MDP condemns government’s failure to fulfil promises to fishermen and farmers

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) hascondemned President Abdulla Yameen’s government for its lack of commitment to promises made towards the betterment of fishermen and farmers in the Maldives.

While speaking at a press conference, MDP Fisheries and Agriculture Committee’s Chair Ibrahim Rasheed said that the government’s lack of commitment is clearly illustrated by the fact that no funds are allocated towards the promised MVR10,000 (US$650) for fishermen.

“Even though President Yameen has promised on multiples podiums to provide fishermen with MVR10,000 and farmers with MVR8000, the budget does not have any allotted funds for this,” said Rasheed.

The committee also expressed concerns over the high recurrent expenditure budget allotted for the fisheries and agriculture ministry while there are only three new programmes to be added to the few ongoing in the upcoming year.

The record24.3 billion (US$ 1.5 billion) budget for 2015 has an allotted MVR134 million (US$8.7 million) as recurrent expenditure for the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary debate for the proposed budget concluded today with 79 out of 85 MPs sharing their thoughts on the budget during the process.


Review: Coffee, coffee everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Almost everywhere you look in Male’ you can see coffee shops. From cosy little places that barely seat 10, to trendy hangouts with sea views and prices quoted in dollars. The one thing that binds all these disparate establishments together, though, is their consistently bad coffee.

The most common outing in Male’ is going out for coffee. Lavazza, Melitta, Danesi, Illy, the names rolls off local tongues as easily as yellow fin or skip jack. On a few occasions, you might be served a good cuppa. But this happens so rarely you might be forgiven for thinking it a freak accident, in which the barista was distracted by a shooting star and forgot to burn the coffee beans.

Are Maldivians addicted to burnt coffee, or is the lack of entertainment so severe, that sipping bad coffee in good company is better then sitting cooped up in your room?  The latter seems most probable; coffee shop regulars complain non-stop about poor food and drink. However, like the English, we Maldivians are loath to return bad drinks, meaning eateries continue to serve rubbish and get away with it.

When Maldivians visit resorts or travel to foreign countries, we are generally discerning customers, able to tell the difference between a good cup of coffee and a burnt one. Alas! The dearth of good Male’ cafés has condemned local denizens to make do with what is on offer.

Here we offer a few examples of Male’s consistently bad coffee drinking experience:

You might assume that a café called Shell Beans would know how to make coffee. You would be mistaken. The trendy water front café frequented by Male’s ‘it crowd’ use expensive imported coffee machines for their brews. When we order cappuccino, though, they arrive as a brown soupy liquid with a scum of discoloured bubbles on top. The coffee is burnt and foul.

Next we try Shell Bean’s namesake, a new establishment called Coffee House. The café is more akin to London or San Francisco than Male’. Floor to ceiling glass windows, comfy chairs and cool wallpaper give this place a fresh, funky feel. The interior might lift the spirits but the coffee dispirits the soul. Those that inhabit the house know not how to make coffee.  Our cappuccino arrives burnt, revolting and utterly undrinkable.

One of the most visible cafes in the capital is Panini, in the lobby of Male’s swanky Trader’s Hotel. In Trader’s previous incarnation as Holiday Inn, Panini was an oasis of a café, where you were always guaranteed a well-rounded, good coffee.

When Holiday Inn sold the hotel to Shangri-La’s Trader’s brand, we rejoiced. After all Shangri-La is a leading luxury hotel brand in Asia, renowned for its gastronomy. But reputation does not match reality. Nowadays, Panini’s coffee is hit and miss. Our filter coffee arrives looking as black as the devil, and strong enough to fill your week’s caffeine quota in one cup.

Our latte, by contrast, looks almost angelic in its pale, milky appearance. It’s a perfect drink for those craving a warm glass of milk, but café latte it is not. Panini is a good example of how different people can make wildly different coffee from the same machine.

There is one member of Panini’s staff – a hangover from the Holiday Inn days – who makes perfect coffee. So to get a decent cup, you must stalk the lobby and wait for this lady’s shift to start. It seems she is the only server who knows her way around the Nuova Simonelli coffee machine.

In our quest for a drinkable coffee, we splash out on a meal at Sala Italia, one of the city’s most expensive restaurants.  We order cappuccino. What arrives borders on the bizarre: an espresso cup with a shot of espresso and another of milk, with about a dozen bubbles on top.

“What on earth is this?” we ask.

