Anne-Marie and Glenn love exploring the magic of St. Barths. After years of traveling to the casually chic Caribbean island, there is one aspect of the trip that they always take particular delight in- the dining. Tease your taste buds as they recount each delectable morsel from St. Barths’ most exquisite restaurants.
Take one sun-drenched island, spice with a lively Caribbean culture and add a dash of chic French cuisine and the result is the unbeatable dining scene on St. Barths. Glenn and I have been reviewing villas on St. Barths for a combined total of almost 20 years and one of the reasons we never tire of this tiny piece of paradise is the quality of the food. It is absolutely spectacular. I’ve never needed an incentive to indulge in the gastronomic pleasures around the island.
Just as we’re unable to visit all of our favorite spots during each trip to the island, we haven’t squeezed them all in here. This is just a sampling to get your taste buds – and your vacation plans — going. And do get going – your lobster is getting cold!
The Latest Hot Spots on the Island
With its growing reputation as the place to be in the West Indies, St. Barths is always buzzing with something new. During our visit to the island this fall we discovered two restaurants that have been added to the already stellar list of establishments. Nikki Beach, built on the perfect curve of white sand that is St. Jean Beach, is a hot new member of the Nikki Beach collection, joining the Nikki Beach restaurants located in Miami Beach and St. Tropez. The fresh white décor reflects the white sand of the beach while the wait staff’s sun-soaked pareos add a lively splash of color. Trendy cocktails are whisked around to the tables while the latest world music pulses through the dining area. Two words: Vertical food. That’s what we were served. The presentation of our spring rolls with shrimp and crab was a vertical work of art, a plate so pretty we were hesitant to cut into the amazing design. But of course we did, confirming the plump, fresh shrimp was ever bit as good as the presentation. Entrees and main courses focus on fresh seafood and include lots of fresh salads and pastas along with beef, lamb and chicken. Glen and I had the delicious salmon carpaccio and the tuna tartar. At the end of the meal, we split a serving of white chocolate mousse served with a cinnamon biscuit.
Another sophisticated new restaurant we had the pleasure to discover is Zanzibarth on Route de Saline. The restaurant is surrounded by a lush tropical garden that creates the feeling of a hidden oasis. The all-white interior is accented with angel light fixtures, white tables and white chairs. Romantic candlelight flickers from each table. We joined one of our local representatives and her sister for dinner and the four of us ordered four dishes to share. We started with a delicious pan seared foie gras served with Xeres vinegar and red fruit compote then sampled a unique asparagus, crab and avocado salad served with tomato concasse. We chose seafood dishes for our main course: Herb crusted sea bass and pan-seared sea scallops. Our “mixed dessert” included lemon sorbet with vodka, coconut flan and an irresistible crème brulee. The dessert menu also lists half a dozen coffee choices including café pucci with chocolate, almond liquor and cinnamon and there is a separate menu for champagnes and digestives.
What’s Old is New Again
It’s impossible to call a place that’s been known around the world for more than 10 years new, but the recent re-invention of François Plantation has redefined an island classic. Francoise and François Beret arrived on St. Barths 30 years ago, long before the haute cuisine boom. After 20 years of establishing several of St. Barts fine dining restaurants, along with the island’s first boulangerie, François designed and built François Plantation, a place that has earned the reputation as one of the finest hotels in the Caribbean. Perched on the steep hillside in Colombier with breathtaking views of the entire island, the new Wine and Dinner Club offers a wide selection of wines by the glass served with a medley of international tappas. François maintains his tradition of importing fresh ingredients from France and continues to offer an exciting and tantalizing menu. The menu now includes a gazpacho of marinated scallops, local snapper with Caribbean spices, skewers of pineapple and roasted duck magret, and thinly sliced beef served with a reduced truffle sauce. Desserts include sorbets, banana pastry topped with passion fruit and warm chocolate cake. François Plantation is also known for its keen wine cellar with selections that include Drouhins, Leflaive, Petrus and second label Chateau Ausone.
