Saint James, Barbados

A trip to the Caribbean used to mean trading in gourmet meals for sand and sunshine. Lukewarm buffet fare, questionable seafood, and watered down drinks were unfortunately the norm. Then upscale restaurants starting following ritzy resorts to St. Maarten and St. Barts. African, Indian, French, and Spanish influences started mixing with freshly caught fish and island-grown produce. Now haute cuisine is spreading to other islands. Restaurants have more casual atmospheres. And all of the cocktails aren’t made in blenders. First stop: Barbados.

You’re probably surprised that this West Indian island has some of the best dining in the Caribbean. Barbados is known for its strong attachment to its British heritage. Cricket is the most popular sport, afternoon tea is still expected, and bold flavors weren’t served on sugar cane plantations. But the west coast’s Saint James Parish–already known for its calm water and amazing sunsets–also has great restaurants. All with ocean views, of course.

Photo: Elegant Hotels Group
Photo: Elegant Hotels Group

After spending the day swimming in Paynes Bay, move to Daphne’s at The House. Tables are surrounded by muslin curtains, tiki torches, and fragrant tropical gardens. The Italian-focused menu features shrimp piri piri and sea bass with fennel parmigiana. A bottle of Umbrian Orvieto sits chilling on the side of the table. The only thing distracting you from your food is the perfect sunset in front of you. And it’s hard to say no to rum crème brûlée at the end of the meal.

Farther north in Holetown, Barbados’ first settlement, you’ll find The Tides, one of the most popular restaurants on the island. Sip a glass of champagne and browse the impressive collection of local artwork while waiting for your table. The romantic, candlelit restaurant has trees growing in the dining room and sheer white drapes blowing in the breeze. The menu shows off the spicy side of Barbados. Try spicy Thai coconut shrimp bisque and pan roasted spicy scallops. Follow the calypso music down 2nd Street after dinner for a nightcap and a little dancing.

Photo: Gareth Sambidge, The Cliff Restaurant
Photo: Gareth Sambidge, The Cliff Restaurant

Save the island’s most romantic restaurant for your last night on Barbados. Built into the coral, The Cliff has three dining levels, giving each table a view of the water. Tiki torches add to the dramatic setting. Start with open shrimp ravioli and a glass of Rioja rosé. Watch stingrays swim in the water below. Move on to Cajun salmon. Servers move expertly around you. Complete the evening with a glass of Mount Gay Rum. Barbados is the birthplace of rum, after all.

While you certainly didn’t give anything up for this trip, you definitely added a couple of pounds. Maybe that’s why gourmet food never mixed with sand and sunshine. Or maybe you should spend your days swimming, paddling, and peddling your way around the island instead of napping in a lounge chair. A rum punch will be waiting for you.

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