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Dining out on Guadeloupe is an adventure in itself, as you may see from the following paragraphs. The service is wonderful (almost always) and the food is marvelous. We have given our description and interpretation of our experiences. We note that others have had different experiences in the same places, so you can expect yours to be different as well. Our visit was in February of 1996. With the passage of time, our descriptions will become less accurate, and you should take into account changes in ownership, closings of some places, and increases in prices. All prices are given in French francs. Check for current exchange rates before you go; the amounts given should be a guide, but are not etched in stone.
Sometimes dining out is an adventure, and adventure is certainly what some people seek.
Your Civilized Explorer team found adventure at La Toubana Hotel and Restaurant on our trip in February of 1996.
The location of La Toubana is problematic. It is perched high on a cliff and has spectacular views and wonderful sunsets. It is, however, perhaps the second windiest place on Grande Terre (with Pointe des Chateaux the undisputed first place holder). People who have stayed there have told us that they never left their rooms except to go somewhere else because of the ocean breezes.
We dropped by La Toubana for dinner about 8:00 pm. This is a problem, because that is when the rush for dinner starts on Guadeloupe. They had only one table available, and it was in the draftiest place in the dining room and was in a potted palm. As I sat in the chair in the palm, the gale whipped the fronds into a frenzy, and I was lashed about the head and shoulders. A couple at an adjoining table were reduced to tears of laughter as I struggled to stay in my chair as the palm buffeted me. (I have given up all thoughts of visiting the Philippines on Easter; but that is another story.) A request for another table was politely refused.
The room was filled to capacity, and the service was very rushed although our waiter was very polite. Several people ordered lobsters, and we could hear the loud whacking of a wooden mallet issuing from the kitchen. At one point the crustaceans seemed to have the upper hand -- there was loud shouting from the kitchen, and two of the waiters ran in apparently to quell the uprising. We each ordered fish, about 100 F each and a half liter of Muscadet for 60 F. It was hurriedly brought and dropped on the table, and our waiter went running off for other tables. We ordered desert for 90 F for the two of us, and again the service was brief. Even though the dining room was half empty by the time we were having desert, the waiters were still operating on a run, and we never understood the rush. When we finally got our bill, it had an extra item added to it, but we straightened that out with no problems.
We have no recollection of the food, so it was not bad. We do not discourage people from dining here. It is not always this windy. We do recommend that you come here before sunset and enjoy the glorious views.
AN ASIDE: This meal was on 2 February 1996. Our waiter was from St. Martin. He told us that with all the destruction by the hurricane on St. Martin, many people in the service industry were unemployed and were trying to leave the island for work elsewhere. He considered himself lucky as he was married to a Guadeloupeanne, and he could come and work in Guadeloupe. Others on St. Martin were not so fortunate.
A small restaurant calling itself the Coconuts was located just outside the gardens of the Hotel Marissol, so we dropped by one night for dinner. The grill is at the door, and the chef waved us over to a table on the other side of the door. A waiter soon came over and took our order. The fish of the day was vivaneau (red snapper) for 90 F, and we also asked for grilled chicken for 60 F. The waiter brought our water and a half liter of red wine (30 F), and we settled in to wait for our order. The chef laid on more charcoal and brought out his hair dryer to fan the coals. We waited some more. We waited a long time, in fact. Uncooked food piled up on the counter, where the chef was blow drying his coals. Would- be diners upstairs began to complain loudly. The owner and a waiter came over to the counter and began a long, noisy discussion with the chef. It lasted several minutes. The upstairs customers came downstairs and joined in the harangue. Eventually, they demanded that the owner call them a taxi, and they stood in the door immediately next to our table, harrumphing, stomping around, and waiting vociferously for their cab. We waited silently for our dinner.
Eventually, the uncooked orders cleared out, while we watched the stack of plates being delivered to other customers. Then there were no more uncooked orders. The chef went over to the owner and complained loudly. The argument was somewhat briefer this time, and more food was delivered for cooking, was cooked, and was delivered. Two more orders were cooked and placed on the shelf, but yet another argument started with the owner and cook. We cooled our heels waiting for our food. The food on the shelf cooled, waiting to be delivered. Finally, the owner noticed the food, asked around the staff, discovered it was ours, and brought it over with apologies.
We asked a foursome at another table if they had eaten at Coconuts before. Yes, they said, this was their third time. The food was always good, but tonight was unusual. Things were going wrong.
We tried again another night. We ordered two grilled lobsters at 33 F per kilogram and a half liter of white wine for 50 F. This night the chef spent all his time yelling at the owner instead of the other way around. Basil and Juan got along much better than these two people. I think John Cleese got many of his script ideas at the Coconuts. We were given a card entitling us to free aperitifs, but we somehow never found time to return for a third round.
