Arrived on St Martin on Saturday. Avoided the recent flight issues out of NYC. Plane took off and arrived on time. However so did several other plans and the arrival terminal was jammed. The airport is still using buses to take passengers from the planes to the terminal. Looked like the new jetways have been installed but not yet operational. Hopefully the airport gets back to normal soon as it’s been 6 years since Irma.
Took a cab to our place in Grand Case. This little town is often described as the dining capital of the Caribbean. Lots of high end restaurants line the main road. After a day of travel we didn’t want anything so fancy. We walked the entire length of the main road and saw lots of well dressed tourists in places like Ocean 82 and Le Villa. I noticed a place we had not been to Nice SXM. Nice as in the the city in France on the Med. It had a menu nothing like all the others so we went in. Pretty simply decorated place right on the water. No bling which was what we wanted. What a diamond in the rough. Provençal food in the Caribbean with a creole accent. The view from our table.
Had accras which are salt cod fritters. Crispy. Excellent.
The lovely wife ordered Nicoise Assiette. A platter with ratatouille, stuffed vegetables which included pepper, tomato, mushroom, potato and courgette with two big slices of pissaladiere. She loved it.
I had mahi mahi coco curry. OMG. I love colombo style and this was outstanding.
Shared one of the best mousse chocolat we have had in a long time and waddled out into the hot humid evening.
Very reasonably priced. Dinner for two with a cocktail, bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of rose was €115. And unlike the fancy places that draw in the taxi loads of American tourists, no mention of adding anything to the bill for tip. It’s rarer these days to find places in the FWI that treat French and non French guests the same on that front.
We have been continuing to eat but I keep forgetting to take pictures of the food as I have a habit of diving in as soon as the food arrives. So no pictures of the lunch we had at a lolo in Grand Case. Lolos are open air restaurants where most of the food is cooked on grills. Basic stuff. There are several right next to each other in the middle of town and the vendors are aggressive in trying to turn people walking by into customers. We went into one whose name I can’t remember for lunch. But it’s the one in the middle in the back by the water. Ordered travers du porc which are baby back ribs, grilled chicken legs, stuffed christophenes, accras, johnny cakes, fried plantains. In other words way too much food for 2 people. Simple good food. And cheap. All that plus a few beers cost us $40.
After not eating dinner that night we headed to Esperance airport the next morning. Isn’t that the best name you could have for an airport? Hope, dream, fantasy. All the things that a trip can engender. We get on the tiny plane. A total of 6 passengers on the flight.
A view out the window looking towards Oyster Pond. When we first saw this place 20 years ago it was essentially empty in the middle with a few houses a hotel and a marina around the sides.
Approaching what shows up on various lists of one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to an approach which comes over a gap between two hills and then a steep descent on to a short runway.
The view from the deck.
I will get back to the food after a ti punch and a nap.
On a French island so what do you eat? French food. Classic steak frites. Ordered bavette but the waiter apologized and said they only had entrecôte. Made do. Cooked a point with a sauce Roquefort. Now I need another nap.
This place is so old school French. Technically no smoking in a restaurant but you can see what’s on our table still.
For dinner we went to an old favorite - Eddy’s. The decor is vaguely Indonesian.
We shared an order of nems de langouste et crabe. A huge spring roll with lobster and carb. Fortunately I remembered to take a picture before I ate the whole thing. Lovely crisp skin.
For my main I had aile de raie - skate wing. It was enormous and moist with a tangy caper sauce.
My lovely wife had shrimp in a ginger curry sauce that she wouldn’t share so I guess it was good.
Had a mango and pineapple pavlova for dessert but forgot to take a pic. Take my word. It was beautiful and good.
After slow baking ourselves in the sun at the beach watching some kids having a good time
We decided to have lunch to cool off
A salad with a bit of crispy chicken for my better half
Bo bun de boeuf for me. The cold noodles topped with stir fried beef and crispy nems were perfect. Nems seem to becoming a theme for me.
We were joined by a table side companion looking for a handout.
Went back to our favorite beachside shack - Ti Corail on Grand Cul de Sac. The translation apps have a habit of turning that location name into big ass bag which is just too funny or maybe that’s fanny?
A shot of the beach
We were joined by a hen and her chick
So I decided no chicken for lunch
Started with tarama oursin. A version of taramasalata made with sea urchin roe. Crazy delicious. Like the best creamiest lox spread I have ever had. The brininess was perfect. Smeared it all over the fresh baguette
Lovely wife ordered the courgette salad.
I had vivaneau - a snapper with the most awesome side of mashed sweet potatoes. Fish was pretty good too and perfectly cooked. But what else would you expect when the former head chef of the old Isle De France hotel opens what is basically a food truck?
My LW had a lobster roll that came with a side of frites. I have to say that these frites may have been the best fries we have ever had. Thin, lightly golden, crisp, salty.
