Three tropical eateries great for a long afternoon meal
There’s nothing like lingering over lunch when on vacation, letting the food come out slowly while the corks keep popping. And these relaxed meals are even better when enjoyed in a unique and memorable setting. We know of several such places in the Caribbean, and here are three of our favorites.
On the Beach
On the island of Antigua the place for beachfront dining is Catherine’s Café Plage, French Restaurant & Beach Bar. On Sunday’s you’ll be keeping company with members of the British expat community, who come for brunch and fill tables inside, out on the deck and onto the sand. After a nosh, many patrons linger and move to chaise lounges or spread a beach towel under the grape trees to make a day of it.
Located on Pigeon Beach, Catherine’s is an easy jaunt from Falmouth Harbour by land or sea. The husband and wife team of Claudine and Guillaume add a personal touch greet arriving guests. Their passion for good food shines as they read off the day’s menu from a movable blackboard. While some items are menu standards, there are constant changes that include fresh catches and new renditions of French cuisine. There’s typically a hot or cold soup to start, lobster or gazpacho. Salads are meals in themselves and while the menu changes you’ll always find a fish ceviche, and the lobster risotto and fish en papillote are always hot items. The café offers a lineup of fine wines, and are famous for sumptuous deserts. Catherine’s is open for lunch Wednesday through Monday, along with jazz on Wednesday nights, and special gourmet dinners each Friday.
On a Farm
With a farm right outside your door, you’ll expect to find plenty fresh produce on your plate. And that is just what you’ll find at The Kitchen, set inside the Great House overlooking the Belle Mont Farm resort at Kittitian Hill. Ask for a table by the glass doors and you’ll have an expansive view of the hillside down to the sea. If you are lucky enough to be staying here, then lunch is just a stroll from your villa. But most happen upon Kittitian Hill by recommendation, and it’s become the go-to lunch stop on an island tour.
The Kitchen sources local ingredients from Belle Mont Farm to create a clean, authentic cuisine. This farm-to-table philosophy taps into the riches of the adjacent 400-acre organic farm, giving Executive Chef Christophe Letard and his team plenty of offerings to choose from when crafting the ever-changing menu. Meals can start with a cocktail made with fresh passion fruit juice, an arugula salad topped with a just-laid poached egg and sorrel salad dressing, then continue with freshly-caught snapper surrounded by savory organic vegetables. The view is majestic and the service is warm and friendly, so plan on a staying for desert of a freshly backed fruit tart.
On the Strand
Puerto Rico is a hotbed for culinary talent, and the city of San Juan is the arena that showcases their skills. Cocina Abierta is tucked off the main drag of Ashford Avenue in the trendy Condado disrict. Here, Chef Martín Louzao displays his creative genius in variations of contemporary cuisine with a touch of the Old World. His background and extensive travels have inspired unique variations and combinations of ingredients and seasonings that result in distinctive flavors and textures. Louzao is frequently visited by food lovers and chefs from other parts of the world. Hailing from Argentina, he spent time working with Albert Adrià and Argentinian Chef Gato Dumas, both innovators and pioneers of contemporary and modern cuisines. Louzao also worked with Spain’s Koldo Royo, who held a Michelin star rating from 1989 to 2007.
Today Louzao displays his talents at his three outlets in San Juan, Cocina Abierta, Nonna and Touro. For a long lunch, Cocina Abierta is the spot. Here the menu is set up like a play, in acts, and while you might want the entire performance at once, it’s more enjoyable to order acts One through Five at a more leisurely pace. Begin with one of the handmade cocktails; the signature list includes the Orange Blossom Ten, which is light and refreshing with orange blossom water, mandarin tonic and Tanqueray. Others include homemade reductions and fruit infused soda. You might start the First Act with a cold almond soup or the Purple Potato & Octopus Peruvian Causa, which features layers of potatoes and octopus, accented with black olive sauce and creamy garlic. The Second Act always includes seafood such as a Caribbean bouillabaisse or a squid ink pasta layered in prawns, with notes of Sambuca and cilantro. The Third and Fourth Acts include poultry and beef and there’s even a full act for the vegetarian. Plates come out looking like works of modern art, suitable for framing. But your taste buds will win out.