One night in Fiji

So, this is what I was up to last night: I was invited to the Fijian embassy in London to sample a little taste of Fijian hospitality, food and entertainment. How cool is that?

To be honest, I didn’t need much selling on the destination. I’m all for far-flung, paradise islands. The 24 hour flight is a bit of a sticking point for me and my irrational fear of big metal birds, but maybe if we ever get out to see my brother-in-law (who lives in Sydney) we can pop over to one of the 333 (cripes!) Fiji islands.

The point of last night was to give lots of journos and travel bloggers a taste of what’s to come if they do make the journey (as well as promoting the “happiness test” they have set up on Facebook).

And so we took part in a kava ceremony in a Kensington garden, watched a warrior dance in a drawing room and devoured traditional Fiji food (a gorgeous culinary cocktail of Indian spices, seafood and lashings of coconut milk) in a basement…

The lads get the Kava cracking – it tastes like the beach and goes down a treat

The kava (I found out after necking two bowls of the stuff) is a drink with sedative and anaesthetic properties (brilliant). It looks and tastes a bit like mud, but it sure goes down (in one) easier than a shot of Sambuca.

Drinking the kava is a bonding experience and a symbol of friendship. And even though we were in a grass hut in London on a chilly April evening, the warmth and good humour of the Fijian guys who welcomed us with the famous “Bula” greeting (and offered us a “low” or “high tide” helping of the kava) was very obvious – and most lovely.

Not sure you’d usually be downing the kava in faux fur, but needs must

Food-wise I tried taro (a starchy root vegetable and bread substitute in Fiji), chicken curry (heavy on the coconut and absolutely delish), a cold coconut seafood broth (heavenly), a salmon-based salad, bean curry (hmmmmmm) and marvellously moreish poori bread.

I wonder how long before I’d be dressed like this if I went to Fiji (I love the fact they’re wearing trainers)

And after stuffing our faces, we relaxed in the embassy drawing room – where the boys were waiting to entertain us with a traditional warrior dance. 

Not your average after dinner entertainment

That chandelier was shaking, I tell thee.

Definitely one of the strangest nights out I’ve had (and talking about Maggie Thatcher’s funeral on the radio afterwards, with the taste of the kava still on my tongue, was a bizarre twist), but a great way to introduce me to the pleasures on offer in Fiji.

And if the happiness is this infectious at a press event in London, imagine what it’s like when you’re actually there…
With thanks to Tourism Fiji for the invite!

Written by Johanna Payton