I told the server that these were - les meilleures frites du monde!
To finish the meal a lime cheesecake with passion fruit. The tang of the passion fruit was a great foil to the sweetness of the cheesecake.
Salad for dinner after a lunch like this.
Thanks for the great reports. I haven’t been to the WI for 20 years, and miss it sooooo much!
Dinner at Le Papillon Ivre. The drunken butterfly. Very nice wine bar with a view of a parking lot. There’s no wine list here. You have to talk to Julie, the owner and sommelier to pick something. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about wine. I started with a glass of pinot noir, a burgundy from 2008. Very smooth with a nice body.
We started with some sardines. Canned. When did canned sardines become so in and expensive? No more canned sardines on saltine crackers I guess.
Then escargot. These are alway perfect here.
This was followed by a little pot of porc pate with house made cornichons. If you like pate this was the bomb.
Then a dish of cauliflower with Israeli spices. What kind of spices we asked the waiter? He responded Israeli. At that point we gave up the questioning. Also a stuffed artichoke.
Finally grilled chatrou - octopus. Just lovely. Crisp on the outside tender within.
To wrap up dinner, the waiter really pushed the Paris Brest. He said it was his favorite dessert ever. This was one of the best I’ve ever had.
It’s going to take a lot of swimming to burn off this meal.
Another day, another beach
We’re planning to go to each beach at least once. This is Corossol. Generally not where the tourists go. It also has decent snorkeling just past the rocks at the end of the sand.
Afterwards we headed into town for a quick lunch. Le Repaire. The management has recently changed and the menu shrunk (a good thing) and prices up a tad (not so good thing) since our last visit.
We split an order of accras with a sauce vierge. These were outstanding. Best of the trip so far.
My lovely wife being as good as ever ordered a salad. The crispy bacon that topped the salad she put to the side.
Then I decided to channel digga’s spring onion and ordered a cheeseburger. As my lovely wife was being so good, I also decided to offset her by being bad and took the bacon she had put to the side and used it to top the burger. A really good burger enhanced with the extra pork. The frites were nice at the start when they were hot but sagged a bit over time.
Time to head back to the house and go for a swim in the pool or a nap.
We’ve yet to visit the Caribbean because we thought we weren’t fancy enough. We have been to Turks & Caicos twice, which was just ok (but a short non-stop flight from Boston) and we love the South Pacific (although it’s so far). I’m thinking St. Maarten might be just the right speed for us. We’ve also considered Bonaire.
Edited: I’m procrastinating and looking at St Maarten. There’s a St. Martin, which is where you and LW are, AND a Sint Maarten, which is where a friend of mine used to visit (she’s Dutch)? So confused. Guess that’s a sign to get back to work.
I totally get what you mean, but I just had to butt in and say the majority of people in the Caribbean, specifically the majority of those who live there, are not “fancy”. I can only recall one “fancy” trip, which turned out to be a bit awkward.
I’m wondering if the the admonitions about “tourists” common on the European threads don’t apply in the Caribbean.
Friends of mine who are hugely into scuba diving absolutely adore Bonaire, and it’s not terribly expensive from what I gather (if that is a concern). Turks & Caicos may just be the most expensive place I’ve ever been to. Yikes.
We’ve done some upscale Southeast Asian experiences (not the whole trip, but we would sometimes splurge at the end of a bare-bones backpacking-like trip) and I felt so uncomfortable so I understand where you’re coming from.
Anyway, I had no intention to hijack the wonderful thread. Onward!
The Caribbean can be cheap or staggeringly expensive. Depends on what you want. I first went to the Virgin Islands when I was in college. Very cheap. Rum was cheaper than water. Save money, stay drunk!
I have a friend who spent 6 months on Bequia after she finished grad school. She had the time of her life and spent not much. On the other hand perhaps you know people who winter on Mustique, the private island where British royalty go to party?
Sint Maarten/St Martin is a good way to get an intro to the Caribbean. Direct flights from many cities in the US. Split between the Dutch and French side. We prefer the French side as the Dutch is much more built up and close enough to american culture that it feels as though you are in south Florida. The French side is quieter and has better beaches IMO. Much better restaurants too.
We flew into the big international airport (SXM) on the Dutch side. The airport took an hit from Irma and is still in the midst of rebuilding. There are also many connections you can get to other islands. Took a cab to the Grand Case Beach Club on the French side. Very nice resort condo complex on the beach. Walking distance to many restaurants. We then flew out of Esperance airport which is a regional French airport to St Barth. Been here for a while though getting ready to leave in a few days.
Caribbean is a lot easier to get to than the South Pacific. Was talking to someone the other day who had honeymooned on Tahiti and were comparing notes to being on a French Island in the Pacific to the Caribbean. I don’t know if this description will make it appealing or not but what this feels like is that a slice of the south of France was moved to the Caribbean. It’s not reggae, jerk and pina coladas. Instead its bad French rock, great French influenced food and ti punch.
