A taste of Mauritius
March 21, 2017
As unofficial ‘chief taster’ for Onboard Hospitality I was delighted to be invited to a tasting of Air Mauritius’ latest Business menu (it changes every two months) at Plane Catering’s HQ near London Heathrow this March.
Plane Catering’s client list includes Malaysian Airlines, Air Astana, Ethiopian Airlines and British Airways (its Special and crew meals), meaning this UK caterer has a broad range of experience when it comes to exotic flavours.
And you can’t get much more exotic than Mauritian food, which, like the country itself, is a melting pot of cultural influences – most notably French, Indian and Chinese. Air Mauritius’ theme is ‘cooking without borders’ but cuisine flying from Heathrow is more tweaked to British tastes than flights from its Indian Ocean hub. Every dish is freshly cooked on the day.
Ex-London Business customers flying with Air Mauritius are first treated to a verrine (half way between a canapé and an amuse bouche) – either the ‘creamy avocado delight and sun blushed tomato marmalade crowned by smoked salmon julienne and marinated baby prawn’ (a silky-tasting delight) or ‘Jamaican jerk chicken with pineapple salsa’ (full of fruity flavour), both designed to get the palate working.
The hors d’oeuvre, or starter, consisted of ‘pan-seared sea scallops served over a bed of scented saffron aioli asparagus mimosa, escorted by a moist chicken cromesquis and cordon of tomato and capsicum cream.’ My favourite of this intriguing mix of tastes was actually the naked but perfectly-cooked asparagus.
The range of main courses were what really impressed though – two curries (one lamb, one vegetarian) and two western dishes (one chicken, one salmon).
My favourite was the ‘zesty curry of Indian-style cottage cheese and cauliflower, served with fragrant and savoury basmati pilaf rice’ but a close second was the ‘pan fried pecan crusted salmon loin (tender and juicy) over delicate and creamy sorrel sauce accompanied by a baked vegetable tian and a macaroni timbale’. The macaroni cheese was tasty but a little incongruous with the rest of the dish, a quirky addition which, Plane Catering’s development chef Steve Kempson told me, is typical of Air Mauritius’ inventive executive chef, Patrick Parthonnaud.
The dessert was a delicious trio of minis – banana panna cotta, a rich chocolate raspberry Mogador and a lemon merengue cupcake.
But I wasn’t allowed out yet – there was the second service to go, breakfast. This was the most creative of all, with my favourite items including roasted wedges of paprika scented potato (who doesn’t want potato wedges for breakfast?) and a tasty green pea and tomato flan. Being British I was sadly unconvinced by the chicken sausage (it’s ok but not a real sausage) but pleasantly surprised by the grilled turkey bacon rasher – catering for Muslims and Hindus means beef and pork are off the menu on Air Mauritius.
Air Mauritius’ menu is currently pre-assembled but Plane Catering are looking into the challenges of crew assembly in order to perfect their Business offering. Steve said: “Giving the crew kit-pack food items to plate on board will benefit the passenger by ensuring a fresh appearance for the dish, without heating ‘tide-marks’ around the edge of the plate. It will mean a more ‘restaurant’ feel to each dish rather than the pre-cooked/ chilled/re-heated version.”
Thank you to Steve and the team at Plane Catering for allowing us a sneak preview of the menu, I just hope I’m on my way to Mauritius next time I taste it!