The Charm is in the Detail
I'm seated in my room on a hot, sticky day in Mahe, Seychelles. My WhatsApp messenger lights up. It's a list of things to do while I am here from a friend. I am excited because it is a loaded itinerary of what I love; outdoor activities, lots of hiking, cycling and of course what and where to eat.
'Go to Marie Antoinette,' he writes, '...and make sure that you eat the fruit bat curry in the set menu of creole food that they have.'
I google reviews of fruit bat. Some folks say that once skinned and cleaned the little mammal looks like a tiny human.
'Look out for the numerous little bones, worse than a fish and you could choke!' one panicked reviewer that did not like it, writes in a lengthy and somewhat snobby essay.
I think about my mother crying at my eulogy because her daughter with what Africans term as 'white people ways' went alone to a nation of islands. To eat a small, blind furry animal that flies around at night and paid for it all with her money - then choked to death.
I leave my hotel in Beau Vallon and take a bus to Victoria, Seychelles capital city and Africa's smallest capital. The bus drops me off outside the gorgeous Vinayagar Temple, which is a 10 minute walk from Marie Antoinette.
I set my Google Maps to 'Marie Antoinette' and start my walk to the restaurant. It is humid, hot and the fact that Seychelles' islands are made up of hills and mountains means that I am sweating heavily by the time I arrive at the gorgeous colonial house that hosts the restaurant.
The thing that strikes you at first sight about Marie Antoinette is the charm in the details of the restaurant's ambience and decor. From the gorgeous botanical garden outside, you walk into its little art gallery before entering the restaurant and bar inside where a waiter quickly greets you and asks if you would like to sit inside or outside. I definitely recommend sitting outside as they have a pen filled with tortoises that you can hear going about their business as you eat.
For over 40 years, Marie Antoinette has been serving the same set menu of creole food with Sri-Lankan influence married with Seychellois tastes for a delicious fusion. Fruit bat, has been a Seychellois palate delicacy from the 40s and Marie Antoinette has it as an extra option that you can order with the set menu.
The standard set menu includes battered parrotfish and aubergine fritters, grilled fish, tuna steak, chicken curry, fish stew, rice, salad and pickled apples and cabbage and hasn't changed since the 1970s.
This restaurant is one of the few left in Seychelles that serves up curried fruit bat. The reviews were right about the bones, the bat's little body is mostly bone with little meat.Where there is meat, it is hard to actually discern if the flavour is from the spices in the curry or if the bat delivers a somewhat sour/sweet taste from its meat. I would recommend trying it just to watch the restaurant staff watch you and giggle as you eat their famed fruit bat. But in terms of getting actual flesh for your money everything else on the set menu delivers that and more in flavour, quantity of servings and quality on taste and presentation.
If you go to Marie Antoinette for lunch, you also get to meet Abraham the resident tortoise as he mates in the afternoon which is his favourite time to connect with the other tortoise ladies in the pen next to the outside eating area.
And if that's not your cup of tea, enjoy some down-time in the botanical garden, explore the little nooks and crannies of this restaurant or read in the cosy corner of the art gallery before heading back to your hotel.