At the end of a long, fairly narrow road toward the sea off the North coast of Mauritius, you’ll find 20 Degres Sud, a boutique hotel in the Grand Baie area. Arriving in the small car park and having my car door opened for me by the single parking attendant, it’s clear this isn’t going to be the same experience as the often amorphous chain hotels that dominate the island coastline.
Walking the few steps to the front entrance, you’ll be towered over by an enormous wooden door (certainly if you’re my size!): ornate and awe-worthy. This stunning solid oak door was lovingly repaired by hand as part of their significant renovation work just completed in August 2017.
With the staff being ready for my arrival and knowing my name, it was definitely a personal experience from the off, as you might hope (but not always get) in such a cosy 36 room boutique hotel. Following my check in, the lovely managers came to welcome me and Vic, one of the hotel team, showed me around with pride, both for the location and for its offering to guests.
This beach side hotel is designed around a main atrium area consisting of swimming pool, bar and restaurant, flanked by the thatched-roofed rooms, split over two levels and dotted around to each have their own space. It doesn’t take a long time to realise what this place is all about: a cosy, home-from-home atmosphere filling every space. Definitively an adult only hotel (16 years and above) which comes across in the calm, tranquil atmosphere and focus on fine dining. Here the bar staff are more accustomed to talking about variants of locally made and flavoured rum than finding high chairs. And they seem to enjoy that, too.
The decor is simple, uncluttered, rustic and seriously beautiful in parts including their new restaurant and library spots, another of the key areas of the recent renovation works. ‘People used to just want to sit by the pool area’ says Anthony, one of the General Managers, to me over breakfast the next day, and ‘we wanted to create a larger, inviting area for everyone to have their own space’.
Into the rooms, each individually designed and furnished, you’ll continue to sing from the same song-sheet. Most often a palette of greys, dark oranges and natural wood set the calm mood for couples and groups of adults ready to switch off and indulge in a secluded but personal and homely setting. Guests might mingle, but really this place is about feeling you have your own peace of paradise, with a group of friendly faces to bump into throughout the day.
A large four poster bed was the dominating feature of our room, with the bedroom area in between the small living room at the front and bathroom at the back, adorned with a Victoria Plumb style bath tub and his and hers sinks. Not everything was polished and neatly finished, but the impression you get opening the door and spending time in the room remains consistent: a place to switch off in your own peace and quiet. Personal touches were there throughout, including a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the room and a Mauritian woven natural bag – gorgeous! The large but secluded balcony overlooking the sea (including outdoor jacuzzi!- oh yes) adds to the sense of privacy and personal space.
Staying just the one night, we were able to sample dinner and breakfast, included in their most popular half board booking. The dinner selection was incredibly impressive, served in their expansive restaurant that now spans from poolside to beachside, with a variety of fresh seafood and local Mauritian dishes. Our choice to begin with lobster ravioli and tuna carpaccio, followed by the sea-bream in banana leaf and their lamb and red pepper stir fry, certainly hit the mark. With attentive and knowledgeable staff, the service was comfortably able to match the majority of experiences available at the five star resorts. The sea-bream in banana leaf in particular was spectacular! Anyone who follows my travels around Mauritius will know that I am often frustrated by the lack of good seafood in this island nation, but not here. Clearly fresh, delicately and carefully prepared and bursting with flavour. The simple dessert menu was thoughtfully put together, especially when served with the waiter’s rum recommendations!
‘Mauritius is all about rum, but not many places celebrate it. We want to change that’, says Anthony. It’s clear they do, and it’s so refreshing to see a boutique hotel leading the way in celebrating the variety of local rums in a more thoughtful manner than the standard tourist offering.
Breakfast is far more simple and straightforward than dinner, with a more limited selection but equally enough to serve the purpose and set you up for the day whether it be beach side revelling or island exploring, which is encouraged by their free boat trips to Grand Baie throughout the day. Boat trips (and even dinner) are offered on the island’s oldest motor boat, named ‘Lady Lisbeth’ and they’re proud to showcase their 19th century vintage teak boat to guests. By the end of the year, the offering to guests will expand to include a second, day time beach restaurant serving speciality snack foods, and a place for special events, which I think will tick the final box for this ambitious hotel.
‘For us, it’s about making our guests feel really like they are in their home from home. We want people to relax and enjoy their time with us and for our staff to be proud of what we have to offer’. With the team now in place and the renovations almost done, 20 Degress Sud I’m sure will cement itself as a boutique hotel favourite, especially for couples, in the coming years. And I’ll be watching with interest.
A highly personalised, boutique experience for an island dominated by mega hotels.
Tips & tricks
Definitely go for one of the sea view, beachfront rooms for your own piece of the paradise. And try the sea-bream 😉 !
Katy Hulands is a travel and lifestyle blogger and social media consultant for the hospitality sector. She started the Unwrapped Series to uncover those special places (and things) that deserve the spotlight.