Generally, when flying into a Maldives resort, the Twin Otter seaplane lands near a moored pontoon, from which arrivals are picked up by the relevant property’s boat. Not so at 73-villa JOALI, which opened five years ago, in Raa Atoll. The seaplane taxis right up to the arrival station, see above. It’s a grandiose wooden sculpture that from ground level resembles a fish. From above it’s more like a porpoise. A posse awaited the seven arrivals. Butlers are in icecream pink overshirts. Others had white. All arriving ladies were offered gorgeous same-pink and white bouquets, which of course, being JOALI, subsequently arrived in the villa (whenever Girlahead is given flowers, which are quickly given to someone else to hold, she is reminded of posh weddings in Beirut when guests arrived with florists carrying gigantic floral overkills that, it was reliably rumoured, went out the back door to be carried round to the long waiting line in front to be re-used, possibly again and again).
Villa 65 comes with a superb and charming butler-in-pink, Bek from Tashkent. He spent three years at BULGARI HOTEL Dubai and moved here to take his training up a notch. He’s good, very good. At first glance everything here is good, very good. Like many Maldivian resorts, this is tadpole-shaped, a 12 sq km island body with the longest ‘tail’ in the nation, 1.3 kms from island along the curving overwater jetty to the furthest overwater villa, #73, which has three bedrooms, two pools and one each sauna and spa. Later, Aimy did a buggy tour of the island, pointing out jewellery and retail stores, restaurants, the padel court, the tennis court, the gym, and staff housing. Best in The Maldives, she beamed, citing such facilities as a pool, and great food.
Guest food is remarkably good. The ‘lunch’ place is sensibly the pool surround. Sit wherever and a server appears by magic, from 11 a.m., for a late breakfast perhaps, right through to 5pm. Yesterday the magician who appeared recommended a healthy salad, with chunks of halloumi.
Last night it was Japanese, with a hint of Peru – there’s no all-inc here, although some opt for half-board. Saoke, designed by Tokyo wunderkind Noriyoshi Muramatsu, Studio Glitt, is a monumental temple of the good things of life, a wooden jigsaw over the water that soars to an open ceiling that resembles the imagined interior of an unpainted Rubic’s Cube. Arrive along a floodlit jetty that leads to a stage-lit guard of honour of glass-fronted wine cabinets. The space widens to reveal a cooking table here, a private table there, varieties of seating. And so on. Consultant celeb chef Hidemasa Yamamoto, ex-Roger Vergé at LE MOULIN DE MOUGINS and RITZ-CARLTON WASHINGTON D.C., is also known today for Hide Yamamoto at MARINA BAY SANDS in Singapore. Here at JOALI his menu includes such Yamamoto specials as chilled soba noodles with caviar, but last night Girlahead ate simply. An exquisite rectangular dish with a quartet of nori-wrapped gunkan sushi – salmon and local tuna – was followed by Maldivian octopus, Akashi-grilled with herbed tempura, Japanese Karashi mustard and panzu mayo. That, and Alois Lageder’s Kzafuss 2019 Pinot Noir from the Dolomites, was all, simply, superb.