Eating a lobster lunch at Le Kou’Gny on Boxing Day 2012 was simply one of the best meals of my life.
As you will know by now I abhor Trip Advisor, but when it comes to New Caledonia, because there are so few people who visit, there aren’t that many websites where you can find a list of potential eateries.
So, when I was researching NC I did end up reading Trip Advisor reviews out of morbid curiosity rather than for any intention of listening to their advice.
What I read there and what I experienced at the restaurant show what a useless tool such rating and review sites are. Find a critic (or dare I say a flogger) whose opinions you trust and go with that where you can.
This wasn’t going to be a post about the perils of Trip Advisor, but now I’m all riled up again, it’s going to have to be an illustrative case study.
Now, bear in mind that the vast majority of the few thousand tourists who go to New Cal each year are Aussies or cruise ship passengers or both. Aussies as a bunch of people are completely spoiled. We get it. You have fabulous beaches, great weather, amazing landscapes and great food, so whenever you go on holiday you compare it to what you have back home. Unfortunately this can make some of you very small-minded, and this is doubly true of the cruising classes.
To read many of the English language reviews about Le Kou’Gny you’d think that it was a horrendous, overpriced beach shack whose staff were lazy, ignorant Pacific Islanders who choose the size of the lobster they serve you based on your ability to speak French. Honestly, I kid you not. Check out the reviews.
The reality is this:
The restaurant is a simple, rustic family business. Picnic tables are set out on the sand underneath the shady pines in what is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The restaurant is unreachable by road, and is a 15 minute trek along a jungle path. The Kanak guys who run it speak very little English, but are friendly and polite even if you are obviously struggling to make yourself understood in poor French. If you don’t speak French, bring a bloody phrasebook. It’s not that difficult.
Strangely enough, it’s not possible to catch 30 lobsters all the same size each day and so there is going to be variety of size between portions. However, whilst our lobsters were absolutely smaller than the table’s next to us, we were given an extra one and half slipper lobsters each, which was different and delicious. It’s obvious that the restaurant aims to serve each party with a uniform size of portion, but between tables the size might vary. Get over it.
That anyone should expect to pay buttons for a meal because they think that the overheads of the restaurant, the cost of ingredients and the material needs of the owners are limited is frankly disgusting. I’d have paid double the US$70 per person price tag and been just as happy. They have every right to charge whatever they like.
Now the rant is over, here’s the nitty-gritty.
When you make a reservation you have to tell them whether you want lobster or fish as they will catch or buy the produce they need for their clients every morning. This is why you cannot turn up to Le Kou’Gny on spec and hope to eat lunch.
You absolutely must book in advance (I’ve been advised that you can ring as late as 6am the morning of your hoped for reservation and they will accommodate you if they have room).
Lunch is three courses of utter simplicity. A salad to start, followed by the seafood of your choice and rounding out with a fruit platter.
The salad was fresh with a really tasty dressing, a perfect starter on a hot day.
The lobster and slipper lobsters were superb. Lightly grilled, they were succulent and sweet. I’ve never had slipper lobster before and it was actually sweeter than the big lobster. I cleaned those shells, and sucked those joints and legs of every morsel, and pretty much drank the juice out of the shells too. Bliss. (I’m not much of a white carb eater so didn’t eat all the rice, but this was basic. It wasn’t Basmati nor jasmine so I admit it didn’t have the texture that most of us are now used to.)
The fruit was delicious. Local bananas, papayas, passion fruit etc, all sun ripened and perfectly set off with lime juice.
Simple. Delicious. Sweetly presented.
Ice cold beer and soft drinks on hand. Jugs of water brought to your table as a matter of course, and a small wine list. There’s also a dude selling coconuts at the restaurant which completes the tropical tableau.
We found the service perfectly friendly. We muddled through with our limited French. The food service was languid. There was no rush to get you finished and move you on. A Korean couple turned up and asked for a table in English for that day without a booking and were told that was not possible but they could book for the next day. All of this was in English. All perfectly friendly, if not verbose.
Perfect beach restaurant. An amazing view. Soft sand underfoot. Shady trees overhead.
Kou’Gny is up in Baie D’Oro in the north-east of the Isle of Pines. Road access is close to The Meridien Hotel and the drop-off point for the Piscine Naturelle. I would skip the piscine and head straight for Oro as it’s just as sheltered and beautiful and massive compared to the slightly crowded piscine (although there’s not as much to see snorkeling).
Our journey to Kou’Gny was organised through the Kou Bugny Hotel who were very helpful with tours even though we weren’t staying there. It involved an early start to grab a pirogue at Baie St Joseph for a trip through the beautiful Baie Upi and then an hour’s easy trek through the forest to the restaurant. Such a lovely way to get there.
On the way back we just had a 15 minute trek to the road where we were picked up in a minibus and taken back to the Baie Kuto where we were moored.
Mobile: +687 91 17 94 Landline: +687 46 10 65. I’ve read on some sites that you can leave it up to 9am on the day you want to eat to book, but if it’s a busy time of year, then don’t leave it that late.
The three course lunch was US$70 per person and then there were drinks and coconuts on top. Bear in mind that they are only open for lunch.
Idyllic and charming. One of my favourite ever meals because of the mix of awesome location, great food and laid back atmosphere.