“Espresso-Cappuccino,” says the waiter.

A lack of training, or maybe the right cup, has spawned a new breed of coffee. We send it back in exchange for (perfectly prepared) filter coffee. It seems even in an Italian restaurant, few know much about coffee.

The problem of Male’s poor coffee does not lie in the expensive machines or the well-sourced beans most cafes seem to have. It is the know-how that is missing. The essence of making a good cup seems an anathema to most cafes: clean the coffee machine regularly; don’t re-heat the same water over and over again; heat the milk only when an order is placed; use fresh milk not powdered; and above all make sure the water is heated to the right temperature so the coffee isn’t bitter.

In a desperate, last ditch attempt to find good coffee, we head off to one of the Maldives’ most exclusive resorts. We are sitting on the beach at Soneva Gili, sipping the perfect cappuccino; well-roasted Arabica beans, blended perfectly, with a good half inch of creamy foam on top. At US$8 the coffee is pretty good value but to do this again, we would have to stump up US$1,200 per night for the room charge. At US$1,208 per cup, this is an expensive cappuccino.

After three months touring the capital in the quest for the perfect cup of coffee we have drawn a blank. The only way to guarantee good coffee is to head off to a resort. A cheaper option might be to go to the travel agents and book a flight to Rome.

All review pieces are the sole view of the author/s and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Review: Poppadums

In a city mostly bereft of specialised restaurants, Poppadum’s entry into the scene generates excitement.

The place is small with a seating capacity of 38, laid out in an ‘L’ shape. Despite the size of the place it doesn’t feel cramped at all, a credit to the restaurant.

It’s lunch time and there are only a handful of people, eating away with gusto, most with their hands. A washbasin discreetly located at the end of the restaurant behind a partition gives the option to patrons.

The menu is a typically Indian, with a collection of Tandoori items, curries, varieties of Indian naans and rice.

To start the meal we settle for the a merger of the classic and the new: a mango flavoured lassi.

A cold mango lassi on a hot day is a delight on the senses. Unfortunately the lassi we are served had been made with sour mangoes and was a bit disappointing on the palate, but forgivable at the onset of mango season when finding sweet ripe mangos are hard to find.

The meal arrives next; plain naan, chicken biriyani, dhal fry, chicken masala and plain raita.

Biriyani, dhal and naan at Poppadums
Biriyani, daal and naan at Poppadums

The naan is neatly cut into pieces and served on a silver plate, while the rest of the dishes come in an assortment of silver dishes, all looking very appetizing.

We start off with the naan, but one bite and we have the sneaky suspicion that it had been made the previous day or week, and re-cooked a second time. It’s overly crisp on the inside and out, and resembles a poppadum. The one thing you expect from an Indian restaurant is a naan cooked to perfection, a chewy crisp texture on the outside and soft on the inside. The sudden emission of intense heat from the Tandoor oven fluffs the naan into beautiful bread; alas here the beauty was incomplete.

The biriyani is the next dish to go under our fork. The first mouthful is fiery to say the least; an extremely liberal use of chilli smothered the rest of the flavours of this famous dish. It’s a poor presentation of blended flavours, almost as if everything had been cooked separately, vegetable rice and chicken curry mulched together onto a plate.

Even the praiseworthy raita – diced tomato mixed with fresh herbs bound in natural yogurt – is not enough to cut the spice.

A mango lassi
A mango lassi

The biriyani is way below average; a slow simmering is supposed to infuse the flavours together in this dish; however we can taste nothing of the sort. Halfway through we are obliged to stop eating, gasping for air, with our taste buds on fire from an overdose of chilli.

The highlight is the dhal and chicken masala, which do justice to the flavours you expect from an Indian dish.

The correct consistency, delectable flavours and well blended herbs and spices cooked just enough to release those unique Indian flavours. Had the naan been cooked to precision, these two dishes would’ve saved the day and done justice to one of the most versatile cuisines in the world.

Indian food is a short flight away, but when one gets the craving in Male’, Poppadums is among the few places one can go to indulge that craving which gives the restaurant a responsibility to do justice to the dishes.

More people come in as we are leaving. We will go back another day, and hopefully be able to indulge in a better Indian food experience.

