We are committed carnivores. But, this vegetarian restaurant is our favourite restaurant in the world. A bold statement? Definitely.
Just Veg was the Maldives' first vegetarian restaurant, which opened on Atmosphere Kanifushi in late 2013. We first visited here Easter 2016. A week wasn't long enough so we've visited twice again since and Just Veg still remains our favourite.
This a la carte restaurant is at the north of the island, between the 'adults only' area and the exquisite water villas with pool. Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives offers guests a premium all-inclusive plan and dining at Just Veg is included (but must be booked in advance). It's open for both lunchtime and dinner.
So what makes Just Veg so special?
It's hard to describe just one thing. The ambience is inviting and relaxing. There's the lapping of the waves. There's the chance to watch the reef sharks swimming amongst the coral attempting to find their own lunch. It's so hard to describe why we love it so much. It's mesmorising and serenity personified. It just has that unidentifiable something. That je ne sais quois.
Inside or Outside - what do we recommend?
If you're lucky, there are seats outside. In the daytime you are reliant on nature's air conditioning so no breeze makes for a warm experience and you may prefer to seat inside underneath a roof fan. Inside the restaurant is just as atmospheric. Light and lofty ceilings and with 360 degree open windows meaning the breeze wafts in from any direction.
So come on, get on with it ... what's the food like
Delicious. Flavourful. Exquisite. How many more superlatives would you like?
Each meal starts with the most delicious breads and chutneys and pickles. On the scale of one to very spicy there's a broad mix. Luckily for us, Mr P likes stuff on the very spicy side and I'm more mid-tier. Basically, we eat the lot.
L-R: Amuse-Bouche, Eggplant 'Baron Brise' and Pineapple Carpaccio with Lychee Sorbet
Next it's time for the Amuse-Bouche. This is usually a 'shooter' (it's watermelon in the picture) and then a tasty canape (usually vegan). The all-inclusive package entitles you to a three-course lunch or dinner. The menu is extensive and exceptionally creative. Vegans won't be disappointed as there are lots of dishes they can choose from and as everything is freshly cooked, it's usually adaptable too.
Mr P hates aubergine. If I put it into the shopping trolley it's referred to as 'food of the devil'. But, whenever we visit Just Veg, his favourite dish is Baron Brise, consisting of aubergine (egglant), mushroom, cheese and tomatoes. Apparently it's heaven on a plate and I have had to restrain him from actually licking the plate on more than one occasion. The ultimate in hypocrisy if you ask me.
I've never had a meal I've not thoroughly enjoyed - from the traditional Maldivian Locavore Curry, Thai Hot & Sour Soup (phew, that was spicy!),Thai Green Curry but I swerve the papaya relish - that's my food of the devil.
When it comes to dessert, it's hard to comprehend how they manage to experience such beautiful, tasty fresh fruit when you're in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There's Pineapple Carpaccio or Basil & Berries. Speciality of the house is Nutellamisu, a light and eggless twist on Tiramisu.
If you can't imagine a meal without meat I defy you to not enjoy Just Veg.