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Where and what to eat in Barbados
Did you know how Barbados got its name? The story has it that in the 1500’s some Portuguese sailors were passing through, dropping off some pigs when they came across the ficus tree, they decided that its long hanging roots looked remarkably like beards. The Portuguese word Os Barbados or the Spanish Los Barbados equivalent means ‘bearded ones’, so it was thus called.
Today Barbados’s unique identity is very much down to its African, Caribbean and English heritage. Barbados was first inhabited by tribes of Arawak and Carib Amerindians, who by the early 1600’s had all disappeared, in 1625 it was claimed as an English colony, once known as “Little England”. Slaves arrived from Africa when sugar cane was introduced which shaped its culture for many years. Slavery was finally emancipated in 1834, and Barbados became an independent state on 30 November 1966.
It’s unsurprising with its history as a trading outpost and with influences from around the world that Barbados has such rich and diverse cuisine. This year is ‘The Year of Culinary Experience’ so my trip to Barbados had a real focus on the Bajan gastronomy and what to eat in Barbados.
I was here to find out first hand how the Bajans eat, experiencing a mixture of informal dining in the local rum shops, some wonderful beachside cafes, through to some fine dining restaurants. Everything about what to eat in Barbados.
First stop was a trip to the historic Cheapside Market in Bridgetown with acclaimed Chef Jason Howard.
Jason was a quarter finalist in the Master Chef Professionals UK 2015. He moved to London from Barbados 10 years ago to pursue his culinary passions, he Infuses the flavours from his home cuisine with French cooking techniques and aims to be the first Caribbean chef to get a Michelin star for cooking Caribbean cuisine, which I am sure, having sampled some of his excellent cooking he will go on to achieve.
Jason was preparing a beachside dinner for us, so we joined him to shop for local fresh typically Caribbean ingredients for him to use for the dinner he was preparing us that evening.
Cheapside Market has a bustling vibrant atmosphere, it’s full of fresh, colourful organic fruit and vegetables and characters to match, I rather fell for the charming Mary Victoria who proudly showed off her produce and happily posed for photos.
Fruit and vegetables
Eddoe – are a small root vegetable, which make a flavourful alternative to standard potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams. When boiled it comes sticky.
Chou Chou – also called Christopherene (France and Caribbean) is a pear-shaped fruit which is eaten as a vegetable.
Wiri wiri – tiny very hot peppers
Plantain – can be told apart from a banana as they have a pointed tip whereas bananas don’t. Plantains are firm and starchy when eaten green, but become yellower and sweeter as they ripen and can be fried, boiled or baked.
Breadfruit – are grown on large trees and look rather like large coconuts. They are commonly used in Bajan cuisine; they have a creamy texture and are high in carbohydrates and used similarly to a potato.
Flux – is a cross between a lemon and an orange, deliciously sweet with a sharp aftertaste.
Mango – the mangoes here were smaller, sweeter and yellower than I have had before. Jason showed us a remarkably good way to eat one – you bite a tiny piece of skin from the tip of the mango and then suck the juice and flesh through the hole like a straw. Delicious and a bit sticky!
The Fish Market:
Flying Fish is the national dish of Barbados, they are a small fish with big wings, they are blue on the top and silver on the bottom in order to disguise themselves from predators, and are able to fly up to 39 metres out of the water. They have tender white flesh and are often breaded or prepared with a little salt and pepper or with special Bajan seasoning.
Mahi Mahi – are sometimes named the dolphin fish, they are large fish, typically found in tropical waters, which can grow as large as 5 feet and weigh up to 70LB. They have firm white, very flavourful flesh.
Beachside dinner cooked by Jason Howard at Tempus, Speightstown, Barbados
That evening we headed to Speightstown, which is on the West coast and the second largest town in Barbados, also known as Little Bristol, it was once a bustling port with exports in tobacco and cotton. The pretty candy box coloured houses and battered façades give it a unique, colonial charm plus it’s home to several beautiful long white sandy beaches.
Dinner was at Jason’s bar and restaurant Tempus, which is perfectly located with an idyllic outlook on the beach in Speightstown. We sat watching the sunset with a Rumbullion in hand – a delicious well-balanced rum cocktail with lemon thyme, pineapple and banana juice, not too sweet but with a good punch to it!
We started with Tuna Carpaccio served with fresh mango and chilli oil and a dill and sweet basil pesto – the tuna was exquisitely fresh and tender with wonderful mellow flavours and a citrus tang from the flux.
Next Jason had created a real Caribbean delicacy made with Eddoe, this versatile root vegetable had been boiled and puréed with onion and chilli to create a delicious slightly salty, smooth, creamy soup with small crunchy cubes of eddoe sprinkled on top.
For our main course we were served hot and cold blackened Mahi Mahi – this tender meaty fish had been blackened and cured in lemon juice served with large prawns which were wonderfully juicy, and a subtle yet vibrant, fresh breadfruit chilli and cucumber lime salsa.
Dessert was a delightfully presented mouth-watering, smooth pannacotta made with local goats cheese, caramelized pineapple, torched strawberry and dark chocolate with a white rum and cinnamon crumble which added a fabulous crunchy texture.
What an absolute treat! Jason’s delicious and exquisitely presented dinner gave me a wonderful opportunity to enjoy unique fine dining all made with fresh, authentic Caribbean ingredients in a truly beautiful setting.
The Fisherman’s Pub……. Also in Speightstown
The Fisherman’s Pub is a popular local eatery, which overlooks the beachfront in the centre of Speightstown, it boasts a magnificent view out to sea, and locals and tourists alike enjoy traditional freshly cooked Bajan food, which is served buffet style. The restaurant and bar is decorated in nautical colours of bright blues and white, and there is a friendly, summer filled atmosphere, when we arrived for lunch there was a guy playing steel pans and the was sun shining, the sea looked oh so blue……..yay I’m in Barbados!
