Malliouhana Hotel 7876

Domino effect - a gourmet guide to Anguilla - Anguilla

Where to stay

Anguilla Great House Beach Resort Modest, affordable, cottage-style, beachfront accommodation on Rendezvous Bay with pool (and much-praised rum punch), bar and restaurant. Doubles from £174.Willow Lane, Rendezvous Bay, 00 1 264 497 6061,

Aurora Anguilla This luxurious resort complex, divided between two bays, always feels intimate. Rooms, suites and villas are beautifully furnished and there’s masses to do should you tire of lazing in the sun, from golf to ball games, children’s water park and a new entertainment amphitheatre. Not least, breakfast is tip-top. Doubles from £766. Rendezvous Beach, 00 1 800 210 6444,

A room at the Aurora Anguilla Resort

Carimar Beach Club Located on Meads Bay, one of Anguilla’s loveliest beaches, spacious one- and two-bed villas are only a few steps from the sand, with fully equipped kitchens and personalised service. Deservedly award-winning and excellent value. One-bedroom villa from £350. Meads Bay, 00 1 264 497 6881,

Frangipani Resort Caribbean-style decor in 19 rooms and suites plus a four- bedroom villa frame the surrounds of beautiful Meads Bay. There’s no lack of sports and amenities but the beach and pool demand constant attention. The Straw Hat restaurant is popular and unpretentious. Doubles from £306. West End Village, 00 1 264 497 6442,

Malliouhana It’s not hard to believe the glamorous ocean-front resort was originally built as a sumptuous private residence – staff greet arrivals with song and a rum punch, the glass mosaic floor turns you into Rogers and Astaire and furnishings are gorgeous as is the cascading infinity pool with dramatic views. Don’t miss the Sunday evening set by local chanteuse Jenique. Doubles from £657. Meads Bay, 00 1 844 815 9207,

The Manoah Boutique Hotel Bang on the beach, the smart but unpretentious medium-sized hotel has a fine swimming pool, warm and helpful staff and a powerful Miami Vice cocktail. Doubles from £461. Shoal Bay East, Shoal Bay Village, 00 1 264 498 5900,

Viewfort Estate This gorgeous boutique retreat with views over Crocus Bay Beach was once a family home and retains a strong sense of colonial heritage. If you’re looking for luxurious seclusion and personal care, complete with private chef, for a group of family or friends, this is the place. Entire villa (sleeps 18 adults) from £6,300 (minimum three-night stay). Smaller, non-exclusive groups can be accommodated on request. Old Court House Road, Crocus Hill, The Valley, 00 1 264 497 8700,

From left: Rendezvous breeze cocktail from the lobby bar, Aurora Anguilla; serving plates at Pope's BBQ & Grill; Viewfort Estate

Travel Information

Anguilla is the most northerly island of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, lying around 240km east of Puerto Rico and 14km north of St Martin. As a British Overseas Territory, the official language is English and islanders drive on the left. Approx. 26km long from east to west and 5km at its widest point, you can easily drive from one end to the other in around 45 minutes. The capital is The Valley and currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, although US Dollars are widely accepted. Time is four hours behind GMT. The best way to fly there is via Antigua, with a flight time of nine hours, from where you can take a one-hour flight to Anguilla.

British Airways offer flights from London Gatwick to Antigua.
Virgin Atlantic also fly from Gatwick to Antigua.

Visit Anguilla is the national tourist board, with plenty of advice to help you plan your trip, with details of how to get there, how to get around, and what to explore.

Clockwise from left: The Manoah boutique Hotel; a gardener tends Aurora Anguilla's hydroponic garden on stilts; head gardener Rohan; Malliouhana's beach restaurant Leon's at Meads Bay

Where to eat

Prices are per person for three courses, excluding drinks, unless stated.

From left: preparing ceviche at the Malliouhana hotel’s elegant restaurant Celeste; conch is the star of this ceviche plate; Aurora Anguilla’s culinary director Michele Greggio; refreshments at Viewfort served after a hiking and caving expedition; lobster cake at popular roadside restaurant Sharky’s

Blanchards The stylish restaurant, whose walls are hung with original artwork, has been a fixture on Anguilla’s dining scene since 1994. The cooking is polished and innovative with strong bold flavours – don’t miss grouper Niçoise, citrus chicken and the celebrated ‘ultimate carrot cake’. The award-winning wine list has over 300 selections. From £44. Meads Bay, 00 1 264 497 6100,

The Lobster House Anguilla’s new hotspot is an offshoot of the legendary SunShine Shack in Rendezvous Bay. Owners Garvey and Leon Lake have a loyal following and, aided by consultant chef George Reid, the range of fish and seafood dishes is set to be a winner. Sautéed red snapper with garlic and thyme, and lobster and citrus salad have already been much praised. From £60. Main Road, South Hill, 00 1 263 498 0649 Celeste The elegant restaurant at Malliouhana resort stretches along the terraced cliffs overlooking the sea. Fresh seasonal produce is highlighted and a superb wine list goes into four figures. For more laid-back moments they also have Leon’s on the beach – you’ll have to struggle from your hammock to your Johnny cake burger and rum punch. From £57. Meads Bay, 00 1 844 815 9207,

