Kitchen Tips

Meet the Vanuatu café that serves local food and flavour with a Kiwi twist

Take a trip to Vanuatu and find yourself feeling very at home, thanks to a café with strong Kiwi ties. Located in the vibrant multicultural city of Port Vila, K2 Café is a must-visit foodie destination on your island holiday.

There are many reasons you might decide to holiday in Vanuatu. For some, it may be the slow-paced life of the traditional island villages and the rich cultural experience. For others, the lush natural environment with all its forests, waterfalls and wildlife might be the calling. For most of us, the sparkling blue of the ocean and pristine sandy beaches are somewhere near the top of the list.

Discover a gastronomical paradise in Vanuatu

Abundant with fresh produce, both on the land and in the water, Vanuatu's cuisine also deserves a place on your reasons-to-visit list. Much like many other Melanesian cultures, traditional Vanuatu cuisine features a lot of seafood, root vegetables and tropical fruits, and is cooked with hot stones. Their national dish, lap lap, is made up of vegetable paste (usually breadfruit, banana or taro) wrapped with meat in banana leaves, then cooked in an underground stone oven with fresh coconut cream - summing up their taste for rich, filling food made with natural flavours.
In contrast to the more traditional lifestyle and cuisine of the outer islands, Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, is a melting pot of international culture. With influences from the many different expatriate communities who call the capital city home, including French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian and Mexican, Port Vila's food scene is bursting with different cuisines and flavours. You can eat your way around the entire world without leaving this unexpected foodie heaven in the Pacific!

A contemporary café with a Kiwi connection

Amongst the fantastic choice of restaurants, bars, cafés and markets in the Port Vila area is a Kiwi gem that shines through the bunch. K2 Café brings an injection of Kiwi café culture into the heart of Vanuatu, so you can feel right at home whilst also experiencing fantastic local produce, cuisine and hospitality.
Co-owned and operated by Greymouth local, front-of-house Kelly Phillips, and Vanuatu-born, Christchurch-trained chef Kandy Tamagushiku, K2 combines a first-hand understanding of the two distinct food cultures. The industrial-style interior wouldn't look out of place in the contemporary New Zealand café scene, and Kandy's expansive menu puts a deliciously modern, Kiwi spin on traditional Ni Vanuatu flavours and ingredients.

Champions of local produce and Ni Vanuatu food producers

You can find the best of these flavours and ingredients in K2's deli corner, which is a haven of goodies such as relish, jams, dukkah, and even natural body scrubs. "Vanuatu is full of wonderful fresh and organic produce," Kandy says, "so we have to make use of it when we can." All of K2's deli products are handmade in the café kitchen, making them a fantastic way to bring a piece of Vanuatu back home with you.
K2 prides themselves on supporting and highlighting local producers in all areas of their business, so their use of local produce is not just restricted to the deli corner. Ni Vanuatu ingredients are weaved throughout the ever-changing seasonal menu, from raw vegetables purchased from the mamas at the market, to locally-farmed prawns, to home-pickled green pawpaw. As for their most popular dish, Kandy says the 'Fush with kumala gnocchi' is their best-selling meal. "It's made with local ingredients using modern techniques," she says, perfectly encapsulating the Kiwi-Vanuatu fusion of K2.

Strong ties to their Ni Vanuatu community

K2 is more than just a café though, as its heart lies within its community of locals, expats and tourists. They host regular fundraisers and live music concerts to support community projects, as well as their crowd-favourite 'Wacky Wednesdays' - a weekly special where all kids eat for free, making it a fantastic option for families. Kelly and Kandy have also been involved in running initiatives within the Vanuatu hospitality industry to give staff, both from K2 and elsewhere, a chance to gain experience and improve their craft.
Kelly and Kandy are passionate about creating jobs for locals and helping them forge a career in the industry. "Our Ni Vanuatu staff come from all around the outer islands," Kandy explains, "some having been in the hospitality industry for many years and some are just starting their training with us." The co-owners train and mentor their respective front-of-house and kitchen teams personally, so you can always expect a warm and enthusiastic service with incredible food.
Whether you want to get a taste for traditional ingredients and flavours or you're looking for a small reminder of New Zealand on your holiday, K2 Café should be at the top of your foodie bucket list when visiting Vanuatu. And with Kelly and Kandy helping to instil a passion and expertise for hospitality in local Ni Vanuatu, it's fair to say that the island nation's food scene is only going to keep getting better.
K2 Café and Catering
Mele Road
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Mon-Tues, 6am-5pm
Wed-Fri, 6am-9pm
Sat, 6am-3pm