonably quickly and today, its adults-only haven, Likuliku Lagoon Resort, whose name means “calm waters” is a soothing sanctuary for holidaymakers looking to relax in incredible luxury.

A Pristine Welcome

Whether you choose a chopper or boat to get to Likuliku, it’s the sight of the lagoon’s beautifully deep blue waters that provides the first welcome to your Fijian holiday. 

This sheltered haven once provided refuge for war canoes, but today its pristine waters have been declared a marine reserve, known locally as “Na tabu”, so they’re teaming with sea life that darts in and out of the crevices of the coral reef. 

The next greeting comes from a serenading group of resort staff whose melodious greeting is followed by a unified cry of “Bula!”, one of many to come. This one-word, all-purpose salutation is heard hundreds of times a day throughout Likuliku, making you feel your presence is greatly appreciated at all times. 

Aside from its idyllic location, Likuliku is rendered unique by its overwater bures (rooms). Usually associated with the resorts of the Maldives, these wonders of engineering are a first for Fiji. In a line of 10 sitting out from the shoreline, these suspended sanctuaries provide an uninterrupted view between the deck and the great blue blanket of sea. 

But you don’t even have to leave the living room for an aquatic experience, with glass-bottomed floor panels giving a great glimpse of the plethora of fish and their saltwater friends. 

Coral Concerns

A week in an overwater bure comes at a premium price, but as the Group General Manager, Steve Anstey explains, “They are complex. They cannot just be built anywhere and their construction and maintenance is difficult and costly.” Part of the complexity lies in the fact that they have to be built on a flat seabed surrounded by coral reefs, with the latter providing essential stability. 

But if that’s ringing environmental alarm bells, never fear, as Steve describes, “We were all acutely aware and concerned for our precious reef during construction and together with the Mamanuca Environmental Society, we took elaborate steps to protect them at all times.” 

As well as the tides, the overwater bures have to withstand extreme 

weather events like Cyclone Winston and thankfully they stood up to its incredible ferocity. 

Lizard Lodgers

Although the sea life is certainly the star of a visit to Likuliku, there’s another wild inhabitant that’s stealing a spot in the limelight. You have to look very carefully, but in a vegetation-filled enclosure near the resort’s main building are some unique lizards lounging around. 

The Malolo Iguana was though to be extinct until a chance find in 2010 saw an injured one rescued from behind of the Likuliku bures. Unfortunately, this little guy didn’t survive, but much to the delight of iguana aficionados the world over, several more have since been found, seven of which call the resort home as part of an observation and breeding process.

Five Star Sustenance

Diet is obviously crucial to maintaining the health of the iguanas and behind the resort, several native plants are grown in the kitchen garden. This little patch of carefully tended vegetables, herbs and local fruits also provides sustenance for Likuliku’s two-legged guests and executive chef Shane Watson can be found there throughout the day, picking produce for his ever-changing menu

Shane was part of the resort’s opening team in 2007 and stayed for two years before spending very successful stints in Sydney, Thailand and finally, Perth, where he took the Print Hall restaurant to two Chef Hat-status in just two years. Having returned to Likuliku in 2015 with his wife and daughter, Shane clearly relishes the relaxed vibe of Fiji living. At the same time, though, the cogs of his culinary mind are in constant motion, rising to the challenge of island cooking. 

While he grows a variety of fresh produce in the garden, a lot of his ingredients arrive by barge and if something goes awry with the delivery, a good imagination in the kitchen is critical. Thankfully, Shane has good relationships with local suppliers, especially for fish, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing with sourcing regular supplies. An early challenge came when Shane met a doctor who’d started a prawn farm. So he took the half-hour drive on sealed roads followed by a further two hours up through the hills only to discover the ‘farm’ was a tank in which he found about 20 prawns! 

Another challenge came early on when Shane happened upon a local who kept ducks and ordered 20 in one go. But it turned out this was the whole flock, so when he returned for more, there were none left. Thankfully, this farmer has since mastered his trade and now provides a steady supply. 

One of the constants throughout Shane’s tenures has been mud crab, which he handpicks from the trees. Yes, you read that correctly. Wrapped in reeds, these live crawlers are hung up by farmers in the roadside foliage ready to sell to passers by. Shane is a regular customer as it’s a feature of one of his signature breakfast dishes, the very popular mud crab omelette.

