Me at Charlie’s
Today is a twofer — two Rarotonga, Cook Islands restaurant reviews. The first one on today’s menu (see what I did there?) is Charlie’s in the Takitumu District on the south side of Rarotonga. Charlie’s was easy to get to from our rental in the adjoining Muri District, about a fifteen-minute walk. Ursula read about this place before we arrived, and she told me that Charlie’s is famous for their fish sandwich. So, after seeing one walked by, we opted to split a sandwich and order of fries. A good thing, because it was massive! But first you have to go to the ordering window to place place your order:
Charlie’s ordering station
What you get when retrieve your order is an enormous amount of wonderfully fresh fries and a huge sandwich with a delightfully crisp fillet of fresh island fish. We included with our shared dinner a couple of Bundaberg ginger beers, which we fell in love with during a prior trip to Australia:
Charlie’s HUGE fish sandwich, fries, and our favorite ginger beer
Now, normally, a restaurant review wouldn’t be worth much with only one item in the review. But you’re in luck. We shared a table with a charming Australian couple who allowed me to photograph their dinners and who shared with me their impressions. First up is the New Zealand grilled rump steak with island vegetables, which smelled wonderful and was proclaimed by the diner a winner:
Charlie’s — New Zealand beef
Her husband opted for the fish platter, which didn’t look to me very appetizing. Apparently, our dining companion agreed. Good, but not great was his take.
Charlie’s Fish of the Day
One great thing everyone agreed upon were the sunset views from Charlie’s, which I showed you during last week’s Fun Photo Friday. An even more spectacular sunset from Charlie’s awaits you this Friday.
Sunset at Charlie’s Café
Now it’s off to Trader Jacks in Avarua, the largest town located on the island. It’s on the north shore of Rarotonga.
Trader Jacks in Avarua
This place was good enough to warrant two visits, so you’ll see four different meals reviewed here.
Ursula ready to chow down at Trader Jacks
Trader Jacks has two dining areas. One is inside, but what’s the fun in that?
Trader Jacks indoor dining
The other offers great views of surf, sand, and even the rusting remains from an old shipwreck dating back to 1916.
Trader Jacks covered outdoor dining
Wreck of the S.S. Matai (1916)
But we’re here for the food, starting with my fish and chips. Neither fish nor chip was anything to write home about, but they were passable. The fries were obviously of the frozen variety, and a quick conversation with the waitress confirmed that. They were good, but not great. The fish fillet was moist and tender, but when you fry up a piece of fish this thick it becomes difficult to achieve a crispy coating. If you do achieve it, it doesn’t last long.
Trader Jacks fish ‘n’ chips
Ursula’s seafood chowder was a better choice. She loved it, and I concur with her assessment. It was creamy, and chock-full of seafood and root vegetables. Accompanying this tasty chowder was a generous serving of buttered garlic toast.
Trader Jacks seafood chowder with garlic toast
Unfortunately, Trader Jacks does not serve our favorite Bundaberg, so we opted for a ginger beer from Schweppes. Again, okay, but not great.
Two days after this visit we again found ourselves taking the local bus around the island back to Avarua. We’d already tried Muri Night Market a couple of times, so we decided to head back to Trader Jacks. Having learned my lesson on fish and chips, I opted this trip for the pizza. I was not disappointed. This particular one was their Traders Supreme, which came with pepperoni, Italian sausage, smoked ham, onion, capsicum, tomato, an olives. I ordered the pizza extra crisp, and that’s exactly what I received.
Trader Jacks “Traders Supreme” pizza
Ursula ordered this time a dish that is native to Rarotonga. It’s called ika mata, and it’s kind of the Cook Islands equivalent to poke, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the shared Polynesian ancestry of the early Hawaiian and Cook Island settlers. Trader Jacks‘ version is called Te Ika Mata, and it includes fresh raw island tuna marinated in lime juice from Mauke. This is topped off with coconut cream and fresh vegetables. Steamed taro root is served as a side.
Te Ika Mata — local tuna, lime juice, coconut cream, vegetables, served with taro
Next week this blog leaves behind the marvelous Cook Islands for Sydney, Australia, which is precisely what we did this past February. From Sydney we’ll be jumping aboard a cruise ship for a complete circumnavigation of the Australian continent, with a follow-on cruise around New Zealand. Hope to see you there!