We've already investigated where to stay in Barbados and today we're looking at where to eat. From fine dining to street food, our most popular Caribbean destination is not short on options.
The Cliff is probably the most well-known and celebrity-frequented restaurant in Barbados, and it's certainly one of the most expensive. But the unbeatable open-air setting on a coral clifftop above a small cove on the west coast sends it racing to the top of the "most romantic restaurants in the world' list, particularly when the moon-illuminated sea sparkles under a starry sky. Split across different levels and dramatically lit by Olympian-style torches, there's not a bad table in the house. All have sea views and line the edge of the wide wrap-around terrace, where a built-in staircase leads down to the beach to cater for those arriving by yacht.
The whole place is upscale and swanky but the clubby upper-level lounge with its leather chairs, natural wood furnishings and hidden nooks feels particularly exclusive. This is where you'll be served pre-dinner drinks and cocktails as you peruse the menu in anticipation of your meal, and despite the unobtrusive, unhurried vibe, you still might want to arrive a bit earlier than planned to really soak it all in.
Liverpudlian chef Paul Owens has created an exquisite, ever-changing menu that reflects the wide tastes of the wealthy European, North and South American visitors who dine here. The seafood dishes are inevitably a highlight - seared tuna with crushed new potatoes and saffron, Caribbean shrimp with Thai green curry coconut sauce or our favourite, Mahi Mahi fillet with mushroom duxelle and parmesan cheese sauce, are an indication of what to expect. New pastry chef Francois Leo takes sugar-spun artistry to a whole new level with a range of dazzling and often painstakingly intricate desserts, including his signature 'Sweet Memories', housed within a hand-carved chocolate cage.
For the ultimate in special occasion dining expect to pay around £100 per head excluding drinks, and be sure to make a reservation well in advance of your trip. Please note the Cliff is closed during September 2012.
The Cliff, Derricks, St. James, Barbados BB24110
Cin Cin by the Sea
Still on the west coast, Cin Cin by the Sea is not as established as the Cliff (it only opened last year) but is equally as fashionable right now. The white-walled interior is refreshingly uncluttered, hardwood floors offset the simple cream and grey furnishings and panoramic picture windows overlook the al fresco dining terrace and Caribbean sea beyond. Cin Cin could have been transplanted straight from Miami's South Beach, although its laidback Bajan ambience prevents the glitz from ever spilling over into pretentiousness. What's more, the food more than lives up to its swish surroundings.
Open for lunch and dinner, the creative menu takes its cue from both Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine. Jumbo crab cakes with pickled mango, seared yellow fin tuna, fresh king scallops and spiced Atlantic salmon in a citrus banana butter all take their place next to inventive Italian pastas and classic Provençal bouillabaisse and steaks. The trendy bar always seems to be buzzing with people and serves bite-sized portions of calamari, bruschetta and vegetable fritto misto, if an overload of cocktails makes you peckish.
Cin Cin by the Sea, Prospect, St James, Barbados
At Payne's Bay, right next door to previously reviewed The House hotel, Daphne's Italian restaurant remains an institution in Barbados and a favourite with repeat visitors. This Caribbean sister venue of the London Daphne's in South Kensington is led with real flair in the kitchen by chef Marco Festini Cromer, whose talent for creating contemporary Italian dishes with lesser known local specialities (pickled green banana, anyone?) has won him legions of fans.
Starters range from classic Italian antipasto, fish carpaccio, and artichoke and asparagus salad with crumbled blue cheese, to shrimp piri-piri and fish soup. The extensive selection continues with a choice of homemade pastas and risottos, grilled meats and fish, and exceptional main plates such as blackened mahi mahi with peperonata, baked red snapper or stewed tiger shrimp with borlotti beans.
The restaurant hosts a 'Wine Connoisseur' night from Tuesday to Thursday, with a 40% discount on selected wines and champagne. Closed Mondays between June and November.
The Lone Star
Despite the adoration of Michael Winner, the Lone Star is still the hippest hangout on the island. The ex-petrol garage retains something of an automotive aesthetic - in a good way - although the proximity to the sea, polished wooden floors and the strong blue and white colour scheme adds a nautical flavour too.
The restaurant has garnered quite a following. Its breezy ocean-front setting is an invitation to linger and the menu is long and varied, with a surprising combination of influences from Asian to Caribbean, Indian to European. Kick things off with tuna tartar, a meze plate or tataki, sashimi and soy bean salad, then mix things up further with crispy aromatic duck, jerk chicken or lamb shank with basil mash.
This place can be thronging with people at dining times, especially those of a media, theatrical or otherwise creative bent, so you'll need to bear this in mind if you're considering booking a getaway in one of the four exclusive hotel rooms on site.
Lone Star Restaurant & Hotel, Hwy 1B, Mount Standfast, St. James, Barbados
Oistins Fish Fry
Oistins is an active fishing town in the south of Barbados and its Friday night Fish Fry takes place at the local fish market. An assortment of colourful stalls and purpose-built frying cabins surround several raucous, picnic-table filled dining areas seated mainly with tourists, but also a sizeable number of locals including older folk playing dominos.
The atmosphere is like a huge street party, with whole families slowly perusing the rows of local arts and crafts on sale before taking their place in line at their favoured food stall. Your fish will be grilled to order while you wait and the general advice for newbies looking for a high quality meal is to pick the stall which has the longest queue, which is frequently Uncle George's Fish Net Grill, where the fresh shrimp, marlin or flying fish are absolutely delectable - though queues can easily stretch to an hour or more if you arrive much later than 7pm.
After you've eaten, wander round to the bandstand for the wonderfully uplifting sight of local Bajan old-timer couples gently jiving to Jimmy Cliff, the Platters and some good ole' Country & Western.
Oistins Fish Fry, Oistins Bay Gardens, Oistins, Barbados
Best of the rest
Also down in the south of the island is highly-rated Brown Sugar, one of the best places to find authentic Bajan cooking (along with the previously reviewed Atlantis Hotel on the east coast). Still in the South, long-established Champers is regarded as the best in the area, and great for business meetings as it has free wifi throughout. The Tides in St. James specialises in seafood with an Asian twist and prides itself on its bar-**bleep**-gallery and great service. Tapas in Hastings has as high a reputation among locals as visitors, and serves up excellent small plates perfect for large groups to share, all at surprisingly good value prices.
Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Barbados from London Gatwick and Manchester.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.