Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, holds the largest fish market on the island. Open every day, the market is where locals come to buy their produce and seafood, leaving only a few pantry staples to be collected at one of the few grocery stores on the island.
Located in the most densely tourist-populated part of the island, Rodney Bay, The Edge is an elegant restaurant, sitting so close to the water, at times it seems a fish is likely to jump right onto your plate.
Chef Bobo Bergstrom has coined the term “Eurobbean” to describe his style of cuisine. As the name suggests the food at The Edge artfully combines both European and Caribbean flavors and techniques. This marriage makes for elaborate preparations and striking flavors.
I recommend starting with their Rum punch — A vibrant pink drink flavored with an assortment of fruit juice, grenadine, and a soft touch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and possibly others that I couldn’t distinguish. The menu claims it’s the best on the island and I don’t disagree. Although I failed to taste every rum punch on the island, I found their version to be perfectly balanced with just the right amount of spice.
I’d also suggest you allow Chef Bobo’s tasting menu to feed you well for the evening. This options gives you many small tastes of various menu items and really paints a clear picture of island flavors and this unique fusion. You’ll taste everything from duck to lobster, with each dish an intriguing blend of local flavors. The tasting allows the chef to shine as you are left in his hands for the night — and in the right hands it’s the perfect place to be.
Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, holds the largest fish market on the island. Open every day, the market is where locals come to buy their produce and seafood, leaving only a few pantry staples to be collected at one of the few grocery stores on the island. Rows and rows of local merchants create a sort of maze through this large market. Most everything one needs to create a vibrant St. Lucian meal is found within this labyrinth.
Hard-working fisherman from all over bring in their daily catch to Castries in hopes of selling their abundant catch, then starting the process all over again the next morning.Giant fish heads with bulging eyes still intact fill the carts as a vendor explains to me that the hotels buy the bulk of the fish, then return the heads, as many tourists don't prefer that cut. The locals, however, will not leave it to spoil. Fresh fish is added to the carts as they come in from the sea.
Vibrant produce lines the other side of the market and is brought in mostly from the central part of the island. Paul, one of our many, friendly taxi drivers told us they grow virtually every type of fruit on the island, except for apples. Being from Washington state, I proudly spoke of our apples, while being envious of the sweet bananas, floral-scented pineapples and juicy mangoes.
Seeking local food in St. Lucia can be a hard and intimidating task, but it is worth the effort. While eating in some of the more tourist-filled, fine-dining restaurants is still a part of the makeup of St. Lucian cuisine and tells a different part of the story, the heart and soul of St. Lucian food is found in the unassuming shacks on the beach or stands on the corner of a hairpin turn along the narrow, winding roads.
We learned a few tips during our visit that we found helpful in the search for local food. First of all, pay attention to what the locals are eating. While we stood outside observing yet another over-priced menu that vaguely resembled island food, we spotted one of our water-taxi drivers and asked him what he was having for lunch. Happily stopping what he was doing, he immediately led us back onto his boat and we crossed the bay to find a completely unassuming spot on the beach.
To call this place a building would be an overstatement. Sure, it did have four walls (maybe it was more like 3½) and a roof, its floor was made up of the beach that it sat on, and the width was no more than ten feet. We had walked by this spot many times, never realizing that all along they were serving dozens of locals breakfast and lunch daily.
We ordered two "small" plates, although it provided more than enough food. The fish was grilled, then covered in a tomato-based creole sauce. Classic starch-filled side dishes accompanied the fish — rice, pasta, and ground “provisions” (the St. Lucian term for root vegetables in various forms). A light and refreshing coleslaw completed the meal. At $8.00 US, it was by far the cheapest meal we ate on the island.
Although most locals don't do a lot of dining out, asking around points you in the right direction. The taxi driver who picked us up from the airport insisted on a restaurant near where we were staying. Many others along the way confirmed the recommendation and what we found was a great restaurant with a view that was worth the price of the meal alone.
Keep your eyes open. "Keep your eyes open. Try different things at some of the many road stops along the way in your travels. Taxi drivers are always willing to oblige a quick stop or two. A johnny cake here or there. Perhaps a cold Piton (the refreshing locally brewed beer) overlooking a black sand beach or some hot-off-the-fire cassava bread.
Even some of the touristy destinations can provide a great insight into local flavors. The Anse La Raye fish fry is flooded with tourists, especially in the early evening, but don't let that distract from the abundance of fresh seafood prepared by many of the locals in a style that has been passed down from generation to generation.
The servings are plentiful, so we chose to share in order to maximize the opportunity to try many different things. The rows of make-shift food stands were filled with red snapper, conch, crab, and lobster.
Weekends on the island are filled with parties and festivities everywhere. If you want the real local experience, plan to be out until 4 a.m.
While tourism abounds in St. Lucia, finding a real local experience is worth the effort. Locals love to share their pride in their culture and are happy and willing to help you have a real, authentic experience.
In the shade of cocoa trees and the towering Petit Piton sits Boucan — a restaurant dressed in the finest dark woods and modern design with an intriguing menu dotted with cocoa, in all its various forms, throughout.
