Set in the impossibly turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the islands of the Maldives have become a luxury vacation destination with few equals.
But in between snorkeling the reefs, topping up your tan and generally taking the word “relaxation” to new heights, there’s the key question of what to eat – and where.
Happily the country punches well above its travel weight when it comes to culinary choices, thanks to exclusive resorts where celebrity chefs craft some of the world’s finest and most expensive ingredients – as well as local produce – into show-stopping plates.
Bear in mind, the Maldives is made up of 26 atolls filled with over 1,000 islands occupied by dozens of resorts – all spread out over 90,000 square kilometers – so hopping between properties for meals isn’t really an option.
Not to worry, the food in these 10 resorts is as much of a draw as the white sand and stunning sunsets.
Shades of Green, Soneva Fushi
The barefoot luxury resort of choice for celebrities including Madonna, Paul McCartney and the Beckhams, it’s no surprise that Soneva Fushi’s dining options are among the very best in the Maldives.
Choices on this private island include sushi restaurant So Hands On, an eight-seat private dining space developed in a partnership with three Michelin-starred Japanese chef Kenji Gyoten.
And then there’s Shades of Green. As the name suggests, the focus is on plant-based cuisine and diners begin their tasting menu by chef Carsten Kyster with a tour of Soneva Fushi’s extensive gardens, where snacks are hidden amongst the foliage.
The bounty of produce surrounding diners is then crafted into five impressive gourmet courses.
Soneva Fushi, Kunfunadhoo Island Baa Atoll, Maldives; +91 124 451 1000
Fenesse, Jumeirah Vittaveli
Amongst a selection of no fewer than nine places to eat, Jumeirah Vittaveli’s fine dining restaurant Fenesse combines both classic and contemporary French cuisine.
Kobe beef tartare, organic herb-crusted rack of lamb, Lobster Thermidor or the classic French fish stew bouillabaisse are just some of the choices on the menu for gourmets dining above the azure waters of the Indian Ocean.
Guest Michelin-starred chefs from around the world like Ollie Dabbous and Anthony Demetre are regular visitors too, bringing their own unique style and experience to the resort’s lucky diners.
South Male Atoll, Maldives 08160, Maldives; +960 664 2020
Manta Ray Treehouse, Joali Maldives
The recently opened Joali Maldives features a particularly unusual dining destination.
At the Manta Ray Treehouse, guests eat nestled amidst the trees in spaces crafted from natural materials that are designed to resemble two of the giant aquatic beauties.
Each space seats up to eight diners, who feast on Maldivian menus featuring local favorites such as tuna with chilli and lime, fish curry and native lobster.
Joali Maldives, Muravandhoo Island, Raa Atoll, Maldives; +960 658 4400
Le 1947, Cheval Blanc Randheli
Le 1947 at Cheval Blanc Randheli takes its name from a famed vintage wine from Château Cheval Blanc. It’s no surprise then that the restaurant’s focus is elegant French gastronomy served in a setting that is as haute as the cuisine.
Eric Vidal is the culinary director. Inspired by local ingredients, he crafts a 12-course tasting menu that changes weekly.
Diners can expect dishes that draw on his global experience, such as warm king crab with caviar and yuzu, or tuna and watermelon foam with basil powder.
Cheval Blanc Randheli, Noonu Atoll, Maldives; +960 656 1515
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Ithaa at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island scored a unique first when it opened in 2005, becoming the world’s first undersea restaurant. Five meters under the waves, diners look out to coral gardens and take in the ocean’s remarkably diverse marine life.
Lunch could include a salad of butter poached lobster with white peach, artichoke and roasted garlic soup or a honey-roasted pumpkin cheesecake.
Open for cocktails, lunch and dinner, Ithaa can also be reserved for private dining or even a wedding.
Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island 20077, Maldives; +960 668 0629
Aragu, Velaa Private Island
Aragu means “essence” in the Maldives’ Dhivehi language and is the name of the signature restaurant at Velaa Private Island. Here, chef Gaushan de Silva lets diners choose ingredients, then works his magic in personalized menus.
Chef Gaushan has worked around the world, including as private chef to the Jordanian royal family. His menus could feature produce including Gillardeau oysters or pigeon from France, local lobster and Japanese tuna.
Vino fans with deep pockets can also enjoy one of the Maldives’ biggest wine collections.
Velaa Private Island, P. O. Box 2071, Noonu Atoll, Maldives; +960 656 5000
Destination Dining, Baros Maldives
Baros Maldives opened to the public back in 1973 and, more than 45 years later, the former coconut plantation still offers fine dining experiences.
In common with other resorts in the Maldives, options include both traditional restaurants and private dining spots. Amongst the latter, their secluded sandbank is a popular choice and can be booked throughout the day.
That could mean a breakfast of smoked salmon and champagne, a sushi lunch or a barbecue for dinner. Whichever you choose, the romance quotient is undeniably high.
Baros Maldives, Malé 20-02, Maldives; +960 664 2672
Tai, COMO Maalifushi
Amongst COMO Maalifushi’s culinary choices for guests, one favorite is oceanside dining at Tai. It translates as “red snapper” in Japanese, a sustainable fish served along with many others in their sunken sushi bar.
Their signature dishes include partially-grilled aburi rolls with ocean trout or Wagyu, as well as toothfish saikyoyaki, which means it’s marinated in white miso.
One special feature at Tai is the regular appearance of a 1.5-meter wingspan stingray known as Aki-san, which swims close to the restaurant at sunset and enjoys being fed premium sashimi.
COMO Maalifushi, Thaa Atoll, Maldives; +960 678 0008
Baraabaru, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
South Asia is the focus at Baraabaru, which means “excellent” in the local Dhivehi language, at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa.
The restaurant’s design is inspired partly by the architecture of the southern Indian state of Kerala, while Indian flavors are matched with local seafood.
Their Thali offering lets diners sample a selection of home-style dishes served together on an elegant tray, while they also offer “Tandoor Tapas,” small plates of contemporary Indian street food that can be served on their torch-lit deck under the stars.
Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, North Male’ Atoll, Maldives; +960 664 4888
White Orchid Restaurant, JA Manafaru
JA Manafaru is celebrating fine Chinese cuisine through a partnership with famed Beijing-based chef Dong Zhenxiang, more popularly known as DaDong.
The resort’s White Orchid restaurant serves his innovative contemporary Chinese cuisine, created with local ingredients.
That approach translates into dishes including wok-tossed spicy Maldivian lobster, Maldives seafood hot pot or Wagyu with leek and basil.
JA Manafaru, 2062, Haa Alifu Atoll, Maldives; +960 650 0456