Poppadums Restaurant

Food 4/10
Atmosphere 6/10
Value 5/10
Service 6/10
Total 5 /10

Mango lassi 30 Rf
Chicken biriyani 50 Rf
Plain naan 12 Rf
Dhal fry 25 Rf
Chicken masala 45 Rf
Raita 35 Rf

Poppadums Restaurant is located at Ameeru Ahmed Magu. It is open from 12pm to 3pm
and from 6pm to midnight.

Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.


Review: Aioli Restaurant

Aioli is a French sauce, an emulsion of oil held together with other water based liquids to create a unique texture. The restaurant emulates its namesake the sauce in offering an emulsion of different cuisines, in a fine dining atmosphere.

The shade of the huge mango tree gives is pleasant as we enter Aioli at lunch time. Men occupy the two tables downstairs, chit-chatting about the latest stories around town. We look longingly at the dessert counter filled with colourful macarons, brownies and other tantalising sweet items as we head up the winding stairs.

A few tables at the balcony are occupied as despite the hot mid day sun, the place has a nice feel to it, the nearby tree keeps it cool. We opt for the glass- doored air-conditioned room with seating capacity for about 40 people. The menu offers diverse range of dishes, Mexican fajitas, mutton mysore, Thai items, a couple of vegetarian dishes, and top quality beef like the Black Angus rump steak, poultry, pasta and even a local speciality ‘addu kukulhu reha’, Addu style chicken curry.

Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage
Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage

Most surprising and intriguing is the dessert page, tempting varieties not available anywhere else in town – we almost skip the main course. Interestingly the menu has explanations of cooking terminology, helpful to those who are looking to experiment and expand their gastronomical repertoire.

The waitresses are friendly and smart, with black shirts and black skirts they blend right in with the concept of fine dining restaurants.

The drinks arrive fast, chilled water melon perfect for a hot afternoon, and home made lemonade; a combination of lemon sparkling water and ice, tipped a little heavily on the sparkling water side and lacking in zing. The papaya juice tasted smooth and decadently sweet.

The teriyaki beef-fry was well presented with a jasmine rice dome next to it. The sauce had an overly peppery taste to it and lacked the tangy-sweet and brackish flavor of a real teriyaki sauce, while the steamed rice is under seasoned and over cooked. The dish has ground to cover before it would live up to its name.

The lamb chops, served with grilled zucchini, potoato slices and red and yellow peppers had colour, but the presentation would have gone up a notch if the chops had been placed on top of the vegetables to add some dimension.

Fine dining Male' style
Fine dining Male' style

The orange sauce on the bottom added a bit of moisture to the utterly dry lamb chops, amusing given that the menu had a whole page explaining degrees of cooking meat. The shred of red cabbage sprinkled loosely on the plate added nothing to the dish and was a poor addition.

Thai chicken on skewers placed on top of steamed rice with more shreds of red cabbage came with a generous portion of pak choy. The chicken was tender and succulent, but the pak choy bathed in garlic was toothsome and a bit over cooked. The dish is a bit dry as there is little sauce to go with jasmine rice; this could have been a brilliant starter without the rice and pak choy.

Finally the moment we had been waiting for, the classic French dessert crème brulee arrived on the heels of Italian panna cotta.

It looks like the crème brulee needs more caramelising and more sugar. It was impossible to relive the moment in the famous scene of the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, when Julia Robert’s character cracks open the caramelised crunchy sugar, exposing the creamy and smooth custard. Nevertheless it was full bodied and flavorsome, just lacking caramlisation, the essence of this dessert.

The panna cotta was presented neatly on a plate with drizzled chocolate sauce topped with a green cherry.

Tasty crème brulee
Tasty but not caramelised

The flavours were balanced in the cooked cream which is set with gelatin. The texture was a bit rubbery for a panna cotta; it should have just enough gelatin to hold its shape and should have wobbled a bit more on the plate.

Overall: bistro-style food with a fine-dining feel. The world’s many different tastes are served in this very promising restaurant, which holds a place among the best in town.

Aioli Restaurant

Food 7/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 6/10
Service 7/10
Total 7 /10

Fresh water melon juice – 25 Rf
Fresh Papaya Juice – 25 Rf
Home made lemonade – 40 Rf
Cajun Lamb chops – 150 Rf
Teriyaki beef stir-fry – 60 Rf
Thai chicken – 70 Rf
Crème Brulee – 55 Rf
Panna Cotta – 45 Rf

Aioli Restaurant is located beside Bank of Maldives Main Branch at Lotus Golhi. It is open from 9:30 am to midnight, on Fridays from 16:00 pm to midnight.

Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.