Like seeing a favorite celebrity in real life, I was starstruck as the walk up to the restaurant entrance was lined with trees heavy with cocoa pods. As a lifetime devout chocolate lover, this was the first time I had seen cocoa pods in their native habitat and it filled me with a silly giddiness.
That same giddiness found me again as I tasted spicy local greens coated in a sweet white chocolate dressing. And then, again, as I sampled my husband’s cocoa-nib-crusted Dorado and as I dipped my seared tuna in a cocoa pesto. I doused much of my food in freshly ground cocoa nibs, using the grinder provided at the table. I was released from the childhood rule of not eating chocolate for dinner, breaking it freely by putting cocoa nibs on virtually everything, all-the-while being perpetually stunned when the flavors worked beautifully together.
Full on a pleasantly spiced curry studded with fish and plantains, and a chocolate tasting carrying us from nibs to a cool, lightly sweet chocolate drink, we sat down with the chef to talk with him about St. Lucia and his incredible talent that he brought to the island.
Chef Jon Bentham runs the sleek, black, open kitchen at Boucan. While the food served isn’t necessarily traditional St. Lucian cuisine, the ingredients definitely are, with 95% of what is used in the kitchen coming from various locations on the island. Chef Jon proudly spoke of their own garden on the property, which supplies the restaurant with fresh organic herbs and greens. And of course, all the cocoa he could ever dream of using is located a few steps away from the kitchen.
Chef Jon and his staff work closely with the locals, ensuring them the finest ingredients. With the success of the restaurant, it’s a wonderful economic boost for many St. Lucian farmers. “We’re happy. The farmer’s are happy. Everyone’s happy.” Chef Jon proudly proclaimed.
I walked away happy as well and encouraged to see such a wonderfully inventive restaurant flourishing and taking full advantage of all ofthe incredible bounty found on the island.
We arrived by water taxi and, with the sun still shining, we were by far the first guests to arrive. We didn’t mind, as this allowed us to catch the vivid sunset and see the excitement as the streets were lined with bustling people getting ready for the weekly fish fry.
Women stood over hot, cast iron pots filled with bubbling oil as they were frying up dozens of fish cakes and fry bread, putting the last minute touches of spice in the aluminum packets filled with red snapper. While the men were setting up the bottles of rum punch and spiced rum and setting bottles of Piton over ice. Their motions were effortless and well rehearsed. Everyone knew their role and steadily did their jobs as the crowd slowly began to gather.
The Anse La Raye Fish Fry is a wonderful way to get a real sense of the food, and the culture surrounding the food, in St. Lucia. Come hungry and try many things. The prices are extremely reasonable and the locals are very eager to share their creations.
There is a great sense of pride in their offerings and, with one taste, it’s not hard to understand why. The seasonings are simple and reflect the history of the island, with both French and British influence, as well as whispers of Chinese and Indian spices.
One vendor walked us through the many dishes she had prepared, lifting the stainless lids off simmering pots of conch, lobster, and Crabbacks. With each reveal, a powerful, spicy scent wafted from under the lid.
Among other things, we had the red snapper, cooked perfectly as it was cradled in an aluminum-foil pack then placed on the hot grill. The fish steamed inside the pack, retaining moisture and imparting the flavors of the marinade throughout the process. The fish arrived whole and perfectly seasoned with lemon, ginger, and coriander. Each dish came with crisp, fried plantains, creamy macaroni and cheese with a thick layer of bubbly cheese crusted on top, a fresh green salad, banana salad, and a piece of fried bread lightly sweet and a perfect tool for soaking up any remaining drags of the flavorful sauce that escaped the fish.
The fishermen stand tall in a St. Lucian-made fishing boat, designed for the sole purpose of net fishing. Their dark, lean figures provide a stunning contrast against the brilliant blue sky. For many on the island, fishing is their way of living. With no days off and their livelihood dependent on the sea, they work tirelessly using the techniques that have been passed on from generation to generation.
The process is simple compared to the methods used in larger commercial operations, but the results and beauty of the St. Lucian style of net fishing can not compare.
In the elongated, brightly colored boats unique to St. Lucia, one man runs the engine, another dumps out water by the bucketful, while the others toss strips of thinly shaved coconut bark into the clear blue-green water with the purpose of attracting fish.
If a school of fish is spotted, one or two of the men on board will jump out of their brightly colored boat into the water to scare the fish into their defensive position — a closely packed school. The fishermen who are now in the water splash around mimicking a very large fish or shark. If all is going according to plan and a large school is forming, those remaining on the boat will begin to toss the large intricately wrapped net into the water to surround the school.
The boat circles around the fish as the men in the water continue to splash, as playful children do, mimicking an attack or intruder. When the time is right, the men on the boat begin pulling in the net in a steady graceful motion. The years of experience show in this process. As the net size whittles down, the swimmers jump back into the boat and help in the difficult process of pulling in the heavy net. Sometimes, the bounty is large and other times, they may have gone through that entire process for only one, two, or no fish at all.
