When you take your first step onto the island of Mauritius, you will immediately be greeted with forts and beaches and artsy museums, all of which bear at least some amount of historical importance. Considering a significant part of the history of Mauritius is filled with the years when they were being colonised by the Dutch, the French, and the British alike, it altogether fits that the present Republic, as we know it, is built on the foundations left behind by these Europeans. As a result, visiting a British fortress in the morning, taking a detour to a Dutch museum in the evening, and dining at a French restaurant in the night is not the most unbelievable thing one can do here. While touring an island like this, it is prevalent for visitors to try and take in as much of the beauty that Mauritius has to offer, all at the same time. This is precisely why an old sugar cane factory in the middle of Trou d’Eau Douce has recently gained so much popularity among locals and tourists alike.
Victoria 1840 is the name given to that ancient sugar mill, which underwent some severe renovation to transform itself into a grand gallery which houses one of the best restaurants in all of Mauritius – Le Café des Arts. Victoria 1840 is now the home to the magnificent works of Yvette Maniglier, who was the last of all the students who tutored under the famous French artist, Henri Émile Benoît Matisse. Henri was an exceptional painter of the 19th and 20th centuries who specialised in all forms of contemporary and modern art. The paintings created by Yvette are nothing but young replicas of the same art style, twisted to add a personal flourish of the painter herself. Yvette’s paintings have now been hung up on every wall in Victoria 1840 and are even used to decorate the halls of the Café des Arts itself.
A Perfect Amalgamation of Art and Gourmet Dining
Victoria 1840 is now enclosed within the Café des Arts, and the gallery can only be visited after you book a meal for yourself in the in-house restaurant. However, contrary to popular assumption, this rule is not meant to hinder or discourage you from visiting the gallery at all. It is only meant to make your entire trip to this side of the island more enjoyable and memorable. The food which is served at the Café des Arts is exceptionally unique as, other than the traditional French cuisines, most of the gastronomies served here are original recipes of the generations of French and Mauritian owners and chefs who have lived here. Now, whether you want to try your hand at tasting the latest Creole fare, eat some unique fish cooked up in banana leaves, or want to stay within your comfort zone and relish the freshly grilled buttered langoustine, is entirely up to your discretion. This massive menu presenting before you the brilliant delicacies of the day will be handed over to you by Jocelyn Gonzales – the son of late Yvette Maniglier, the same painter whose artwork you will find adorned on every wall in the room, and who can still be credited for designing most of the furniture, dishes, and architecture of the Café. Once you enter the gates of the building, Jocelyn and his team will direct you to a sitting area where you can treat yourself with a delicious apéritif, while waiting for your 4 course meals to cook, all the while listening to a composition comprising of some generic Chanson Française and other contemporary jazz/blues resonating through the halls.
Visiting the Café des Arts is an intimate experience which is bound to give you the feeling of sitting in a cosy nook with your favourite book in hand, all the while being served delicacies which outshine the cuisine served in all the Michelin starred restaurants in Europe combined. The surrounding you will be subjected to is also a perfect juxtaposition of the past and present together – with a texture of ancient bricks adorning the walls contrasting perfectly with the splashes and sprays of modern art resting upon them. After you are done dining at the Café, you can finally achieve what you came here to visit in the first place – stroll through Victoria 1840. While you are in the gallery, you will witness even more of Yvette’s artwork showcasing the progression of traditional art into what we can now call modern art. Once you are inside those doors, you will inevitably forget that the place where you are standing right now once used to be an old factory with its floors streaming with wrinkled sugar canes, and be entirely bewitched by the paintings around you. As you slowly disassociate from your world and take a step into the beautiful world created by none other than Yvette Maniglier.