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Our annual round-up of our annual trip to St. Barthelémy has been published…Bon Voyage!

Our annual round-up of our annual trip to St. Barthelémy has been published…Bon Voyage!

10 Best Things About St. Barth’s Right Now

Staff Writer
Not even Hurricane Irma could keep this island down for long
As Hurricane Irma slammed the Caribbean last fall, dozens of islands fell in her path. The damage was extensive and widespread. Five months later, there are still parts of Puerto Rico without power. Barbuda is still a wasteland. Despite the devastation, some islands have recovered and rebuilt better than others. Among those, few have fared better than St. Barthelémy, the magic little eight-square-mile island that’s probably the most unique of all the Caribbean islands.

Image credit: Monte Mathews


St. Barths – population 9,000 – is at the end of ten-minute flight from St. Maarten, its nearest neighbor. St. Maarten’s airport was so completely destroyed by Irma that it will have to be torn down. At the moment, it’s operating out of a series of tents.  Flying in from New York on Jet Blue, the tent system worked well as passengers connected to their ongoing flights to St. Barths. Once there, the greatest surprise was how well the island has recovered. The devastated greenery has sprung back to life. The roads have been repaired and the roofs replaced.  There’s still plenty of work in progress. Granted, at this writing, not one of the luxury hotels on the island is open. Eden Rock, Le Guanahani, Sereno Beach, Ile de France, Le Toiny, and Hotel Christopher – are all taking the opportunity to completely rebuild. They’re also taking advantage of insurance policies which not only cover the hurricane damage but also make up for lost revenue.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Despite the absence of hotel rooms, visitors aren’t camping out on the island’s famous beaches. Luckily for us, the number one best thing about St. Barth’s are its villa rentals. And no one knows villas like WIMCO, the grandfather of all the villa rental agencies on the island.   WIMCO has the keys to over 350 villas of all shapes and sizes.  Ranging from one to seven or even eight bedrooms, almost all of WIMCO’s villas feature private pools, daily maid service and the most amazing concierge service. Your personal concierge  will cover every detail of your stay from making restaurant reservations to engaging private chefs for your completely equipped kitchen. Our stateside agent is Bethany Ludwick who can be reached at bludwick@wimco.com.  She knows all there is to know and has actually visited every single villa on the list.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Number two on our list of best of St. Barth is unquestionably our gorgeous grey Mini Cooper convertible. A car is pretty much an essential part of any visit to the island – although Uber is there for those who’d rather leave their nighttime driving to someone else. Our hands-down favorite car rental company is Oscar, whose service includes airport pick-ups and drop-offs and one bonus that’s hard to beat: Parking lots in downtown Gustavia where much of island life centers itself.  Email hello@oscarstbarth.com and ask for Philippe.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Number three is the largest supermarket on the island, Marché U. It’s part of a chain of 800 independent supermarkets. From delicatessen to fresh produce to a complete wine cellar and liquor store, if Marché U doesn’t have it, it probably doesn’t exist on the island. Its rotisserie chickens sell out early, and the pates, saucissons and cheeses are first rate.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Starting your day should involve a stop at numbers four or five. Morning croissants and baguettes for lunch are de rigeur at one of two La Petite Colombe bakeries, one high in the hills of Columbier, the other in the middle of L’Orient right by the beach.  Don’t overlook their selection of quiches, croques, and baguettes stuffed with sandwich fillings.

Then there’s the matter of eating out. Of all the Caribbean islands, none has a reputation for food like this little French paradise. In fact, the rest of our list contains the places we liked best, in no particular order.