There used to be this restaurant that was down by the commercial wharfs. View out over the harbor to the local freighters that brought in everything. The restaurant served very simply prepared local French creole food. It was a wonderful spot to have a cocktail, watch the sunset and eat a plate of curried something from the sea with rice. After many years the owners sold the space and retired. There was great sadness when it closed. So the lovely wife decides she has mourned enough the passing of Maya’s place and now is prepared to go the new restaurant. The view out looks the same.
But on the inside, it’s very different. I heard that the place was bought by an international investor group and they went way upscale.
Warning that the quality of the pictures isn’t great. Once the sun set the lights were turned very low and I didn’t want to use the flash when I took pictures.
We shared a mahi mahi tartar to start. This was a great dish. Unfortunately I did not take a picture until after I had mixed it all up and scooped some on to my plate. So no pretty before picture. Just the after shot.
The restaurant is supposedly Israeli (what kind of spices?) with other middle eastern influences.
I ordered what was called Persian Fish. Local sea bream seared and served over what was called a risotto made out of an orzo like pasta and a celeriac purée with asparagus and gremolata.
This was remarkable. Crispy outside, moist inside. The flavors were all new but really appealing.
My LW orders Jumbo Charime (the ch pronounced like the ch in challah).
That single shrimp was certainly jumbo but the flavors were not. Oddly bland with some spices we could not identify. The best part were the braised carrots in the sauce. Total washout of a dish for us. The price however was jumbo. €68!
Split a dessert that was referred to as an Israeli version of tiramisu.
This was nice but I would have preferred a traditional tiramisu.
This is a staggeringly expensive place. I won’t post the cost as I can’t believe what we spent for the meal. It was a good dinner but for the one off dish but certainly not a value proposition.
Well, if they charge $68 for one “jumbo” shrimp
Would you say this place is representative for the price level on St. Martin/Marteen? The island looks absolutely gorgeous.
PS: I’m apparently even worse at geography than at math… I had no idea the French West Indies were that close to PR…or, frankly, anywhere near where they actually are
No. That price is sui generis and not reflective of pricing in the Caribbean at all. One of the most expensive places I have been to anywhere. This restaurant is not on St Martin. I am not sure how well this place will do in the long term as the prices are so out of line with almost everything else.
St Martin is beautiful. It’s mountainous and surrounded by turquoise waters with great beaches. Some spectacular scenery from up high. We started there with the original plan to hit a few different islands. There are inter island flights that you can take on small planes. The main islands of the French West Indies are St Martin, St Barthelemy, Guadeloupe and Martinique with a few more smaller ones. One of the interesting things I like about the FWI is that when you are there, you are in France. Not a colony or territory or commonwealth like PR or the USVI are to the US. It’s France.
Went back to Ti Corail at the big ass bag location where I tried to stage my own Corona beer ad.
Had a mahi mahi tataki. Came with an onion soy ginger compote and these little leaves that I didn’t recognize that tasted slightly mustardy. A great starter.
The menu changes frequently based on what the chef Yann feels like making. So today there was a wagyu beef and frites. Since I love those frites it’s what I had to have.
Perfectly cooked is an overused phrase and often denotes a lack of a good vocabulary but well here it is the perfect (sorry) phrase. Crusty charred outside and pink inside.
My lovely wife as usual has a salad, this time nicoise made with tuna caught that day.
For the old school places, there’s this wonderful tradition of pouring a complimentary shot of rhum vanille at the end of the meal. The fact that this shack on the beach does this makes me love it even more.
There’s this place we love to go to where most of the time the patrons are locals. Since it’s full of locals it’s usually also full of cigarette smoke. We decided on a late lunch after the locals and smoke had cleared.
We ordered a starter of sardines that I forgot to take a picture of sadly. A can that had been opened came on a huge board with some pickled onions, toasts and two giant slabs of butter from Bretagne. I mean giant soft slabs of creamy salty high fat butter. Take a toast, smear about a centimeter thick layer of butter on it, top with a sardine and layer some of those pink pickled onions on top. Wow.
Then we went off script. I guess my lovely wife tired of being good and I was feeling fat. She orders the fish burger which was a slab of grilled wahoo and thick cut frites. Apologies for the fuzzy picture.
I had the salad but with crispy chicken, bacon and cheese. There’s only so far my goodness could go.
As this place is basically across the street from the beach, that’s where we went afterwards.
I’ve been catching up on my posting.
Yesterday was our last full day and we had a bit of food left in the fridge. Some eggs, cheese and odds and ends.
So I made a little omelette and topped it with some trout roe. Eggs, cream, Comte, butter. What could be bad? A midway through it shot. My lovely wife told me it was as good as what we have been getting when eating out. Guess the French style is rubbing off on me.
Time to pack.