But let us go on to better things. Most of the restaurants on Guadeloupe serve world class food with world class service. We particularly invite you to dine at the local creole restaurants. Two are worth special mention.
Le Taraminier is located on the main street going through St. Claude on Basse Terre. You might want to have lunch there after you have spent the morning touring that wing of Guadeloupe. It is open later than many of the restaurants and is a family- style creole restaurant. The day we ate there, there were three items available -- beef, fish, and a goat curry, each complete with vegetables, and each costing 68 F. We ordered the beef and the fish. The beef was very tender and surrounded by local root vegetables. The fish was grilled whole and served with the same vegetables. The fare was tasty and well- appreciated. The dining room was large and although we were having a late lunch, several tables were still occupied by people lingering after their meal with their beer or wine. (We had tried the goat curry on another visit, and it was tender and good.) Recommended.
We also recommend Chez Doudou just outside Le Moule on Grande Terre. Chez Doudou (creole for Sweetheart) is in a house surrounded by a pleasant veranda with a view of the ocean across the highway. We each ordered the same Salade Moulienne for 50 F each and shared a tarte au coco for 28 F. The salads were delicious, and the tarte was breathtakingly good. Chez Doudou is open for lunch and dinner, and there seems to be dancing on the weekends.
We have enjoyed lunch at this restaurant many times in the past, and we were happy to find that the owner has expanded the restaurant and is doing very well. Kotésit is on the water in St. Francois and is a very pleasant place for lunch. We ordered the fixed price fish for 115 F and the fixed price beef for 160 F. Both menus included a salad, vegetables, and desert. A couple at one table ordered a lobster, so the chef put on plastic sandals, waded out into the ocean to the cage where they are kept, and brought one back to the diners for approval.
This is an interesting place on the highway between Le Gosier and Ste. Anne (on the left if you are heading toward Ste. Anne). It was once a house, and it is decorated in a very quirky style. The waitresses wear skirts that match the tablecloths. The service and food are excellent. We ordered duck for 140 F and filet de boeuf for 160 F, along with a half bottle of Haut- Médoc for 70 F. The food was delicious, and we went for desert. Their menu states that two items take ten minutes to prepare. They lie. We ordered the ciele and the tartelette and timed the delivery at thirty minutes, but it was worth every minute of the wait. Excellent deserts, one for 55 F and the other 50 F. Recommended.
We also found a very nice restaurant by the side of the road just before you cross the bridge going into Ste. Anne from Le Gosier. It is on the right and has a sign on the side of the road for Chez Elles. The grilled salmon and the entrecote were both 115 F. The entrecote was very generous in size and delicious. Both dishes were served with very good vegetables. A half bottle of Cotes du Rhone was 50 F, and we saved room for chocolate cake with ice cream at 40 F. Recommended.
There are several restaurants within walking distance of the Hotels Fleur d'Epee and Marissol. Walking toward the Marina at Bas du Fort, you'll find L'Albatros and La Grande Pizzeria on the oceanside where you can dine overlooking the bay between Grande Terre and Basse Terre with La Soufriere in the background. The food and service are acceptable if not exciting. Across the road from these restaurants you will find Ristorante Rosini, a nice Italian restaurant with a staff which is capable of helping those who are not fluent in French. Recommended.
Walking in the other direction, toward the "centre ville," you will find a few more restaurants of somewhat better quality and Le Mahona, a much better restaurant. The service and food are excellent, and the staff is very helpful for non French speaking persons. For comparison with Chez Deux Gros, we ordered duck (115 F) and Filet de Boeuf (140 F). The presentation and quality were noticeably better, as was the flavor, even though the prices were somewhat lower. Our wine was a half bottle of Breuilly for 80 F, and we had two deserts totalling 90 F. Le Mahona also offers fixed price menus in several price ranges. Highly recommended.
AN ASIDE: We ate at Le Mahona three times during our stay. If you find a restaurant that you enjoy a great deal, go back. The staff will remember you, and you will receive extra attention. The third time we went was Friday night, and the tables were all reserved. We apologized for not having made reservations, and the manager refused to let us leave, seating us at a table that had been set for four and providing the usual excellent, unhurried service.
Lobsters at Le Mahona are kept in a pool with a fountain, located in the dining room. You will know someone has ordered lobster when you see two waiters approach the pool from opposite sides, one carrying a small tray. The other waiter tries to shoo the lobsters over to the waiter with the tray. There may be some splashing over the sides of the pool, and poolside tables can get a very interesting bit of entertainment watching the waiters chase after the critters. Eventually, one is caught and placed on the tray for approval by the ordering customer.
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