Written by Brittany Cooper
Photography by Salty Dingo
As we step aboard Infinity Pacific, we’re greeted with some bottles of beautifully balanced Champagne, the first sign of a memorable day out on the water: the 2009 vintage Dom Pérignon. We’re preparing to be taken on a culinary journey along ancient spice routes. All this without leaving the lap of luxury and Sydney Harbour.
The delights begin with a suite of three canapes: a green tea onigiri, using green tea-infused sushi rice instead of seaweed; then incredibly fine Bravo apple crisps topped with petuna smoked ocean trout pate and sea parsley and kimchi; and finally a traditional fish cutlet, with tuna, potato, some traditional spices (green chilli, turmeric, and black pepper) with tamarind chutney and chilli jam on top. Peter Kuruvita explains that back in Sri Lanka, this kind of nibble is called ‘short eats’ – when you go to little tea shops, you’ll be served a tray of them.
A quick summary of Kuruvita’s career could go on for pages and pages. London-born, he grew up in his family’s 250-year-old ancestral home in Dehiwala, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Moving to Australia at age 11 was a shock to the system. He found the perfect escape in his first job at the age of 16: working in a small French restaurant called The Crabapple in Mortdale.
This formative experience was then followed by three decades making his mark as an award-winning chef and restaurateur, working his way around fine-dining establishments of London and Sydney, as well as opening his own. He is perhaps best known for his eight years as executive chef at Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish Restaurant and Bar, which he opened in 2004. He still manages Flying Fish Fiji, situated in Port Denarau.
At one stage he managed 125 chefs as Executive Chef at Hayman Island Resort, in charge of nine restaurants, with kitchens so big you could drive a golf buggy through them.
He is also a highly regarded television presenter, author, and consultant.
Last November, just in time for the summer season, Kuruvita announced his collaboration with the Karedis and Laundy families, owners and operators of the Pacific Hotel Group. They purchased the 40-metre Mondomarine Infinity Pacific as the group’s luxe flagship at the time, bringing her over to Sydney for a sparkling debut, with Kuruvita as culinary advisor.
“The most important thing with all of this is the people who you work with,” says Kuruvita, reflecting on the latest move in his long and winding career.
“You’ll never be able to do anything without having amazing people around you, who are engaged, determined, and passionate.”
These seem like apt terms for one of our guests on this cruise – none other than Romain Rossat, Ulysse Nardin’s new Area Sales Manager for Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. To the infinite delight of the serious horophiles among our party, he has brought along a few of the latest models, including the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon in gold, just released in January at SHHH. The remarkable thing, of course, about skeletonised watches, is the challenge of constructing the watch without any bridges to hold parts of the movement. It is robust and elegant, with a carbon-structure leather strap.
Infinity Pacific was built in Italy by Mondomarine in 2007. Designed by Luca Dini, with interior architecture by Fréderic Méchiche, her luxurious five-cabin interior accommodates 10 overnight guests, plus up to eight crew members.
As Captain Matthew Rose takes us past some of the harbour’s lush bays, so, too, do we explore our surroundings. The superyacht is certainly a joy to be on board, with her light-filled spaces tastefully decorated over three decks, plus a shaded sundeck with a Japanese soaker tub by a full-service bar. There’s hardly a trace of wind or swell today in Sydney, and we barely have any need for the stabilisers underway or when we drop anchor in Little Sirius Cove.
Indeed, it’s a startlingly sunny August day in this corner of the world, so we don’t have any trouble enjoying Kuruvita’s menu at some of the destinations within Infinity Pacific’s cruising grounds: the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island, the Whitsundays, and the Gold Coast.
Kuruvita has curated and overseen the menu for each cruise on board Infinity Pacific, and he also delights in stepping aboard every so often to create a magical, memorable experience for guests. He calls the yacht’s galley “amazingly functional,” praising the clever use of space, dumbwaiter, long exhaust hood, and good deep fridges.
