Written by Brittany Cooper
The seven-floor resort on the site of the old Club Med has been open since February 2011. It is on a three-hectare tropical park, with a sun-kissed beachfront swimming pool area and three restaurants and three bars from which to choose. As we arrive, we find reception staff charming and helpful, sans European haughtiness. The foyer is open and inviting, the white hues set off by woven bamboo features.
One-bedroom suites have two balconies from which to take in the views over the coastline, with a tropical fruit platter and French champagne chilling on ice. Everything has been considered, from the espresso machine to the fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
Venturing out into Noumea proper, we find the city provides a lively canvas of indigenous Kanak and unmistakably French colonial heritage. Noumean boutiques are a must, with an array of designer stores, artisan products and excellent South Pacific pearls. But give up on shopping – or any civic life, really – if it is a Sunday.
The 400-kilometre-long Grande Terre is, of course, a spectacular playground for scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, golf, climbing, helicopter flights, horse riding and hiking, and resort staff are at hand to advise on all of these activities. But a gentle reminder from prolific French writer Jean Cocteau embellishes a feature wall: “De temps en temps, il faut se reposer de ne rien faire,” meaning, “From time to time, you have to take a rest from doing nothing.” The phrase embodies the resort’s philosophy of pure, untimetabled leisure.
To that end, the Complexe’s true drawcard is the South Pacific’s only Aquatonic Spa, a 333-square-metre thalassotherapy concept imported from the Thermes Marine de Saint-Malo in France. It is an aquatic massage labyrinth incorporating 12 hydrostations: jet bath, currents and counter-current walking zones, bubble baths, massage chairs and showers to target different parts of the body with specially adjusted shower jets. Designed to stimulate the metabolism and the immune system, improve blood circulation and relieve pain, it also happens to be marvellously relaxing and a great vantage point to look out over the white beach.
As we dine later in the restaurant Le Taom, which is named after a river running through the Grande Terre, Head Sommelier Alexandre Mourgue advises on the best Laurent-Perrier and Moutard champagnes, Provençal rosé and Côte de Beaune pinot noir to match our fare. The chef presents cannelloni of tuna with combawa, nori seaweed, spiced avocado and citrus jelly, followed by slow cooked mahi-mahi, cromesquis rice with vanilla and coconut, brèdes and lemon rosemary. To conclude, a sumptuous geometric chocolate dessert topped with edible gold leaf.
This is, simply put, a gourmand’s heaven.
At the markets you can find caviar, foie gras, duck, fresh baguettes and all varieties of cheeses as easily as the pop-up stalls selling whole fresh fish, lobsters, mangoes, lychees and giant forest snails.
Add to this the fact that in a city of 100,000 there are 40 fine wine merchants supplying some of the best drops from around the world. Sampling some of these with companions by the Complexe’s terrace bar as sunset reds streak the sky really brings home the fact that life could be, how you say, worse.