St Lucia Gastronomy Holiday At Cap Maison
A Taste Of The Tropics

A Caribbean holiday need not be just about beaches and reggae – the region is increasingly offering gastronomic experiences which showcase the food, culture and nature of the Caribbean for visitors of all ages. Judith Baker reports.

Courtyard and Pool

Courtyard and Pool

The Restaurant at Cap Maison

The Restaurant at Cap Maison

The Brigade of Chefs

The Brigade of Chefs

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

Rock Maison

Rock Maison

Villa Suite Living Room 2

Villa Suite Living Room

Caribbean food is more than jerk chicken and ribs, the cuisine served in the islands uses the natural produce that grows here in abundance, from bananas, mangoes and coconuts to organic meat and of course fresh fish from the sea.

St Lucia is in the Eastern Antilles. Fought over by the French and British the island changed hands between the two powers no less than 14 times, a history which has left the island with a unique personality – British, but with a Creole influence seen in its culture, language and its cuisine

Hotels such as Cap Maison in the north of the island, an area which has the best beaches and some of the best hotels and villas, are enticing visitors with a mix of fine dining, wines and rums, and elegant relaxed glamour.

And they are finding out about the food as well as eating it. I met Cap Maison’s Executive chef Craig Jones earlier this year at Drake’s Brighton where he was taking part in their ‘chef exchange’. Back on his home turf, Craig takes hotel guests on tours of the market in the capital Castries (it has been voted one of the top three food markets in the world) as well as foraging excursions and visits to the organic farms which supply the hotel with fresh produce.

At the market Craig points out unusual fruits and vegetables such as yams, soursop, apple mangoes and strange looking herbs and spices in glass bottles. The sights and sounds are mesmerising, and back at the hotel some of the foods bought here make an appearance at The Cliff at Cap, the award-winning restaurant overlooking the sea. Craig’s repertoire includes delicious butter poached Caribbean lobster with mascarpone enriched gnocchi.

Guests can also dine in the hotel’s Rock Maison – a secluded wooden deck built on a rocky outcropping, surrounded on three sides by the sea. It provides a popular destination for private dining, weddings and proposals. Rock Maison also features a champagne zipwire that delivers champagne – or engagement ring – straight to the deck. Manager Ross Stevenson tells me that there have been no less than 29 proposals at this spot, and not one engagement ring has gone overboard. The hotel’s other restaurant The Naked Fisherman Beach Bar & Grill is a toes in the sand casual dining and beach bar with great cocktails.

Close to the hotel is the fascinating Pigeon Island, a historic site with 18th century barracks and forts. Fort Rodney was used by the British to spy on French ships from neighbouring Martinique.In 1979 it was named a national park and is now a national landmark under the control of the Saint Lucia National Trust. With safe beaches and interesting hikes, Pigeon Island is also the main venue of the St Lucia annual jazz festival.

Back at the hotel sommelier and self-styled ‘rummelier’ Robbie is pairing deli-style dishes such as risotto and duck confit with wines from the Cap’s cellar and some aged rums, too.

For younger foodies, the chefs arrange cookery lessons if the children can tear themselves away from the beach and the pool.

To work off some of the food the hotel has a well-equipped gym, but I prefer a brisk walk round the cliff point on the North east Atlantic side, and down to charming little beaches – Donkey Beach and Secret Beach where there is no one in sight but a few tiny lizards and the sea birds. Back at Cap Maison my drink of the day is a delicious watermelon cocktail made with the freshest ingredients and best enjoyed watching the sun go down over the horizon.

A garden view room at Cap Maison starts from £275 per night on a B&B basis (two sharing). www.capmaison.com; 020 8977 6099

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both fly to St Lucia from London Gatwick

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