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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Food and Drink

New Caledonian's restaurants are good but very expensive. The easiest way to keep your bill down is to stick to one main plate (plat de résistance) and eschew appetizers, salads, alcohol, coffee, and dessert. The bread and water on the table are free and tipping is not expected. Also watch for the plat du jour, a reasonably priced businessperson's lunch of one or two courses, bread, and dessert. Outside Nouméa most hotel restaurants offer a prix fixe dinner, though it's cheaper to order one plate à la carte if you can. Expect 5 percent tax (TSS) to be added to the price of restaurant meals unless the menu states clearly that it's included.

Nouméa has more than 130 restaurants serving dishes like coq au vin (chicken in wine sauce) and champignons provençales (mushrooms seasoned with garlic and parsley). The cuisine is très bon; indeed, given the prices, it has to be! The restaurants start serving lunch around 1100, and by 1200 the plats du jour could be gone, so arrive early. Most establishments catering mainly to the locals stop serving lunch at 1300 and dinner at 1900 (the top restaurants stay open until 2200). Many upscale places have a special tourist menu for a set three-course meal. It's often better value to order just one main plate à la carte.

A bougna is a Kanak food parcel consisting of sliced root vegetables such as taro, manioc, and yams soaked in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves with pork, chicken, or seafood, and cooked over hot stones in an earthen oven for a couple of hours. If you attend a Kanak feast you'll see dozens of bougna packages consumed by countless relatives. At some gîtes you can order a bougna capable of feeding four persons.

Virtually all towns on the west coast of Grande Terre are well equipped with stores, while shopping facilities on the east coast are sometimes poor. Since New Caledonia is associated with the European Union, the foods available in the supermarkets are different from those offered in most other South Pacific countries. Buy long crusty baguettes and flaky croissants to complement the pâté, wine, and cheese. Together these are the makings of a memorable picnic. The Oro fruit juice sold in one-liter plastic bottles is a buy. Beer and wine are very cheap at supermarkets, but these stores are not allowed to sell alcohol from Saturday at 1200 to Monday at 0600.