A la carte
Ceviche/Raw £14.00 - £22.00 | Small Plates £14.00 - £23.00
Mains £24 - £52 | Desserts £8.00 - £16.00
Cooking 8/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 5/5 | Value 3.5/5
After a car crash of a dinner at what was supposedly one of the best local eating places (see below), we approached nearby Baia with some trepidation. Well, what a difference a hundred yards and two days can make.
It's a slightly odd entrance, with a couple of ladies at a desk. But then you are dazzled with smiles brighter than the Caribbean sun, and the world is already a better place.. We are escorted upstairs to the tender care of Jessie. Not even she can take credit for the view, the moon highlighting pearly white flecks of surf breaking below us, but if service everywhere was like this, the world would be a better place.
How, I wondered, does a Peruvian themed restaurant come to be in Barbados? The answer, when you think about it, was laughably simple. It's because the Barbadian chef went to work in London. Whatever lessons he learned there, he learned them well.
The savoury part of the menu is in three sections, ceviche/raw; small plates; and mains. During our stay I had marvelled at the versatility of plantain. To the likes of thee and me, they look similar to bananas. (But which ones? There are over 100 species of banana in the world, and plantain fall into four groups, French, French Horn, False Horn and Horn. But we digress.) If on the island you are served crisps with a drink, they will almost certainly be plantain. How you get a banana look-alike crunchy and spicy is beyond me.
At Baia, you could have had them as a component of a ceviche, or forming a crust for your fish or, intriguingly, as a crispy patty for a topping of pulled pork and avocado mousse. The classic ceviche was bang on, the combination of lime and chilli in perfect balance. We also sampled some soft tacos with fish and yoghurt. Three wows.
We stuck with fish for mains. The day's catch was mahi mahi with that plantain crust and a cauliflower purée. Desperately trying to find something to criticise, I might comment that there is no point in serving a sweet potato tempura underneath the fish as it just goes soggy. More than compensated for by the excellent skinny fries. Tulemasi also featured mahi mahi. this time poached with a sauce of coconut and lime. In the wrong hands this could have been sickly. Anything but. And, on the side, you guessed it ... plantain purée.
With food this good I felt I'd be missing out if I skipped pud. Another learning experience. I guessed, wrongly, that Tiramisu de Lucuma might feature some local booze. The lucuma is in fact a rare Peruvian berry, one of the world's superfoods. With a taste both sharp and sweet, it just worked in the middle of a creamy dessert. One would have been surprised otherwise.
Strolling home replete in a balmy Bajan evening, the pervading thought was that life doesn't get much better.
Compare and contrast two days earlier.
Local & Co
Queens Street, Speightown, Barbados
In the taxi from the airport, this was the first place mentioned by our driver in his list of recommendations. The setting is spectacular. The previous week we had enjoyed a sundowner - as the sun dipped below the horizon in spectacular fashion. Booking a table for dinner seemed the logical thing to do.
Here's the first bizarre thing we learned when making the reservation. They have two menus, and where they seat you will depend on which menu you want to choose from. Eh? I have encountered this particular piece of stupidity once before, in Crieff, but put it down to the vagaries of 1990s highland hospitality. We were fobbed off with some guff about one menu just being light bites. Turned out not to be true.
Never mind, what could be better than freshly caught fish sizzled on a barbecue to order?
The next warning sign arrived the second we walked in the door. A lot of staff, nary a smile. Barbadians are among the most cheerful folk I know: this screamed of people unhappy at their work. L ordered a prawn curry. I went for my mind's eye dish of the day, grilled fish with triple cooked chips. We were seated at 7.35. Our food arrived at 7.36. The prawn curry was a starter size, with five medium pawns and precious little else. With service charge that's 38 quid to you, gov. My fish was edible but had been sitting for a long while. The triple cooked chips were U shaped, greasy and lukewarm. I rejected them. One minute later our highly embarrassed waitress returned. I would swear she was bearing the same portion which had simply been warmed up. Funnily enough, these went back too.
I think we were out of the place by five to eight. One of the worst meals of all time. Had I applied the usual Tom Eats! scoring system, they would have struggled to reach 7/25.
*$1 Barbadian is approximately £0.40