Do you like lobster? Really…what kind of a question is that? Who doesn’t? Well, some people, it seems but I’m not one of them. I love lobster, and so I’m nodding almost before the question is out of my host’s mouth.
“Here, you can eat lobster every day if you want to,” he says. I’m disbelieving but hopeful. “Here” is the beautiful Solomon Islands where I spent a week travelling around the Western Province in small boats and small planes, soaking up the island life and eating lobster.
My host has offered a challenge: to eat lobster every day that I am in the Solomon Islands. Oh well, okay…if I must.
And it’s not even a contest. By chance, my three travelling companions are (1) vegetarian (2) allergic to crustaceans and (3) not very keen on seafood. So it’s really up to me…
Lobster, in the Solomons, is what in other waters might also be called crayfish…but for the purpose of my challenge, it’s a lobster by any other name. Bring them on!
On our first evening in the Solomon Islands, after arriving from Australia – a mere two hours and 45 minutes flight – we’re dining at GG’s Restaurant at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara, the capital. Still adjusting to the heat and humidity, we’re in air-conditioned comfort at what will prove to be the poshest restaurant we dine at during this week.
And this is when the gauntlet is thrown down, as we peruse the menu. Looking down on us are huge framed portraits of former Solomon Islands Governors General, each posed in front of a framed photograph of Queen Elizabeth II (the Solomons is part of the British Commonwealth). Taking up the challenge, I order fresh local lobster tail (just one, though there’s an option for two), grilled and served with “lashings” of garlic butter (or plain butter), kumara rosti and salad. I’m off to a good start…it’s delicious!
Leaving Honiara behind, we fly to Gizo and from there begin an exploration of the islands of the Vonavona Lagoon. We stop in for lunch at Sanbis Resort, which has the distinction of having the only over-water pizza oven in the Southern Hemisphere. And yes, you guessed it…there’s a lobster (crayfish) pizza on the menu. How can I resist? The oven’s in the over-water bar, and we tuck in and try to remember what the real world is like…
In the idyllic over-water bar at Fatboys Resort, our home for two nights, I tear my eyes away from the turquoise water that surrounds us and the looming, ever-changing face of the extinct volcano Kolombanga across the water, to study the dinner menu. And there it is…garlic butter lobster, which arrives served with salad and a couple of rounds of baked kumara (sweet potato). Yum.
My boat comes in just after breakfast on Sunday morning. Some of the local men have been out fishing overnight, and bring their catch to sell to the resort. Large squid and small lobsters are unloaded onto the Fatboys jetty as we gather around to watch the process. Selections are made, each man’s catch is weighed, prices negotiated and the deal done. One of the kitchen staff, Tori – who has a wide smile and Princess Leia hairstyle – staggers under the weight of a tray of lobster. I’m smiling too! You can’t get lobster much fresher than this!
But there’s a surprise in store. After attending a church service in the local village, we head across the lagoon to Kennedy Island (where a young American naval officer called Jack Kennedy proved himself a hero during World War II) for a picnic lunch. And what’s on the barbecue? Dozens of lobsters, small and sweet and quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted in my life! Split in half and drizzled with lime and chilli, and served on “plates” woven from palm fronds as we waited for them to cook. Just divine. But there are so many of them, there’s no way I can eat them all myself. So when a couple, newly arrived at Fatboys Resort, kayak onto the beach, they are soon convinced to join our picnic and help out with the lobster consumption!
The most eye-popping lobster of all arrives at our waterfront table at Agnes Gateway Hotel in Munda. This is the whole shebang, and even my non-lobster-loving friends are out of their seats with cameras clicking for this one! It’s served in garlic butter, with accompanying rounds of kumara, beans and mushrooms, rice and a salad.
Lobster for breakfast? You bet. At Agnes Gateway Hotel’s Roviana Restaurant, I’m able to meet the day’s lobster challenge early. My crayfish omelette has cheese and onion in it as well, and is served with two slices of white toast, a slice of fresh pineapple and two chunks of pawpaw.
Challenge completed! I’ve managed to vary my lobster intake according to the menu, eating it in different forms for breakfast, lunch or dinner for six days straight. And you may ask, was I sick of it? Not at all…and the memory of that barbecued lobster, practically straight from the water, stays with me. It will take a lot of beating.