Colours leave memories forever. JOALI’s colours are soft turquoise-blue and baby pink. On arrival at the resort’s 15 metre-tall, rush-covered wood bird-shaped landing dock the welcome troupe wore pink, or white, shirts. The VIP flowers were pink, and white. The sky and the sea were blut. Both hues are, however, open to wide interpretation. Above, in the impressive approach to Saoke Japanese restaurant, Girlahead veers on the orange side. Aminath Rausha (Aimy) is in dull rose.
Aimy is one impressive Maldivian. She hails from the very south of this amazing 90,000 sq km country, of which only a mere 298 sq km total is land (down there in the south is the strategic island of Gan, an essential west-east air staging post in WWII – Gan today still has the country’s tallest hill, Mount Villingilli, 5.1 metres high, and it also has the only golf course in The Maldives). Anyway, Aimy’s dad wanted her to be a lawyer but she has gone her own way, and she’s cluster marketing and communications guru for JOALI. She’s also an inveterate traveller, solo, and following the tracks of the one and only Sybaritic Single – see this Sunday’s column, here – she’s off to hike to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan.
About 40% of the 400 ‘hosts’ at the 73-villa JOALI are Maldivian – the rest come from 30 countries, including Ukraine (two) and Uzbekistan (one). The Maldivian contingent includes the charming GM, Shifaz Hassan, who also comes from the south of the country, but his father is in tourism so the family understood his love for hospitality. Shifaz, in a dark shirt, watched Girlahead enjoy a barely-coloured 12-year Musgrave Pink Gin, from South Africa, and there was much laughter about its hue. Maldivians have a great sense of humour, and the relaxed and confident host attitude at this resort encourages a charming overall inter-personal ambience.
It was brighter colours later, at Bellini’s, another spectacular eating-entertainment venue that, as its name implies, is Italian – like its Japanese counterpart it’s a cavernous airy space, multi-level, eat inside or out. Over the bar, at the rear of the whole, the word Bellini’s dominates, in neon lights. The consultant chef here is Theodor Falser, a northern Italian who has an impressive pedigree that includes THE SUVRETTA HOUSE in St Moritz followed by Hyatts in Dubai and Muscat and Shangri-La properties in China and south-east Asia. His food here at Bellini’s is beautifully presented, say a scarlet ring of tomato slices topped by a deliberately-broken burrata, a caprese on china. Follow this with four rounds of simply-seared local tuna on a pretty mass, with whole sugar pea pods. Equally impressive was the service. An initial presentation of different Italian breads was accompanied by a wood panier holding six different olive oils, including an old favourite, Ardoino, and, new to Girlahead, Lorenzo. Service did not, by the way, stop with the meal. On the way out a table of biscotti types was explained, with tastings offered. But the colour that stood out from dinner was the postbox-red of the caprese tomatoes.