While the omelette features consistently, the rest of the menu changes daily and with the seasons. Shane will also design a personal menu to cater for dietary needs.

Blissed Out

As the sun settles into its ‘bedroom’, Likuliku winds down too, leaving its well-nourished guests to retreat to their bures, the sound of the calm waters lapping against the sand the perfect closing soundtrack to a day in paradise.

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City of Wine
Words by Richelle Harrison-Plesse on 10 May 2017
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The Epicurean Maturation of Porto
Words by Emily McAuliffe on 19 Oct 2017
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Moon Festival
Words by Mark Hughes on 22 Sep 2015
Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Moon Festival is the one of the grandest festivals in Asia. Also known as the mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th is when the moon is at its roundest and brightest, and it is a time of special significance. Slightly differing from the customs of Moon Festival in China, Korea celebrates the mid-Autumn event by preparing a banquet to pay respects to ancestors for a successful harvest. During the festivities, Korean people travel back to their hometown to spend time with their families and to enjoy food predominately made from rice, which is harvested during this period.   “The Moon Festival is called Chuseok in Korea,” says Eun Hee An, chef and co-owner with her husband Ben Sears, and wine agent Ned Brooks of Korean restaurant Paper Bird  in the Sydney suburb of Potts Point. “Traditionally, Chuseok is a day to pray to your ancestors in order to assure a good harvest that year. I am from Ulsan, but we have family members in Seoul, Chungju and Busan, so it’s one of the few times a year (along with Seolnal, which is Chinese New Year) that the entire family comes together. We come together, commemorate family members who have passed (Charye) and do Seongmyo, where we make offerings at their graves.” Family feast Of course, with the family gathered, food is important to the festivities and Eun recalls her favourite memory from the Moon Festival when she was a child. “One of the offerings we make is songpyeon: a sweet rice cake, like a mochi, stuffed with honey, sesame or red bean, shaped into a half-moon crescent. Young girls are told that whoever makes the best looking songpyeon will get the best looking husband, so I was always very focused with my mochi decorations!” Unique to the Songpyeon in Korea is the use of pine leaves. During the cooking process, the Songpyeon is steamed together with pine leaves, which adds a delightfully aromatic twist to the traditional dessert. Along with the Songpyeon, Eun’s favourite dish during the Moon Festival was a pan-fried fritter known as jeon, as well as a special recipe perfected by her grandmother. “Besides songpyeon we eat assorted jeon, which is a Korean pan fried fritter. My favourites are zucchini and also my granny’s gochujeon, which is a chilli stuffed with minced beef and then battered and fried. Chuseok in Australia Ben and Eun manned the pans at Sydney’s iconic Claude’s restaurant before it shut down in 2013, which prompted the pair to start up their own venture. From humble beginnings, Moon Park has emerged as one of Sydney’s best Korean restaurants with the menu featuring a fresh focus on traditional Korean. Dishes such as Sooyuk – cold smoked pork belly braised with artichoke and chestnut in mushroom dashi, sit alongside fusion dishes like barbecued octopus with potato cream, kelp oil, garlic chive kimchi, and crispy fried chicken with   pickled radish, soy and syrup. These days with Eun making a life for herself in Sydney with Ben, she celebrates the Moon Festival in her own way. “In a way, Chuseok for me is bittersweet because I am the only member of my family who no longer lives in Korea,” says Eun. “Of course, I still want to celebrate, so I call my parents and talk to everyone about what they are doing and the food they are enjoying. But it is a time of year I realise how far away I am.” Eun says they will also celebrate the Moon Festival with their patrons in the restaurant with some traditional Chuseok dishes added to the menu during Autumn, but she doubts the festival will ever get as big over here as it is back home in Korea. “It would be great, but I don’t think it could ever be,” she says. “Chuseok is a very old tradition in a country where, historically, for many people the quality of the year was defined by the agricultural harvest. Even now, as more people move to cities, it is still so ingrained as a big part of our cultural upbringing.” NOTE: We ran this article in the Spring issue of Selector followed by recipes for chicken skewers and stir-fry beef, and it could be assumed that these recipes were from Moon Park. However, Ben and Eun were not the authors of these recipes and they are in no way affiliated with the products featured in the recipes. Sorry for the confusion, and to Ben and Eun. If you have a hankering for traditional Korean with a fresh focus, then check out P aper Bird , I think you’ll be rewarded.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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