For the people on St. Lucia, sustainability isn't a trendy topic or a popular fad, it is a necessity and a way of life. Everything that is caught is used. Even the small fish that contain very little flesh are used to create a “fish broth” — a nutritionally dense stew of sorts that is very common in St. Lucia. Our water-taxi driver, who escorted us on this trip, spoke of the health benefits of this broth and seeing many fishermen reeling in dozens of small fish, we were quick to realize that this fish broth is a very popular dish on the island.
We were out in the early morning when the tropical air still had a slight coolness about it and already, by that point, the fishermen had been working for hours. Just as the sun was settling into it's mid-morning routine, the fishermen were met by other local villagers on the beach who had come to help pull the heavy boat to shore and inspect their morning's catch.
Seeing the birth of this cuisine — from sea to plate — gave us an even deeper appreciation of the freshness of the seafood we greatly enjoyed throughout our time on the island. For many on St. Lucia, life is simple, yet hard. They work to live, then enjoy their time away from the sea by eating the fruits of their labor and sharing it with their people. There isn’t this incessant drive for great wealth or desire for more, in its place are simplicity, joy, and a lot of great fish.
Our search for good food began the moment we stepped off the airplane. Driving through narrow, windy roads, in between bracing ourselves and gasping at the closeness of the oncoming cars, we asked our driver where he preferred to eat. “Julietta’s” he immediately replied. He named a few others, but he came back to Julietta’s. “You’ll have a great meal at Julietta’s.”
As soon as we could we made a reservation at Julietta’s, located at the top of the hill in Marigot Bay. The view greeted us when we got there and we were happy to have made early reservations in order to catch the breathtaking sunset that filled the sky with pinks, oranges, and reds contrasting against the still blue sky.
The setting was simple, as was the service. Seeking a more authentic experience, I actually preferred that.
Fresh fish and seafood filled the menu, prepared simply and accompanied with plenty of ground provisions - the term used for what we would say, “root vegetables.”
Conch fritters and fish cakes arrived beautifully golden and wrapped in a light batter that highlighted their freshness. With a generous squeeze of lime and dip into an herby and bright tartar sauce, it felt genuine to the flavors of the islands.
Our Mahi Mahi was simply grilled with lemon butter with a side of Creole sauce - a tomato based sauce, perfectly spiced and deeply complex.
We were honored to have met with Julietta after she had prepared for us an incredible St. Lucian feast. She spoke humbly about her skills, but was bursting with pride as she gushed about the bounty of produce and fresh ingredients available to her directly from the island.
She spoke softly as she described her simple application of lemon, butter and white pepper to the Mahi Mahi. But, when speaking of the freshness of the fish, her face lit up and she beamed as she spoke of all the hard-working locals who deliver their produce and seafood to her every day.
We walked away from Julietta’s feeling delightfully full from a great meal and a better understanding of the culture surrounding the food on this lush island.
Our boat pulled up against the shore. A few feet to our right, a St. Lucian local with long dreadlocks and bright eyes threw a simple line into the water. “He’s fishing.” Our guide said. Had he not pointed it out, I’m sure I would have missed it as his set up was an uncomplicated line with a bit of scraggly bait, acquired from an earlier catch, tied to the end. We watched for a few moments as he managed to catch a fish no more than four inches long with thin blue stripe running along its back.
We left the fisherman on the beach as we headed into the clear water, donned with snorkeling masks and the hope of seeing for ourselves some of the fish the fisherman was hoping to catch.
Our bodies floated with ease in the salty Caribbean sea as the sun warmed and as we later found out, burned our backs. The silence allowed all my attention to be focused on the dozens of types of tropical fish that swam inches away. The more intensely I looked, the more I saw, as some fish nearly blended right into the sand of the ocean floor, while others ducked into the little caverns found in the coral.
I felt as if I was floating in a pristine aquarium overflowing with fish in bright yellow, blue, and orange coats.
Returning to the beach, we once again met up with our fisherman friend, who at this point had cooked some of his catch from before.
In the shade of palm trees, over a hot fire and a grill that looked like it had been very well used, he simply placed the fish on the fire then let the flames aggressively char the skin until the fish was nearly blackened.
With our legs immersed in the cool, blue sea, we peeled back the charred skin and ate throwing the innards and bones back to the water. The fish itself was deeply smokey, perfectly salty and fresher than any fish I had ever eaten.
Prior to the trip to St. Lucia, I spent countless hours scouring sources for the best places to visit. Those who know me well (or not even very well at all) would not be surprised to hear that my research centered pretty exclusively on food.
The Coal Pot appeared over and over, quickly catapulting it to the top of the list.
As we sat down to our corner table with the water nearly reaching our toes, we immediately knew we had made a great selection.
The menu was presented by the waitress on a large chalk board and read as you would hope it to. A selection of beautiful starters followed by a list of fresh fish topped with a sauce of your choice and served with rice and steamed local vegetables. A true reflection of St. Lucian cuisine.
We ordered red snapper. Perfectly flaky with a rich, well-seasoned sauce of coconut curry. A light buttery white rice sits next to the fish and is perfect for scooping up the last drags of sauce.