I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from my first trip to the Maldives. When I got the opportunity to visit and stay at the stunning St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, every minute of it felt like a dream I was sure I was going to wake up from any time. It was a joy peak after the other: I saw a shooting star, swam in cerulean waters that looked postcard-photoshopped, had the best massage of my life, couldn’t get enough of purple mangosteens, and had my own personal butler. I know, right? 

Even with all this to compete with, my dinner at Decanter stole the show. And I’m here to tell you why, should you find yourself in the Maldivian paradise that is the St. Regis Vommuli Resort, you shouldn’t miss out on it. 

Decanter: The Lowdown

At five-course degustation and wine pairing dinner at Decanter, the resort’s underground wine cellar.  Home to more than 615 labels from 23 countries, and a total of over 2000 bottles, Decanter is a (chilly) sight for sore eyes – for wine lovers, and for anyone who’d like to step into what feels like a secret treasure trove of the very best of what the island has to offer. Not that my eyes were particularly sore up to that point, considering the stunning backdrop of a Maldivian atoll and some of the clearest waters I’d ever seen, but even so, the restaurant still managed to be one of the absolute high points.

At Decanter, they say they “let the ingredients do the talking:” that’s why they use local produce as much as possible, and vegetables and herbs they grow in their own garden on the island. The inspiration for different dishes often comes from the garden, too, with a brainstorming and feedback session to follow in the kitchen.  

Then, Director of food & beverage Sunny Chuang uses the menu, which changes each time, as a starting point to craft a story around the personalised wine list he picks out from the extensive – almost, it seems as you walk around the cellar, endless – selection of labels available. In the evening, he sticks around to talk guests through each glass with stories of life, wine, taste, cultures, and everything in between, adding to an already truly unmissable experience.

Decanter: The Food and Drinks

If presentation is everything, the culinary team at Decanter is a master at it. But there’s no grandiose presentation that holds unless you can show off the flavour to match it, and at Decanter, they sure can. 

Every dish is immaculately presented, flaunting the kind of elaborate minutiae and colourful accents that go a long way towards making the whole experience feel extra special. And the impressive display is not all, for I genuinely felt like crying on more than one occasion throughout the meal – of joy, of rapture, of the aforementioned this is too good to be true feeling that seemed to sum up the entire affair. 

Each dinner at Decanter must be booked in advance, and unlike the other restaurants on the island, this unique culinary adventure is always a communal one: the cellar features a large marble table in the centre of the room, and guests sit together with people who might have been complete strangers a few moments prior, for one of the true highlights of their Maldivian getaway. 

The menu is always entirely personalised. The final choices depend both on dietary restrictions and seasonal availability, brought together in an explosion of genius by the Chef and their talented team of taste-bud artists to see what surprises each evening may hold. In our case, neither me nor my trip companions were huge meat lovers, so our menu was fish-based. And what a menu it was!

We began with a Maldivian tuna amuse-bouche served with tomato compote, a black olive and anchovy paste, Parmesan crisps, and sweet basil oil. A true delight, and the perfect way to start off our evening on the right note. As it’s a wine pairing dinner, Sunny reserves particular care for how each glass complements the dish at hand. For the tuna, a Nicolas Maillart Grand Cru Brut Rosé was just the perfect finishing touch. 

To follow, our aperitif consisted of giant scallops with parmesan cream, red endive, and ikura caviar, washed down with a 2015 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex from France’s Loire Valley. This was an explosion of colour and taste, and a true standout, so much so that I came close to licking the parmesan cream off the plate before I (thankfully) remembered I was at the St. Regis!

Then came the appetiser, a crab and cauliflower espuma with poached egg, green peas, and bottarga. Between the vibrant bottarga and the sparkly accents of the gold leaves on top of it, the espuma was a stunning creative masterpiece I wish I could savour again and again. And to accompany our appetiser, we remained in Europe but left France for a quick stop in Italy, with a gorgeous 2018 Jermann Vintage Tunina IGT from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. 

Our entreée was a quinoa risotto with modelled basil pesto, morel mushrooms, and truffle foam. And when I say I wanted to cry, reader, I mean it. It was just so creamy and quirky, in a way that really elevated quinoa beyond my wildest dreams. With the risotto, we drank a 2018 red from Burgundy, a Henri Rebourseau Gevrey-Chambertin La Brunelle, which Sunny jokingly described as “the Marilyn Monroe of wines, a flirty and enchanting one that’s never too much or too heavy.”

A fresh wild berry sorbet with orange granita as a quick cleanser, and then we were off to the races for the main course, a Chilean sea bass with root vegetables, purple potato mash, and bored tarragon bisque. A work of art in orange, yellow, green, purple and red, and a tender, luscious fish to carry us through to dessert, a delicious apple tarte tatin with vanilla cremeux and vanilla ice cream. And of course, a French wine to match the home of the tarte tatin, a sweet 2022 Château Guiraud Sauternes. 

Decanter: The Verdict

I tried several of the six dining options available on the island, which vary from Italian to Asian and Middle Eastern and are able to cater to widely different tastes, and while they were all fantastic, Decanter took my breath away along with the number one spot on my if I could only have one more meal, this would be it imaginary list. Big talk for an Italian, I know, but I mean every word. It was just that special. 

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, Vommuli Island Dhaalu Atoll, 13080, Maldives

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Imagery supplied by The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort