The resorts and restaurants at Rodney Bay
An amazing culinary experience in the Caribbean
By Walter & Patricia Brooks
We have been island-hopping in the Caribbean for thirty years, visiting over twenty-five islands and countless resorts as well as bare-boat sailing there many times.
But we have never seen a more beautiful island or had better dining experiences than at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia over this past New Years holiday, and that despite being delayed three days by that Christmas blizzard.
One doesn't usually use the terms Caribbean and fine dining in the same sentence. We have been to dozens of these tropical paradises, and while they are all lovely, food was not the compelling reason for our visits.
Warm weather and white, sandy beaches lured us, or a chance to sail in winter and drop into posh resorts for lunch.
That's why our visit two weeks ago to St. Lucia was such a pleasant surprise.
Yes, the island's topography is probably the most impressive in this sea, and it even reminded us of our voyage to the Marquesas out in the middle of the Pacific.
But as eye-catching as St. Lucia's remarkable terrain is, and as upscale as the resorts are, it was the high quality of the dining which really blew us away.
In our ten days there we ate at a different restaurant every night, and they were all remarkably good.
First, the Rex resorts
We moved around to experience three different resorts in Rodney Bay at the northwest corner of St. Lucia.
First we stayed four days at the Royal by Rex Resorts.
Because we flew out during that dreadful January blizzard, and despite the very helpful professionals at JetBue like pilot Chris Lachendro and supervisor Larry Ridgeway who tried to get us to our connecting flight in time during a day of delays, our luggage didn't make the final leg of our flight from JFK.
But the shops at the Rex Resorts clothed us until JetBlue delivered our bags a day later, and gave us a couple $30 vouchers for our inconvenience which was not even their fault and paid for our new togs.
Why anyone flies any other airline is a mystery to me.
Gone are the days when you are limited to flying to these islands on the often shoddy American Eagle or LIAT etc. Locals say the latter airline's name was an abbreviation for "Leave Island Any Time."
Our first pleasant surprise at the Royal was the St. Lucian breakfast shown above on our first morning. I can't ever recall being offered a simple, native dish like this in a posh resort before.
This was a spicy combination of boiled salt fish with peppers and onions, plus a pole of cucumbers and herbs with two kinds of local bread called "bake."
The Royal is the more upscale of the two Rex resorts here, and they are connected by both the beach and a shaded walk because the St. Lucian by Rex has several shops and even a coffee bar and ice cream shop with two lovely ladies to serve you, Allison and Lucretia.
We stayed here for four days as well.
The restaurants at both Rex Resorts are great, and by Caribbean standards, really great.
The Royal has as fine a haute cuisine restaurant as any hotel in America called Chic. And for once the name truly suits the atmosphere as the photo on right demonstrates.
But equally rewarding was the Oriental restaurant at the St. Lucian.
My wife raved over the spa here as well.
After visiting over 110 countries and staying at a thousand resorts, we can highly recommend these. They managed to have all the amenities of great US and European resorts while still maintaining their unique St. Lucian character.
On to the Bay Gardens
A hundred yards up the beach from the Rex resorts is another excellent property. The Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa is owned by a St. Lucian, and it's mostly small apartments and suites.
It too had both a beachfront restaurant for dining and a separate fine dining bistro called Trios named for the combination of veggies with each entree.
This very beautiful resort also boasts a great spa where we each had a couples massage followed by champagne in a huge hot tub.
Where to eat
Perhaps the most delightful surprise at Rodney Bay was the number of first class restaurants within a five minute walk from our three hotels.
Buzz: Dining al frsco for dishes like Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shanks have become an addition to the regular menu. If you fancy something local try the Pepper Pot or Seafood Creole.
Edge: This was a remarkable restaurant. Sitting at a table hanging over the lively harbor and being offered everything from Sushi to steak.
Fire Grill: Is owned by Chef Bobo of the Edge, and features island specialties and grilled everything else. They are all excellent.
What to do
The island's tourist attractions include a drive-in volcano, Sulphur Springs (at Soufrière), the Botanical Gardens, the Majestic twin Peaks "The Pitons", A world heritage site, the rain forests, and Pigeon Island National Park, which is home to Fort Rodney, an old British military base.
This remarkable tropical paradise is less than thirty miles long but because of the torturous terrain and despite excellent roads, it takes almost two hours to drive from one end to the other.
While the official language is English, an Antillean Creole based on French is spoken by 80% of the population. Antillean Creole is increasingly used in literature and music, and is gaining official recognition. It evolved from French, African languages, and Carib.
The island nation has been the home of two Nobel laureates, Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott. It is the nation with the second most such honorees per capita in the world, and it has changed hands 14 times between Great Britain and France until gaining independence on George Washington's (and my wife's) birthday in 1979.