“This is good. This is really good.” Lori nodded in agreement between bites. Our lunch at Maison Eureka spread across the table: cari poulet, lentilles, achard, giraumon, chatini, and, riz.
Dutch, French, Malagasy, East and West African, British, Indian, and Chinese came to Mauritius at different times and under different circumstances. The Mauritian Creole language, place names, architecture, sounds and scents in villages, and Mauritian cuisine attest to this mixing of people and culture.
Eureka Maison serves a set menu displayed on a chalk board. The main course on the day of our visit was a choice between dry curry boeuf, cari poulet, and cari poisson (beef, chick, or fish). We chose the cari poulet, chicken curry, which is a distinct Mauritian style and not spicy hot like Indian curry. The sides included black lentils (lentilles), pickled vegetables (achard), pumpkin chutney (giramoun), and tomato chutney (chatini, a fresh chutney like a salsa). Our plates were served with rice on them, while the main and side courses were crammed around the small table in serving bowls. We added the different dishes to the rice as we ate. Dessert, a choice between vanilla ice cream or coconut flan, followed. This was definitely something to write home about.
I find local food to be one way to get a feel for a place. I find history to be another. In my cursory reading about things to do and see in Mauritius, Maison Eureka came up as a table d’hôte and a museum. The authentic practice of a table d’hôte is guests sharing a meal at the “host’s table” in a Mauritian home. Restaurants and guest houses across the island offer a similar dining experience. At Maison Eureka, we found the table d’hôte and a look into Mauritius’ colonial past.
Entering Maison Eureka from the parking area, we came to the back of the mansion and a courtyard, stone cotages for servants of the house, and seating for the table d’hôte on the wide, wraparound veranda. Stella, the maître d’, suggested we visit the kitchen museum display and walk around the house before lunch. Stretching our legs after the hour plus drive from Chantauvent Guest House in Blue Bay sounded great.
Maison Eureka was built in 1830. The mansion was designed to keep cool in hot, humid, tropical weather including 109 doors and windows. I didn’t count them. Arranged in period furniture and decor, the rooms evoke Mauritius’ 19th century sugar plantation past.
Stella seats us for lunch after we browsed through the house. A dog came up to our table. We asked for its name. Stella laughs. The dog’s name is also Stella. Sorry, Stella two, no treats for you.
Walking It Off
I wouldn’t say I gorged but I certainly indulged. The food was worth it. Now the veranda looked like a great place to possibly find a sofa and a nap.
Stella interrupted my scheme. There was a garden to explore and a trail to a waterfall. Walking off lunch was probably better than napping it off. Stella pointed us off generally toward the front of the mansion.
I, an avid gardener, didn’t find much of interest in the garden. We drifted through eventually finding the trail to the waterfall. Bright red bougainvillea were escaping down the river canyon sides. The trail was steep. At the bottom, the mist from the waterfall refreshed. We entertained ourselves with waterfall in the background “selfies” and wished we had brought swimsuits. The trampling around the waterfall rocks and shore indicated a popular swimming hole.
We clambered back up the steep trail (actually, mostly trudged) and found our way to our taxi. A taxi is not a cheap way to get around Mauritius, but we were told it’s much faster than the buses. Danny, our driver, shared with us the names of the local mountains. They had once been volcanoes. We asked Danny if any were still active. He told us, “People go to church and temple and like to work. They take care of families. No bad things happen here.”