Dining with MasterChef judge Monica Galetti in the Maldives

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The recipe for a dream vacation is simple: sun, sea and TV chef Monica Galetti. Sam set off to Coco Bodu Hithi in the Maldives to enjoy a taste of paradise…

I had the privilege of visiting Monica Galetti’s London restaurant, Mere, a few weeks back to sample the menu she had devised for her residency at Coco Bodu Hithi Maldives.

It was one of those meals you wish you could eat all over again, so when the invite came to travel to the Maldives to do just that, I RSVP’d immediately with a big fat yes.

Photo: Coco Bodu Hithi’s Coco Residence

Coco Bodu Hithi is a fairytale island resort located in the North Male atoll. The island is accessible via speed boat, which takes around 30 minutes from Male airport. The resort boasts luscious greenery, coconut palm trees, seven restaurants, and 100 land and overwater villas.

The Island Villas are spacious and come with a private plunge pool and access to your own stretch of beach – but the uber-luxe Coco Residences are the real show-stopper. These thatched bungalows are suspended over the water with steps leading straight into the warm Indian Ocean, an infinity pool and an outdoor four-poster day bed. They’re a splurge but, if your budget can stretch, my advice is to go the whole hog.

In a bid to outshine its competition, Coco has been partnering with industry experts to offer its guests unique experiences. As part of its wellness residency fitness influencer Carly Rowena and Youtube yoga star Cat Meffan have both visited the island to host workout and yoga classes, while last year Monica hosted her first chef residency.

Photo: Coco Bodu Hithi’s Island Villa

I’d eaten sparingly on the day of Monica’s dinner so I was ready for the six-course culinary odyssey, which was held in the resort’s Aqua restaurant. The specially designed menu was a fusion of South Pacific and French cuisine, which nodded to her Samoan heritage and her classical French training (Monica worked for Michel Roux Jr for 12 years at Le Gavroche).

The appetiser of a crab choux bite paired with a glass of prosecco was the perfect start to the meal but it was the spectacular main course of truffled chicken breast served with mini crumpet of all things that left you wondering why on earth she has not received a Michelin star.

And I still think about the raspberry and pistachio mille-feuille we had for pudding with its crispy layers of filo pastry covered in a sticky, buttery salted caramel sauce. It’s the stuff dessert dreams are made of.

Photo: Monica Galetti

During the trip, we also had the pleasure of meeting another award winner – mixologist guru Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan. He is the man behind Lyaness, the reigning world’s best bar, and we joined him for a cocktail masterclass. Tequila is my poison so his twist on a margarita made with egg white and apricot syrup hit the spot.

To balance out the heavy food and booze consumption, most mornings I hit the gym for a quick sweat session before breakfast. What the gym lacks in equipment it certainly makes up for in views, as the glass-fronted building looks out to the dazzling blue sea. I also made use of the overwater yoga platform and did a few sun salutations while listening to the sound of the waves.

Snorkeling with the resort’s marine biologist where we spotted turtles and eagle rays was another highlight, as was a visit to the spa where I dozed off for the first time ever during a massage.

Like most people, I’d always wanted to visit the Maldives but was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I’m pleased to report, as cliche as it sounds, it’s exactly the slice of heaven you imagine.

For more information visit Coco Bodu Hithi’s website

By Sam

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