Another island favorite is the Lafayette Club. Built almost 30 years ago in the shade of sea grape and coconut palm trees on the beach at Grand Cul-de-Sac, the restaurant is popular not only for its enormous pina coladas and its classic French and fresh seafood menu but also for its trendy boutique and daily fashion shows. Lafayette’s swimming pool (the first pool on the island) is available to guests. Diners can star gaze at the many famous fellow customers or simply enjoy the view of the blue lagoon stretched out before them.
Local Favorites, Laughs Included
If you want a break from the fine French feasting and feel like leaving the designer clothes and high prices behind head down to the southern edge of the harbor in Gustavia and duck behind the old stone wall. Eddy’s is literally a hole in the wall with a relaxed, enjoyable environment that offers a terrific menu at reasonable prices. We hadn’t been there in five years and were happy to find very little had changed inside the lush, tropical refuge just off Gustavia’s busy main streets. Although we were tempted to try something new, we had to have an order of stuffed cristophine and stuffed crab. Like Eddy’s, these dishes are just something you shouldn’t miss. We added a spinach and goat cheese salad and fresh fish grilled in ginger to our order and kicked back to enjoy one of our most relaxing and delicious meals on the island.
The Hideaway, widely known as Andy’s, is another reasonably priced, low-key, self-effacing (“Warm beer, lousy food, view of the parking lot”), excellent choice for an entertaining and tasty meal on St. Barths. Famous for thin crust California pizzas and for owner Andy Hall’s good humor (we spotted an employee’s t-shirt that read “Five years in business, still lousy”), the Hideaway is where the locals gather for good times and good food. After scallops Provencal or fresh fish grilled over hot stones right at your table, try the Colonel – a lime sorbet topped with a shot of high quality vodka. Whether or not you opt for the Colonel, don’t skip the bottomless carafe of vanilla rum brewed on the premises. Andy’s also offers a take-away menu, perfect for lunch at the beach or dinner in your villa.
There are several other tantalizing choices around the island for take-away meals. Kiki-e Mo, a gourmet deli in St. Jean makes wonderful panini sandwiches and offers private catering. La Rotisserie, another gourmet shop in St. Jean, has a terrific selection of olives, olive oils and wine along with our favorite gourmet mustard Heidea and a tasty potatoes dauphinoise. Petite Colombe in Colombier and Lorient and La Rotisserie in St. Jean and Gustavia offer terrific take-out meals. We had creamed spinach and pizza one evening from La Rotisserie and were tempted by the rice salads, whole cooked hams and rotisserie chicken. The pastries, including quiche, scallops in puff pastry and fresh fruit tarts, rival those of Fauchon in Paris.
It seems ironic that the place where we had our first meal on island should be the last place we mention, but no synopsis of St. Barths dining would complete without a round of applause for La Langouste. Owner Annie Ange is the true soul of St. Barths and her restaurant reflects her love for and her loyalty to her island heritage. As unpretentious as it is delicious, La Langouste is tucked into the Hotel Baie des Anges on Flamand’s Beach. The dining area is awash with a seemingly endless selection of blues – the blue décor reaches to the edge of the blue swimming pool, which stretches out into the blue of the ocean beyond. A true feast for the soul follows this feast for the eyes. We started with Accra, an island specialty of fried cod fritters served with spicy piments sauce. This was followed by a sublime citrus and lobster salad. Grilled whole lobster at La Langouste is served fresh from the lobster tank on the premises. Three sauces are available for dipping: ginger and tomato, Creole sauce or clarified butter. Sweet potatoes, baked plantains, pureed squash and basmati rice are offered on the side. A warm banana tart and a jigger of the island’s vanilla rum are a nice way to round out one of the best meals (and reasonably priced evenings) you’re likely to find anywhere on the island. Several clients have told us that during their stay they ate two or three times at La Langouste. And that is truly the challenge presented to the St. Barths visitor: You find a great place to eat that you absolutely love, then you discover that, on St. Barths, there’s a dozen others just around the corner. Good Luck!