Tropic like it’s hot – A Fijian getaway!

It had been a long time since Michael and I had had a proper holiday where we weren’t visiting family, so we decided it was time for a change of scenery. On the back of our trip to the gluten free expo we decided to head to sunny Fiji for a break.

Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport

Our flight left so early on Monday morning that we stayed overnight at the Travelodge Hotel Sydney Airport. We arrived around 1pm with me still feeling a little delicate after my stomach issues, and while Michael and Milly had a bite to eat at T’s Bistro, I sipped an orange juice. I also had a quick conversation with the restaurant manager about my coeliac requirements, who confirmed they would be able to cater for me.

Later that evening we headed downstairs to the main restaurant for dinner. It was a large, modern space which gradually filled up as we dined. The staff were friendly but a bit slow (Michael ordered a coke that never arrived), and the menu was nice and clear, clearly marked with the gluten free options.

Michael ordered the signature beef burger (non-GF) and I opted for the Market fish papillote which we shared with the baby. The market fish was barramundi and it came on a bed of fennel, olives and capsicum. It had a few little cherry tomatoes and it was quite tasty. It was a little acidic but still quite gentle on my fragile stomach.

Sydney Airport

We woke at 4am on the day of our flight. I breakfasted on a sample of Nutty Almond Fruit Free Clusters by Food for Health which I’d picked up at the gluten free expo. We got dressed and got to the airport around 5.30am.

My previous experiences at Sydney Airport meant I knew there wasn’t much I could eat

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WH Smiths – Big Crunch Sushi

there. Once we’d got through customs, we headed to the eating area and I had a slow mooch around. I found a chia pudding at Sumo Salad, and sushi and yoghurt at WH Smiths. Incidentally, the sushi range was quite extensive and Coeliac Australia endorsed. I opted for the yoghurt, and a mandarin that I had in my backpack though as it was too early for breakfast sushi!

Eventually we hopped onto our flight, and here is a warning for all coeliacs flying with Virgin – they do not provide special meals on short-haul international flights! You have to either pay for nuts, or bring your own food. Fortunately, I was prepared for this with Yoodles beef cup noodles, Carman’s Gluten Free Cranberry, Honey and Cinnamon bars, and roasted chickpeas from the Happy Snack Company.

Fiji

My first piece of advice to any coeliac abroad is this: When you’re explaining your dietary requirements, do not say “I’m coeliac”, and instead say “I have coeliac disease”. I made the mistake on the first day, and the breakfast staff called me Celia for the whole stay!

We stayed at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. It is a really beautiful, five-star resort with manmade lagoons and lovely ocean views. The lagoon was nice to walk around and swim in, though the beach wasn’t as pristine as we get in Oz – they don’t call it the coral coast for nothing! The resort has four restaurants and we tried each over the course of our six day stay.

Goji Kitchen and Bar

We ate most frequently at the Goji Bar because it was the only place available for breakfast, and we couldn’t get a table at the Lagoon House. It offered buffets and al a carte options.  Michael had the buffet for breakfast (FJD60) and dinner (FJD100) a few nights, stating it was average, and I opted for the al a carte to prevent consuming any gluten through cross contamination.

Before ordering I spoke to wait staff and the chef once or twice. The dinner options were super average, frequently greasy and disappointing. The best meal I had there was the grilled fish of the day, which was Wahoo on a taro cake with Asian greens.

 

On the first morning, I ordered the poached eggs benedict with salmon and extra spinach. It came without salmon and hollandaise, and the bread was dry and crumbly. It was disappointing so I decided to order the omelette the following morning. The omelette was good. It was nicely cooked and came with a little salad and balsamic dressing. I ended up ordering the omelette every day while we were in Fiji.

 

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Poached eggs benedict – missing the the salmon and hollandaise

The wait between arriving at the restaurant, ordering coffee and my breakfast, and the food being delivered was crazy every day. It frequently took over 30 minutes between ordering my omelette and it arriving.

