VENUE: Tamanu on the Beach
LOCATION: Whitesands, south east Efate
OPEN: 7 days for lunch and dinner
SPECIAL FEATURES: Gorgeous location on white sand beach, friendly and well trained staff and a tasty selection of dishes featuring great fresh produce.
A FEW decades ago, Tamanu On the Beach Resort was one of the top places to dine on Efate.
But more and more restaurants opened up around the island – many of them more accessible – and Tamanu lost its sparkle.
Bites dined there pre-Pam and it was looking tired and worn which was a sad sight indeed.
Then Pam devastated it and there was speculation that it may never do a Phoenix and rise from the ashes.
But it has and the results are just wonderful.
After an extensive AUD$ three million upgrade and renovation project, the iconic Tamanu On the Beach reopened in December 2016 with 15 villas set on a pristine white sand beach.
Designed by Melbourne firm, David Kyle Design, with interiors by New Zealander Nicki Plowman, this four star property has a strong French Caribbean influence.
All rooms include air-conditioning, VOIP phones, Wifi, and flat screen TV’s.
There are a combination of Beachfront Villas and two bedrooms-two bathroom, some with plunge pools.
Other resort facilities include a beachfront restaurant serving fine cuisine with the freshest organic produce and seafood, a large swimming pool and Vanuatu’s first purpose-built wedding chapel, a stunning addition to the wedding market in Vanuatu, with towering eight metre high ceilings and set on the absolute beachfront.
Tamanu On the Beach is adults only (13 years plus) but families with children are welcome during the school holiday periods (nine weeks of the year) and Tamanu’s restaurant is child friendly year-round.
Everything about this reborn resort is fresh and clean, the new additions are great, there is a spring in the steps of the staff and, just like Mr Sheen, it has its sparkle back.
Bites dined there with two friends on a recent Sunday for lunch and it was pleasing to see the restaurant was full. Staff told us there had been a wedding with 70 guests the night before and they had partied into the night.
Israeli born head chef Maor told us he and the staff were tired but it did not affect the service or the quality of the food in the least.
The blackboard specials were largely seafood, which Tamanu has always been famous for and there are plenty of top quality seafood dishes on the regular menu as well.
All the dishes we received or that went past us on the way to other tables were beautifully presented and generous.
The wine menu has a good range of Australian, New Zealand and French wines to appease most palates and the prices were reasonable.
The menu is varied and enticing, and while there are some hearty, indulgent dishes, there are also lighter options that will appeal to those watching their waistlines. And vegetarians are well catered for too, with four meat-free entrees and a couple of well-chosen mains, as well as five side dishes that help add zest to any meal.
Seafood features strongly, particularly in the entrée selection and of course in the blackboard specials, which showcase what’s seasonal and freshly caught.
On this Sunday, all four of us opted for seafood starters. Two were tempted by the blackboard special of garlic prawns with avocado puree and fruit salsa (VT 1800), and both declared it delicious – the prawns meaty and perfectly cooked, the puree smooth and creamy and the salsa adding a touch of texture and acidity.
Half of Bites went for the fresh coconut prawns from the regular menu (VT 1950), which were also superb, tender and tasty in their crispy coating of grated coconut, enlivened by a chili and lime dipping sauce and served with a small bowl of crisp salad.
The other chose pan fried scallops (VT 2700), and they couldn’t have been better – large, soft and sweet meat, with the tender roe on, melted in the mouth and were beautifully complemented by a creamy and rich seafood bisque sauce, a salad of beansprouts, greens and diced pamplemousse with a tangy citrus dressing contrasting and cutting through the richness of the seafood.
For mains, two of the party again chose seafood dishes, one poultry and one went for wonderful Vanuatu beef.
The seafood curry at Tamanu on the Beach has long been a favourite and there’d no doubt be a revolt if it was removed from the menu. But this time the male half of Bites chose the seafood fettucine (VT 3000), a hearty and satisfying dish of al dente pasta with rich tomato-bisque sauce, tossed through with plenty of prawns, fish pieces and mussels and finished with fresh basil and a scatter of parmesan. Suffice to say the dish went back (almost) wiped clean.
One of the ladies who lunched with Bites made a return visit to the specials, with a second entrée of coconut-crumbed fish (VT 1900) served with smooth kumala puree, crispy garden salad and a drizzle of herbed yoghurt dressing to finish – she was very pleased as two entrees ‘left room’ for dessert afterwards!
The other half of Bites chose from the regular menu another entrée of chicken medallions (VT 1650) – a Mediterranean inspired dish of chicken thigh fillets marinated in thyme, garlic and lemon zest, which gave them great flavour and which nicely complemented their bed of spiced lentil salad with a drizzle of yoghurt.
The other ‘lady who lunches’ picked beef, but rather than the more ‘usual’ fillet steak and accompaniments, went for the aged beef tagliata (VT 2900). This proved a very successful dish, with aged beef sirloin, simply seared and superbly tender – she was kind enough to share a slice or two – and served with a light red wine jus and seasonal vegie salad – delish.
The three women in the party decided to indulge in desserts, and all the selections were declared a success: caramelized lemon pastry tart with house made ice cream, a trip of light and luscious house made fruit sorbets and, possibly the pick of the bunch, a wicked Belgian chocolate fondat served with rich butterscotch sauce, vanilla bean ice cream and biscuit crumbs… she declared it was worth every rich bite.
If you’re after a naughty but nice way to eke out a Sunday (or any other) lazy afternoon in a lovely location with good food and excellent service, you can put Tamanu on the Beach on your list.