Morning croissants and baguettes for lunch are de rigeur at one of two La Petite Columbier bakeries, one high in the hills of Columbier, the other in the middle of Lorient right by the beach. Don’t overlook their selection of quiches, croques, and baguettes stuffed with sandwich fillings.
Then there’s the matter of eating out. Of all the Caribbean islands, none has a reputation for food like this little French paradise. In fact, the rest of our list contains the places we liked best, in no particular order.
Nowhere is the story of the island’s recovery more vivid than at an island newcomer that’s just swept in and won over everyone’s hearts and their stomachs too. Quartier General is kitty corner from the Post Office in Gustavia. Its proprietor, Hervé Chovet, lost his waterfront “Côté Port” in the storm. He quickly re-grouped and in a staggeringly short space of time actually built this new café-restaurant. His staff not only came with him, but they also had a hand in putting the new place together by painting and installing the banquettes and getting the superb kitchen up and running. Open for both lunch and dinner, count on traditional French cooking and unquestionably the best frites on the island. There are also some familiar dishes that made its predecessor famous like pasta with shrimp and lobster and curried shrimp with rice that’s out of this world. To top it all off, an average check comes to fifty-eight Euros – a bargain on pricey St. Barths. Call 590 590 87 41 36 for reservations.
Not to be outdone in the ‘done over’ category, Bonito re-created its glorious blue and white interiors and looks as spiffy as ever. Its beach house design is matched only by its cooking. The chef, Laurent Cantineaux is back in this kitchen creating his South American favorites along with French classics from his time at Troisgros in Roannes and in Daniel Boulud’s kitchens in New York. Host Nicholas Gicquel treats everyone like a personal guest. It’s the only restaurant with a view of Gustavia, and after dinner, you can sink into one of the sofas and listen to the house DJ’s selections. Call 590 590 27 96 96 or go to ilovebonito.com for reservations
Orega, which means “it’s mine”, quickly established itself as one of our island favorites on our first visit last year. We’re happy to report that it’s every bit as good as we remembered. The restaurant serves Franco-Japanese cuisine leaning on the Japanese half of the equation. It’s hard to imagine a more welcoming host than Greg who has assembled a team of stellar servers. The chef, Rizal, is renowned for his knowledge of Japanese cooking garnered from stints at Nobu in Miami and Zuma in Dubai. In quite a feat, the restaurant features Japanese imports such as daikon, dashi, katsuobushi, Alaskan king crab, hamachi, and toro.We couldn’t get enough of the Tuna Tataki, and the Chocolate Bombe for dessert is a show on its own. Call 590 590 52 45 31 or visit www.oregarestaurant.com.
Much to our horror, our favorite pizza place has become so popular, it’s now by reservation only! Isoletta calls itself a “Roman-style” pizzeria, which it sells by the slice or by the meter. It’s almost impossible to choose what flavor to go with, so try them all. In addition to some really great thin-crusted pies, there’s also lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and paninis made up of whatever the chef finds in the local markets. Couple any of these with a glass of the Italian wine the place specializes in and dinner at one of the low tables on the covered terrace is complete. You just have to remember to reserve: Call 590 590 52 02 02.
Le Tamarin has to be given high marks for its recovery too. The beautiful garden around which the whole restaurant was designed had to be completely replaced after Irma. Miraculously, it’s just as enchanting as it was before the storm. The atmosphere, service, and food are all sensational here. The proprietors, Julie and Paco, go out of their way to make their guests feel more than welcome and the good is really superb. La Planche Tamarin is a wonderful way for a table to start dinner. With its raw yellowfin tuna, beignets of eggplant with anchovies, and its grilled French baguette topped with cheese and ham, it’s a perfect share. Also available for sharing is a black Angus roast and a salt-crusted local catch of the day. All in all, Le Tamarin is the restaurant people are often drawn back to, even on the same one-week vacation schedule.Visit www.tamarinstbarth.com for more information.