Saturday 12 November 2011

Trip to Kuching

Kuching Trip: Permai

I’ve had a couple of weeks break from cooking as I went to Kuching in Sarawak, the Malaysian part of Borneo. So this is a report of the vegetarian meals I was able to obtain while on holidays.

Though Kuching was our main centre for the visit we spent the first five nights at the Permai Rainforest Resort in Santubong. This resort is ecofriendly and so cars are parked outside and you have to lug your belongings in. But it’s well worth it.

There are cabins, longhouse dorms and tree houses in which to stay. We booked a tree house that was excellent accommodation. About three stories high it was right in the treetops and a few metres off the ocean. It had a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The room was air conditioned and very comfortable. Sitting on the balcony you could look out at the squirrels in the trees and the occasional monkey.

There was a café on site which meant you didn’t have to go looking for meals elsewhere or carry your own foodstuffs in. Though not amazing in its meals the café was convenient, had pleasant staff and suited us for keeping the holiday low key and relaxing.

The vegetarian selection, as usual, was not extensive but it did the trick, though I was through it and had had enough of it by the end of the five days.

On the night we arrived we were hungry enough to order more than we usually would. We began with two fruit cocktails and they were really refreshing. Unfortunately on the second night we decided to have them again but, rather oddly, the fruit they used had been left out in the heat and the drinks had not been made cool so we had fruit cocktails that had been made with hot fruit. Unpleasant.

I then had a vegetable soup that, though edible, I knew I didn’t want to have again.

For mains I had a cheese omelette. It came with chips, cucumber and two sauces. The omelette was not too tasty. I think the cheese was one that didn’t go well with the eggs. The sauces were sweet; one was a plum sauce that clashed with the omelette.

All in all, though the first meal was not wonderful it was satisfying and we could hardly have expected haute cuisine in a reasonably isolated resort. And the setting was exceptional. The café had open walls so that we sat looking out through the trees to the ocean. After the hot muggy day the evening temperature was comfortable. With a situation like that the meal was somehow secondary.

On the following days for breakfast I had waffles with kaya

a mixed grill (giving the sausages to my partner)

pancakes and honey

and buffet (one day it was help-yourself buffet and this was all I could find that was clearly vegetarian).

The main meals that I had on subsequent nights were:

spaghetti napolitaine (rather like a tinned tomato soup with pasta and some vegetables added but quite tasty)

a vegetable omelette (somewhat like the cheese one but much better)

and another spaghetti napolitaine (much better than the first one—quite tasty—perhaps there was a different chef on that night).

On the final night we decided to go to the next door up-market Damai Hotel Resort for a slap-up meal.

To begin we had cocktails. These looked quite good and tasted reasonable though they were very light on the alcohol.

For an entrée I had vegetarian spring rolls. They looked attractive on the plate and were pleasant enough to eat even though they had very little filling.

My main course was an absolute disaster. I decided to have a pizza. There were several pizzas on the menu so I selected a margarita. It looked fine. The first bite proved to be very doughy. I tried a couple more and then gave up and scraped the filling away with the intention of possibly eating that. When the base was uncovered it was clear that the base was still raw. Yecch! My complaint to the staff brought no response at all. So I just ate the topping and left the thick, raw base.

When I compare the two eating places, Permai Resort and Damai Resort, I got far more pleasure from eating at the cafe where the casual style and pleasant staff, the view and the reasonable meals far outshone the over sophisticated, over priced poor quality meals at the Damai Resort next door.

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