La Plaine St. Andre: Iconic fusion of restored plantation mansion, Takamaka rum distillery and acclaimed fine-dining restaurant.
In the south of Mahé, overlooking the ocean from the grand site of a once- famous plantation is where two brothers, Richard and Bernard D’offay operate a multi-layered venue featuring a host of attractions, including the fully-functioning rum distillery of the famous Takamaka rum brand, meticulously refurbished plantation mansion and famous fine dining restaurant.
Takamaka, the local name for the Alexandrian laurel tree which graces the shoreline of so many of Seychelles’ gorgeous beaches, has become a real buzz-word throughout the islands in recent years on account of the spectacular success of this home-grown brand that distils and bottles the most popular rums in Seychelles and which are now securing increasing international recognition. Started in 2002, it is an enterprise that today employs 40 people, all occupied with the many tasks associated with making, marketing and moving the island’s most iconic brand of rum in the domestic and, increasingly now, international markets.
Richard and Bernard are proud of the ‘cool family feel’ they have cultivated and that prevails at their headquarters in south Mahé where most of the staff are still working after a decade in the unique setting of one of the island’s most gorgeous period buildings – La Plaine St. Andre, a captivating, multi-faced attraction definitely not to be missed when touring the island.
A landmark of authentic pedigree, ‘La Plaine’ positively oozes history from every pore as can well be imagined with a property dating way back to 1792 and its first owner Jean-Francois Marie Jorre de St. Jorre who traced his roots back to Saint Andre de La Reunion and gave the name to a piece of land stretching from its current position at Au Cap all the way to the southern town of Anse Royale. At a time when Seychelles was still a French colony, La Plaine St. Andre was one of the grand, signature plantations of its day and a veritable breadbasket of the southern portion of the island.
Today, that sense of olde worlde grandeur is still very much apparent and palpable thanks to a spectacular renovation that took place between 2008 and 2011, dedicated to preserving the original spirit of the property at all costs. This was achieved by refurbishing rather than rebuilding the existing buildings and by keeping all the surrounding trees, including moving one of the buildings two metres forward to preserve its neighbouring Rose of Venezuela tree. This deep sensitivity towards the historical significance of the site is everywhere apparent thanks to a partnership with the Seychelles’ Heritage Foundation and CHAM, a French historical society, and where much of the refurbishmentof the historical ruins was done by hand using original coral blocks rescued from the site.
La Plaine also features a stunning network of gardens, similarly nurtured and preserved to provide a distinctly ‘period’ look and feel. Their symmetrical layout includes a magnificent avenue of over-arching bilenbi trees and an entrance to the main house framed by 200-year-old guardian breadfruits. Further validating the historical significance of La Plaine are its historical ruins which conspire with the olde-worlde charm of the plantation mansion and the elegance of the surrounding gardens to conjure a compelling ambiance of bygone times in which visitors find themselves transported back to that era when grand plantations formed the backbone of Seychelles’ social and economic life.
It is from within this remarkable setting that Takamaka has weaved its magic over the islands, as is proven by the constant stream of visitors arriving to taste the various rums on offer, indulge in some shopping for Takamaka-branded goodies or enjoy the hugely- popular guided tour of La Plaine’s many fascinating faces.
Daily tours take place from Monday to Friday at 1130 hrs and 1330 hrs although groups and private VIP requests can be accommodated outside of these hours, especially where larger groups are concerned. Cruise ships, daily DMC excursions, VIP hotel groups and the MICE markets are all welcome and are increasingly making use of all that La Plaine St. Andre offers and the fact that the site is particularly well-suited for events requiring a sophisticated backdrop par excellence. La Plaine has indeed hosted countless prestigious events, cultural happenings and diplomatic evenings over the years, winning the venue a reputation for slick entertainment within an atmosphere of unparalleled class.
And then, just when you thought that you had exhausted all that La Plaine has to offer – it houses arguably the best fine-dining restaurant in Seychelles run by chef Christelle Verheyden, who after more than a decade living in Seychelles has recently joined La Plaine’s family, extending its special brand of magic into the realm of unforgettable island cuisine. Super-fresh produce provides the baseline for the steady stream of her culinary creations which feature classic dishes as well as island favourites, all served in a garden setting of fairy-tale beauty.
Favourites include freshly cut palm heart salad with truffles and curry leaves; red snapper fillet with green mousseline, basil and combats and tuna and foie gras, all complemented by a selection of fine rums and choice imported wines such as the rare red Alicante Suori Mondo ‘Z’acco’ from Tuscany. Whatever your preference, the dining experience provided by this charming old plantation mansion in such exquisite surrounds is not something soon forgotten.
Meanwhile, the Takamaka Rum brand is not just excelling on the ground. The company is also flying high with partner Air Seychelles, where its rum is available on all flights and specially crafted cocktails can be found in business class. Often collaborating in the promotion of Seychelles, Takamaka has partnered the airline in music concerts, on inaugural Air Seychelles flights and has even designed a special dish for business class travellers straight from the restaurant’s inspired menu.
There can be few such splendid marriages between the ancient and the contemporary as you will find at La Plaine St. Andre, where an all-pervading sense of history cocoons a dynamic and highly successful, modern commercial enterprise to their great and enduring mutual benefit. The result is a powerful, influential brand well-rooted in history and sense of community which is surely destined to remain an iconic landmark for many years to come; one that you simply cannot afford to miss if you want to savour an authentic experience of true historical, gastronomic and sheer entertainment value.