We shared a variety of authentic dishes, which included:
Cou Cou – this is a Bajan national dish, it’s similar to polenta or grits but creamier and it is made from breadfruit or cornmeal and okras, traditionally served with flying fish. We had the breadfruit version and it was wonderfully smooth, mellow and buttery.
Lightly spiced curried lentils, similar to a classic dhal but with Bajan spices.
Salt fish cakes another very common dish –made with salt cod, herbs, and spices, then battered and deep-fried.
Green banana prepared in a hot Creole sauce.
Fried plantain – very traditional Caribbean fare.
Barbadian BBQ chicken – this is marinated and stuffed with a herb mix right down to the bone, it’s deliciously tasty and moist with a bit of a kick.
Souse – another customary dish made with stewed, boiled pork and prepared with pickled lime, scotch bonnet, parsley, onion, cucumber. This was a vivacious, fresh lightly spiced dish. Souse is often served with pudding that is made with creamed sweet potato.
BBQ Pigs tail – not my thing!
Macaroni pie- very much what it says, a take on our macaroni cheese, baked so it’s very soft, it reminded me of childhood comfort food.
The Fisherman’s Pub is great venue serving authentic Barbadian cuisine in lovely chilled, laid-back surroundings with a view to die for.
Bridgetown is the capital and commercial centre of Barbados, named because of its bridge, which crosses Constitution River, now known as Careenage. In 2012 it was named a Unesco World Heritage site for its historical significance. Bridgetown also hosts concerts, cultural festivals and historical lectures, and is committed to the renewal and continued development of the City.
Barbados was one of England’s most popular colonies, with a rich economy based on sugar and slavery. Bridgetown was once a busy trading port, and is now a vibrant and bustling town, with attractive brightly coloured buildings set along the riverside, many of which were once used as sugar barns. We strolled down Broad Street that is Barbados’s equivalent to Oxford Street; it runs parallel to the river and the docks. But among the shop facades there are elements of a much darker history, where once it housed an alley area known as the cage, this ran between the docks and street, the slaves were taken off the ships and brutally beaten and caged here until they were sent off.
We took a walking tour of the town where we saw the beautiful Gothic architecture of the Parliament buildings, which were established in 1639, and are the third oldest Parliament in the entire Commonwealth. Across the street from the Parliament buildings is the National Heroes Square, which is home to a war memorial and a monument for Lord Nelson, we saw Little Ben (their version of Big Ben), and then walked over the river to a civic space called Independence Square.
Lunch at the Waterfront Café
We finished our walk at the Waterfront Café, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch watching the world go by with a fabulous vista overlooking Careenage, and lots of luxurious yachts and boats to lust after.
There were plenty of dishes to choose from, I was keen to continue to try out some new dishes from the traditional Bajan cuisine.
To start we ate small Bajan fish cakes – delightfully light and crispy salt cod and potato balls.
I couldn’t resist sharing some of Luiz’s Melts; these are delicious small crispy pieces of flying fish roe deep-fried like a Barbadian calamari, served with a scrumptious fruity Bajan pepper sauce, which had a fabulous warmth to it. I was rather pleased that I managed to buy some pepper sauce at the airport to take home.
For my main course, I chose a Pepperpot, which originated in Guyana but is well known in Barbados, it’s a mixed meat stew, which is traditionally slow cooked in earthenware jars. Mine was hot, spicy, rich and tender with a wonderful taste of cloves and was served with Caribbean rice and salad.
The Waterfront Café offers excellent food in a great location, definitely one to visit if you are in Bridgetown.
Dinner at the Lone Star
The Lone Star Is the epitome of tropical chic, this beautiful upmarket hotel and restaurant is located on the famed platinum coast and backs on to Alleynes Bay; a stunning long white sandy beach with large palm trees, perfect for a romantic stroll. It is the destination of the rich and famous renowned for its idyllic setting and laid-back feel.
You enter down a glamorous wide staircase into this elegant restaurant which has a distinctive colonial feel to it, with pillars, large fans overhead, white tablecloths, dark wooden floors, white shutters and dark bucket chairs with soft glowing lights, you get the picture?
We had a table on the waterfront, where you could hear the waves lapping. The waiters look chic in white and the service was friendly and unobtrusive.
In keeping with the atmosphere, I kicked off the evening with a ‘Skinny Chic’, a perfect fusion of gin, ginger liqueur, lemon and prosecco.
Dinner had classic appeal; I started with a soft and creamy warm caramelised onion, tomato & chèvre tart with rocket salad.
I don’t often eat steak but here I had the perfect opportunity to relish the tender American Black Angus Beef Fillet Mignonette served with sautéed potatoes and asparagus.
And my forever favourite dessert is a vanilla crème brûlée, here served with fresh berries and ice cream. I wasn’t disappointed!
After dinner, we were shown one of the boutique hotel rooms of which there are just a few. What a perfect place to stay!
So if you fancy a proper night out, The Lone Star should definitely be on your bucket list of places to eat in Barbados.
Please watch out for my final post where I will be sharing with you some of the fabulous things to do and places to visit on this wonderful island.
Thinking of visiting Barbados yourself?
Why not pin this handy overview of the food and drink on Barbados
Virgin Atlantic flies daily from London Gatwick to Barbados and twice a week from Manchester to Barbados with return Economy fares starting from £453 per person return. For further information and to book please visit www.virginatlantic.com.
For further information about Barbados visit the Tourist Board Website
For more about the Year of Culinary Experiences check this link.
For more about Ocean Two Resort and Residences check their website.