Image Credit: Access Premium

Nowhere is the story of the island’s recovery more vivid than at an island newcomer that’s just swept in and won over everyone’s hearts and their stomachs too. Quartier General is catercorner from the Post Office in Gustavia. Its proprietor, Hervé Chovet, lost his waterfront “Côté Port” in the storm. He quickly re-grouped and in a staggeringly short space of time actually built this new café-restaurant. His staff not only came with him, but they also had a hand in putting the new place together by painting and installing the banquettes and getting the superb kitchen up and running. Open for both lunch and dinner, count on traditional French cooking and unquestionably the best frites on the island.   There are also some familiar dishes that made its predecessor famous like pasta with shrimp and lobster and curried shrimp with rice that’s out of this world. To top it all off, an average check comes to fifty-eight Euros – a bargain on pricey St. Barths. Call 590 590 87 41 36 for reservations.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Not to be outdone in the ‘done over’ category, Bonito re-created its glorious blue and white interiors and looks as spiffy as ever. Its beach house design is matched only by its cooking. The chef, Laurent Cantineaux is back in this kitchen creating his South American favorites along with French classics from his time at Troisgros in Roannes and in Daniel Boulud’s kitchens in New York.  Host Nicholas Gicquel treats everyone like a personal friend.  It’s the only restaurant with a view of Gustavia, and after dinner, you can sink into one of the sofas and listen to the house DJ’s selections. Call 590 590 27 96 96 or go to ilovebonito.com for reservations

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Orega, which means “it’s mine”, quickly established itself as one of our island favorites on our first visit last year. We’re happy to report that it’s every bit as good as we remembered. The restaurant serves Franco-Japanese cuisine leaning on the Japanese half of the equation. It’s hard to imagine a more welcoming host than Greg who has assembled a team of stellar servers. The chef, Rizal, is renowned for his knowledge of Japanese cooking garnered from stints at Nobu in Miami and Zuma in Dubai.  In quite a feat, the restaurant features Japanese imports such as daikon, dashi, katsuobushi, Alaskan king crab, hamachi, and toro.We couldn’t get enough of the Tuna Tataki, and the Chocolate Bombe for dessert is a show on its own. Call 590 590 52 45 31 or visit www.oregarestaurant.com.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Much to our horror, our favorite pizza place has become so popular, it’s now by reservation only!  Isoletta calls itself a “Roman-style” pizzeria, which it sells by the slice or by the meter.  It’s almost impossible to choose what flavor to go with, so try them all.  In addition to some really great thin-crusted pies, there’s also lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and paninis made up of whatever the chef finds in the local markets. Couple any of these with a glass of the Italian wine the place specializes in and dinner at one of the low tables on the covered terrace is complete.  You just have to remember to reserve: Call 590 590 52 02 02.

Image credit: Monte Mathews

Le Tamarin has to be given high marks for its recovery too. The beautiful garden around which the whole restaurant was designed had to be completely replaced after Irma. Miraculously, it’s just as enchanting as it was before the storm. The atmosphere, service, and food are all sensational here.  The proprietors, Julie and Paco, go out of their way to make their guests feel more than welcome and the menu is really superb. La Planche Tamarin is a wonderful way for a table to start dinner. With its raw yellowfin tuna, beignets of eggplant with anchovies, and its grilled French baguette topped with cheese and ham, it’s a perfect share. Also available for sharing is a black Angus roast and a salt-crusted local catch of the day. All in all, Le Tamarin is the restaurant people are often drawn back to, even on the same one-week vacation schedule.Visit www.tamarinstbarth.com for more information.

That’s our list for 2018.  If you can slip away, take a week in St. Barths. In no time at all, it will be the off-season, but we can almost guarantee nothing will be off except the prices.



4 thoughts on “Our annual round-up of our annual trip to St. Barthelémy has been published…Bon Voyage!”

  • Inquiring minds want to know if any of the services you received were complimentary – e.g. your villa and auto rental.
    Merci

    • Absolutely not. However, I feel these two businesses should be singled out for the extraordinary service I have always received from both WIMCO and Oscar. I have used ‘the other’ villa rental agency and several different car rental companies in my 28 visits to the island. No one came close to the superb service I’ve gotten from WIMCO and Oscar. Anecdotally, this year, the island suffered a complete breakdown in WiFi service that lasted for 3 days. It was impossible to use credit cards or get money from any bank. WIMCO came through with as many Euros as we wanted. Even more astonishingly, friends of ours using ‘the other’ villa rental agency were told there was nothing they could do help them out. But guess who did? WIMCO when they went to check out villas for next year.

    • I think that’s fair. The Daily Meal, where this was first published, is all about Food. So when I talk about the 10 Best, it’s understood that I’m talking mainly about food. And my blog as you can see is all about Food, Wine and Travel. Thanks for taking the time to comment. All best, Monte

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