Ringing in the new decade in St. Barths marked another fun year for the island. The harbor buzzed with energy. Whether it’s fact or feeling, it seemed there were more boats than ever this year, their lights twinkling at Shell Beach, Colombier, and of course Gustavia. Perhaps most surprising was seeing many moored at Gouverneur and Saline during the days.
On land, the island has become more navigable then in recent past. Road work paused over the holiday (with a shiny new roundabout in Lorient, buried electrical lines, and additional sidewalks added). With construction finished at SandBar, the only pieces left in the puzzle are Guanahani and Carl Gustaf (to open in the next few months).
From big nights out, to quiet dinners in, to casual lunch days and beach breakfasts, here are a few of our ‘eating’ take aways from this season:
Bonito and La Guerite offer the best spots for dinner and dancing combined. While La Guerite skews younger and definitively louder, the team there know how to create a party atmosphere.We love the tomahawk steak and special pasta. It’s simple enough to opt out of dinner and head there for an after-dinner drink, too. Most agreed that the service at Bonito this year was exceptional. Nicolas and his whole team are genuinely excited to greet you – for you to enjoy the food, sip some cocktails, and dance. They want you to dance! Equally appropriate for a date night, family dinner, or get-together with friends, it ticks all the boxes for me. Try the smoked hamachi (it arrives in a glass cover) and be sure to sample their dessert list – the “mont blanc” with chestnut cream and chantilly is out of this world.
As in years past, we had Thibault, our pre-arrival WIMCO concierge organize chef’s dinners at our villa in Mont Jean. The lovely chef Camille helmed the kitchen several nights for us, giving our entire family a chance to feel really relaxed, while enjoying a gourmet dinner at home. Camille took requests and made suggestions – everything from chicken milanese to zucchini carpaccio, to grilled lobster and linguine alla vongole. Be sure to ask your WIMCO concierge about arranging a chef’s services, whether for a cocktail party, lunch, dinner, or breakfasts at home.
For a peaceful dinner, one of my absolute favorites is François Planation at Villa Marie. Adorned with mahogany, fringed fabrics, and touches of yellow, the room itself is a sight to see. Service here is decidedly at a different pace. They want you to sit back, and savor each bite. And you will! Starting with their homemade bread and delectable flavored butter, everything on the menu is flavorful, and at times quite rich (in that “let’s just indulge” way). The wine list is varied, and the sommelier knowledgeable. This is a date night spot for those who really enjoy the ritual of eating. And it’s not for those who seek a scene, a quick meal, or a DJ booth…
Our top pick for lunch beach side is Sand Bar. With delightfully friendly service, and a Jean-Georges menu that’s hard to beat, it’s easy to return multiple times. A pro order includes crispy rice with salmon sushi, the ER burger, and a ginger margarita!
For a late lunch, a quiet lunch, a chill lunch (literally and figurative, the A/C is a welcome respite), or a pre-or post shopping lunch, head to Fish Corner. Offering a more reasonably priced menu than its peers, it’s still unequivocally gourmet. There’s a large selection of tartares, ceviches, and grilled dishes. The octopus and cold lobster (with french fries, obviously) are a must-do. Most people who go once return a few more times on their trip!
Cheval Blanc purchased the Taiwana Hotel several years ago, and just opened their more casual lunch spot, La Cabane right before the festive period. Helmed by former Taiwana restaurant manager Octavio, it has a more low-key vibe than next door’s La Case. Perennial visitors will recognize the famous barbecue chicken from years past, but most of the menu has changed.
While La Case menu presents unapproachable (a quick look at the menu might leave even the most seasoned-gourmand bewildered), the descriptions are purposely ambivalent, describing dishes as more of a feeling than a literal explanation. Not to mention, while sticker-shock is rampant in St. Barths, it feels significantly so here. That said, lunch here is delightful. The food, like the grilled avocado or scallop tartare is both fresh, nuanced, and beautifully presented. Unlike the Isle de France of the past, coming here is an occasion, and probably a once-a-trip visit.
The team from Le Sereno has revamped Al Mare with their chef from sister property Il Sereno in Lake Como. Dinner here is simply outstanding. If you’re staying on this side of the island (Pointe Milou, Mont Jean, Marigot or further) this is an excellent option for relaxed ambiance and top-notch food. From the gracious Italian waiters, to the amuse bouches, to the feeling that you might just be able to order any Italian dish you have in mind, dinner here is wonderful. Ordering a pasta takes no convincing, but the whole fish for two, prepared “acqua pazza” (with tomatoes, olive and capers) is one of the best dishes on the island.
After going to St. Barths for over 30 years, I always think I’ve seen it all. But each stage of life brings new discoveries on island (of course, discovering “yacht parties” at age 17 was perhaps the most exciting stage). As our extended family now has two under 2 in tow, life in St. Barths takes on a different rhythm. For one, we enjoyed the joys of the 12pm seating. Whether at Sand Bar, Le Toiny Beach Club or Shellona, the early bird seating ensures great service, a pleasant vibe, and lunch finished before nap time commences. Lunches in St. Barths can easily roll into dinner, and the 12pm seating bides you time to take that afternoon swim at Gouverneur.
Swim lessons can be arranged at your villa by our pre-arrival concierge. We had one come every other day, for an hour. We’ve seen firsthand that the younger kids get in the water, the more comfortable they are. The subtext here is they tire themselves out and are prepped for nap hour!
While the beach may suffice as far as activities go, we found a few other sights to keep kids occupied. The fire station in St. Jean is a real hit amongst those who have a budding fire truck collection at home. We stopped by one day, and an off-duty fireman was happy to give us a tour and let the kids honk the horn. Certainly a huge hit! Just nearby, in front of the soccer stadium, there’s a spacious playground tucked away. With see-saws and jungle gyms, there’s enough variety here for kids from 1 to 7. The cacophony of tiny french voices laughing (and yelling) only adds to the sense of discovery.
In Lurin, young explorers will love the magical animal jungle that is “La Maison des Plantes”. From Komodo dragons to elephant structures, kids will be wowed (and if nothing else, they make for a fun photo-op!).
Like always, there were lots of parties around the entire island: Casino night at La Guerite, Eden Rock’s “La Premiere”, DJ Kygo playing at Nikki Beach, and of course, various invite-only parties at villas around the island. With a plethora of yachts this year, boat hopping abounded (we hear a tender to Naia was the one to get). For those not interested in prix-fixe menus, Maya’s offers their normal (but different nightly) menu, along with a prime view of the boats and fireworks. This year we opted for a chef’s dinner at home, followed by champagne and dancing at both Nikki and Eden Rock. My suggestion? If you’re not interested in going out, have a chef’s dinner at home. If you’re with a big crew, definitely do a prix fixe dinner – you’ll have your table set up, and it’ll be worth the price.
It sounds like a sales pitch, but the truth is, those who book holiday villas 10 months in advance luck out on so many levels: the location you desire, with a villa that checks all the boxes, at the price point you’re comfortable with. If your plans change, you can cancel ahead of time*, but it really is to your benefit to book early. What I suggest? Schedule a call with your Villa Specialist for a half hour at a time that’s stress-free for you. Go through options together. Our Villa Specialists visit St. Barths multiple times a year, and really know them like the back of their hand. They’re here to help put you in the best villa for your and your groups’ needs!