“I have experience in hotels, restaurants, the whole gamut,” explains Kuruvita. “With all my travels, I’d go into probably 20 different kitchens per year in 10 countries. When you have an owner who cares, an owner who’s passionate about luxury… together we can make things happen.”
What’s happening today is, simply put, a seafood lover’s dream. “Seafood is my passion. I think every restaurant I’ve ever worked on has been by the ocean or by the water. So I always try to get whatever we use to be seasonal – just wait till they run past your door and then catch them.”
The three entrees are served on the same plate, as neat and beautiful as can be. Blue swimmer crabs – the meat wonderfully sweet and tender – are accompanied by a little fresh avocado lassi, some curry leaves, capers, and a curry mayonnaise.
Then we have a seared, quickly charred Queensland scallop, with creamed nettles, a popcorn shoot, and chardonnay butter. Kuruvita uses a Kevin John Chardonnay from Cullen, as it turns out. “I’ll be killed by Vanya Cullen for doing it, but I thought you deserved it,” he declares.
The final member of the trio is the delightfully flavoursome greenlip abalone, quickly sautéed with snow pea tendrils plus garlic, lemon juice, and black pepper. It’s served with a Bravo apple puree, whose sweetness goes well with the intensity of the abalone.
The dedicated crew of Infinity Pacific is ever on hand to top up our vintage Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The yacht has just been fitted with an updated entertainment control system, which lets crew adjust sound and light mood settings over the entire vessel from a tablet. They’re used to accommodating up to 60 stand-up charter guests and up to 20 guests for sit-down meals.
The main course is a piece of rolled sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna – “they’re running at the moment,” Kuruvita grins – and on top of that we have a symphony of Sri Lankan flavours.
It’s one of those cuisines that uses up to 15 to 20 spices but keeps the star of the dish shining through it all.
The dark dollops of tamarind chutney, cashew cream, boondi chickpea crisps, and punchy lime pickle are joined by nasturtiums and a little bit of Australia: warrigal greens. To round out the flavours, Kuruvita has included a classic Fijian bakalolo sauce, meaning ‘with coconut’. It’s a combination of coconut cream, lemongrass, a little chilli, lime, and coriander stems.
“When you’re in Fiji, before you go fishing, you make this sauce. When you come back, you throw the whole fish on the fire. The skin and scales act like the foil. You rip them off and dip the meat in the sauce,” Kuruvita explains.
We’re wonderfully satisfied, but the experience is far from over. Kuruvita brings out the heartbreaker: a classic Moorish Sri Lankan dessert called wattalapan. It’s a cashew and coconut custard flan with an incredibly silky and dense texture, made using three of the main Sri Lankan spices – cardamom, cloves and nutmeg – as well as jaggery palm sugar, which is collected and reduced from the flower of the kithul palm tree.
The wattalapan is adorned with a ball of love cake ice cream. Love cake is a dense sort of sponge cake introduced to the Sri Lankans by the Portuguese. Mothers in Sri Lanka would keep love cake at home centuries ago. Whenever a boy or a girl took somebody home to discuss marriage, the mother would give them a piece of love cake. If the two ate it and looked in each other’s eyes… “That’s it. When you eat it, don’t look each other in the eye, or you’ll fall in love,” Kuruvita warns us.
The final indulgence is Dilmah tea and a petit four chocolate ball with an unusual alcohol flavour. What could it be? Kuruvita explains that he’s infused the chocolate with Sri Lanka’s national liquor, arrak – not to be confused with Turkish or Balinese firewaters of the same name. Arrak, like jaggery, is made from the sap of the kithul palm, fermented rather than reduced.
And so ends this imaginative tour through the flavours of many cultures close to Australia.
One of our guests looks around Infinity Pacific’s dining room with a hearty sigh. “You don’t buy a boat to go boating. You buy a boat to do this. This… this is the type of experience you can have with close friends and family.”
And I say, if you have the means, get on board.
Infinity Pacific is available for charter through Central Agent Ocean Alliance.