Food and Drink in Port Vila
The island of Efate is known, unsurprisingly, for its fresh lobster and seafood -- poulet fish (translating literally as chicken fish) is also a cheap and delicious local specialty that does indeed have the texture of chicken. More unexpected is the Vanuatu beef; Port Vila is a great place to experience excellent steak. An important note on another item on some menus here, though: please stay away from the coconut crab. The biggest land-living arthropod in the world, it is an endangered animal that takes decades to grow to full size, so consumption by visitors is discouraged.
Unless you're into taro and bananas, food in Port Vila can be pricey -- at least comparable to Australian restaurant standards. However, many of the French-style restaurants offer specials or a plat du jour (dish of the day) that can be great value.
Au Fare: Absolute waterfront on the harbour, this open-air, French-inspired eatery under a nakamal-style roof is all class and a local expat favourite. The daily lunch special is great value, and the cocktails are a reasonable price. Drink them while relaxing in the hammock, or watch the flyboard adventurers jet up to nine metres into the air (book this here, too). (Open Wednesday to Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., except for Sunday nights; Lini Highway, Melcoffee, Fatumaru Bay; +678-25580)
Stonegrill Dining: Close to the cruise wharf, inside the newish Vanuatu Handicraft Market centre (so you can knock off your souvenir shopping at the same time) and offering great fresh seafood and steaks, Stonegrill is a solid and very popular lunch choice. Food is presented on your own hot lava stone to cook yourself, meaning you can eat your steak exactly as you'd like, and it stays hot while you enjoy the sea breeze and water views in the shaded, open-air dining area. (Open 7 days, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Vanuatu Handicraft Market building, Wharf Rd.; +678-5464506)
Chill Restaurant and Bar: It has beautiful food and an extensive menu, but the powerful air conditioning is also a drawcard in the Port Vila humidity, as well as its fantastic location right next to the atmospheric main markets in the centre of town. The seafood platter is impressive, as is the value of its lunch and dinner specials. Watch the ongoing post-cyclone construction over on Iririki Island across the water. (Open 7 days, 11 a.m. until late (lunch specials available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.); Lini Highway; +678-22578)
War Horse Saloon: If you're looking to cut loose, or you're just craving Tex-Mex and a good beer, you'll be amazed (and somewhat confused) to find this wooden throwback to the Wild West on Wharf Road. There are five beers on tap, including house brews such as porter beer or a German-style wheat beer, and famous ribs that don't disappoint. (Open 7 days, 11:30 a.m. until late (happy hour is Monday to Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.); Wharf Road at the roundabout; +678-26670)