Mauritian feast at Trader Vics

The Trader Vic's Hilton Hotel 22 Park Lane London W1K 1BE (44 207 493 4113) 

Pop up menu created by 2012 Master Chef winner Shelina Permallo and Executive Chef Shiran Fonseka - 3 course menu £29 per person, sharing patter for 2 £19

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Having a restaurant in a London basement can be a good business move especially if it's the Hilton's basement and the restaurant is more a cocktail bar than a fine dining place.

That's the case for the Trader Vics, a Polynesian-themed restaurant chain co-founded by Victor Jules Bergeron Jr in 1932. An institution which grew during the 50s and 60s when the Tiki culture was at its peak. 

London Trader Vics opened in 1963 in the Hilton's building. It follows the trademark marketing model: Polynesian artifacts, loud reggae music, bamboo bar, staff in flowery outfits, exotic cuisine and unique cocktails. The fiercely branded chain has opened its kitchen to talented guest chefs. This month it was the turn of 2012 Master Chef winner Shelima Permallo.
credit: Trader Vics
In 2012, Shelima introduced Mauritian cuisine to millions of viewers. If you have the chance to sample this tiny island's dishes jump at the chance to do so. The food is a mixture of European, Asian, Creole and Chinese reflecting the immigration waves known by this lovely melting pot of an island situated not too too far from Madagscar and Ile de la Reunion.

How does a pop-up and an established kitchen blend? How do they work together? Shelina's and Trader Vics' dishes are both inspired by their respective islands. One off New Zeland, the other off the South East coast of Africa. It's a bit like if tomorrow you decided to throw a dinner party with your friend from Peru. It only works to a certain extent.

The famous Trader Vics' Mai Tai cocktails are not famous for nothing. They are just brilliant, at tat expensive but this is no ordinary basement bar.  The starters a platter of coconut prawns, Chicken Croustillant and BBQ ribs the original 1972 Trader Vics' recipe, Octopus Salad and Green papaya Salad didn't work for me nor him. 

Nothing wrong with any of the dishes...individually, though I thought the octopus salad could have done with more octopus and less salad, they are all good dishes. They just don't belong together.

Our mains took a very long time to arrive. By then, I was craving to try out Shelina's food. Her Mauritian Coconut Sea Bass recipe was just out of this island. I want Shelina to be my friend so that I can watch her cooking forever. The sea bass was delicate, fragrant, no single ingredient was overpowering. A marvel. 

His Supreme Chicken seem to go down quite well, when it arrived but by then we were both wondering why oh why? should people have a 3 course menu in a cocktail bar? and the answer is: they should not. Coconut Bun is not best friend with BBQ spare ribs and cocktails.

In conclusion, too many culinary cultures spoil the broth but each taken individually is excellent. Go and try out the Trader Vics when you are in one of the towns where the chain has an outlet. Definitely try out anything with Shelina Permallo's name on, her food is as good as it looks on TV.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Trader Vics Ldn. Words as always are my own.

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