Disappointingly I had to complain twice about breakfast at Goji. Halfway through the stay, I complained because the service we received was terrible. The staff were rude and it took an absolute age for our food and coffee to arrive. The second time I complained it was a lot more serious and directly linked to my coeliac disease.

On our penultimate morning, Michael ordered my omelette for me explaining to our regular waitress that I couldn’t eat gluten. We waited 30 minutes and eventually my food came over. My omelette came with the salad on the side as usual but on this morning, the dressing was soy sauce. I had one mouthful and panicked. Michael had a bite to confirm what I was tasting, and we grabbed our wait staff to check with the chef what I was eating.

Our waitress was mortified and went over to talk to the chef. As the whole kitchen was open, I could see her arguing with the chef and, worrying, I went over. I explained I was coeliac, that the dressing tasted like soy and that I needed to know what he had put on my food. The chef rolled his eyes at me while I was explaining, and never actually spoke to me properly. He moved away, talking to the waitress and started cooking another omelette for me. I walked away and the waitress came back to me, clearly angry with the chef and apologised.

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“Danger” Omelette

In the end, I was so worried about the soy that I went to the bathroom and made myself throw up. I didn’t trust the chef and I made a complaint before we left, speaking with the manager on duty. He apologised and said he’d forward my complaint to the executive, who sent me a fruit basket.

In addition to the food being average, the service was rubbish. It took forty minutes for coffee in the morning to arrive, I had to repeat the same coffee order multiple times, and it was just disrespectful, both to myself and my hungry one year old. While the staff were mostly friendly, they were not attentive or competent.

Lagoon House and Bar

The Lagoon House and Bar was right next to the pool and had a view of the Lagoon which was quite lovely, particularly at sunset. It also had the best casual food. It was varied and suitable for the family. We had pizza a few times, the gluten free bases were a little crumbly and strangely sweet. I had a lovely seafood salad, and the classic cob salad was very tasty. Again, the staff here were pretty slow but they were friendly. I managed to speak to the chef about my requirements and I wish we’d booked to eat at this restaurant more often.

Lagoon Lounge

The Lounge was more of a bar with snacks than a restaurant. The food was mostly small bites and snacks. I ate here once when I got a chicken and avocado sandwich. I couldn’t eat much of the very crumbly, dry bread which but it also came with chips that I could eat!

The staff were nice and, although slow, they were happy to discuss my food requirements with me.

Fish Bar

On Friday night we hired a babysitter so Michael and I could go out alone like grown-ups for dinner and cocktails. The Fish Bar is where we had the best food, and we should’ve eaten here far more often. Price-wise it came to about the same as Goji, but was much, much nicer.

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Fijian Kokoda and a Momi Bay Martini

On our night out, we ordered the Fijian Kokoda, and pepper crusted local yellowfin tuna to start followed by a black onyx sirloin steak each with baked pumpkin, fetta and thyme, and the sautéed broccoli, garlic and almonds. We also had a few cocktails each – I went for the Momi Bay martini and Michael had a pina colada and an espresso martini with coconut rum.

 

The food took a long time to come out but when it did, it was excellent. It all tasted amazing and it looked beautiful – exactly what we wanted from Fiji, with fresh seafood and clean flavours. The Fijian Kokoda was a beautiful fish ceviche with a little chilli and coconut. It was fresh and so tender. The pepper crusted tuna was delicious too. The orange provided sweet bursts which complemented the pickled radish, and it was beautifully plated. We ordered rare and medium rare steaks for our main course and they came out perfectly cooked. The vegetables were tasty and we left slightly drunk, happy and satisfied!

Our stay in Fiji was enjoyable despite the food. Eating at the resort was expensive (A$1500 for the week) and the quality was not what we expected from the majority of the meals. It was also really hard to get decent fruit and vegetables at meals which surprised me, as I had expected fresh food to be plentiful.

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Pepper crusted local yellowfin tuna – so pretty!

We won’t return to the Marriott after my near poisoning but we’d try Fiji again. We still had a relaxing and enjoyable time playing in the lagoon, eating ice cream and getting massages!

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