Millhouse Café Bar & Bistro The small café and bakery is a popular spot for breakfast and morning coffee, pancakes and pumpkin spice frappuccino. Brunch from £15. Rte 1, West End Village, 00 1 264 235 6455

Ocean Echo An airy, comfortable beach restaurant with good pizza, salads and a fine chicken pot pie as well as more refined dinner dishes such as baked panko herb-crusted mahi mahi fillet. From £35. Meads Bay, 00 1 264 498 5454, oceanechoanguillacom

Oliva Whichever of Aurora Anguilla hotel’s multiple restaurants you choose, the standard of food is exemplary. Culinary director Michele Greggio brings a genius touch to dishes in the flagship, Italian-influenced Oliva, as well as to Tokyo Bay sushi, D Richard’s steakhouse and more. From £64. Rendezvous Beach, 00 1 264 498 2000,

Pope’s BBQ & Grill The tiny, backyard restaurant next to the Four Seasons car park is one of the best stops for excellent barbecue chicken and smoky ribs. Homespun, welcoming with a very local vibe and great value. Open at weekends – just turn up. Heaped plate with sides from around £10. Four Seasons Drive, West End

Sandy Island A desert-island dream reached by boat, the wooden restaurant on a spit of land serves lunches of grilled crayfish, snapper and juicy ribs, to the sound of steel-pan music on Sundays. Don’t forget your snorkel. From £55. The Valley, Sandy Island, 00 1 264 6534,

Sharky’s This ever busy roadside restaurant, run by the gracious Mr Lowell Hodge, feels like the extension of a private home. Try velvety cinnamon- spiced pumpkin soup and signature jalapeño shrimp and lobster risotto. From £60. Rte 1, West End Village, 00 1 264 729 0059

From the left: a fruit and veg stall; from the barbecue; a lobster catch; crayfish and lobster on the grill

Food Glossary

Axa Ale
This light ale by local company AXA Brewing Company launched in 2018 but already has a loyal following on the island
Barbecue and jerk chicken
Widely served on the island with the signature Scotch bonnet, allspice and thyme marinade and occasionally nutmeg too. Unlike Jamaican jerk, which traditionally uses green pimento firewood, here varieties grown on the island – wild mango, tamarind and seagrape – are more commonly used. Expect huge portions
Bush tea
Traditional brew made with lemongrass, basil and bayberry
Both the name of a soup and the spinach-like leafy vegetable with which it is made
Although brewed in Trinidad, this full-bodied, golden lager is very popular in Anguilla
Calsberg Elephant
Expect malty notes and a lot of kick
Pronounced ‘konk’, this calamari-like white seafood comes from a large sea snail. The meat is often cooked into fritters, with onions, peppers and coriander
Anguillian crayfish is the pride of the island. Usually simply grilled with garlic or lemon butter – unmissable
Curry goat ‘stew’
Because Anguilla is so small, goats are among the few animals raised on the island and usually prepared as a stew. Curried chicken is also popular
Found in many soups and stews and usually made with a cornmeal dough
Johnny cakes
Crispy baked or fried bread buns made with cornmeal, flour and a little sugar. A staple food on the island – some hotels organise Johnny cake cookery sessions
Soft drink made from the tree bark of the same name, aka buckthorn. It can be bought concentrated or pre-diluted and carbonated
Rice ’n’ peas/peas and rice
The name varies according to the predominance of the main ingredient. It’s usually made with pigeon peas but can also be found with kidney beans
Rum cake
Traditional rum and spice cake, with or without fruit
Rum punch
Recipes and complexity vary but the classic formula is ‘one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak’, referring to lime, syrup, rum and water
Salt cod
Fried for breakfast with onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic or made into fish balls
Spiny lobster
Usually simply grilled with garlic or lemon butter, it also makes a rich, velvety soup
Sugar cakes
Little sweetmeats made with coconut and ginger
Tamarind balls
Addictive sweet-sour balls made with tamarind pulp and rolled in sugar

Food and Travel Review

From the left: The Manoah Boutique Hotel's barbequed crayfish, rice and peas; Aurora Anguilla chef John Khallenda; Shoal Bay Beach

Click-clack. Clack-click. Slap, slam and shuffle. Raucous truly ‘green’ one in the Caribbean, and most people recognise the shouts. Muttered expletives. Waiting for the catch to arrive, the fast-moving, daily domino game is in exuberant progress on Sandy Ground Beach. There will be line-caught, sweet-tasting grouper and red snapper landed later in the day along with spiny lobster caught in arrow-head traps. Skilled divers harvest Anguilla’s unique crayfish, so luscious you could eat your own bodyweight in the creamy flesh encased in their ochre and terracotta Missoni-patterned shells. At one time, the return of the fishing fleet was heralded by the blowing of conch shells.

Everywhere under the surreal, molten Caribbean sun there are the soft sounds of the sea, cool trade winds arriving from their long Atlantic journey plus the seductive rhythms of reggae, soca and calypso. As Anguilla’s legendary Rasta musician and poet Bankie Banx, growls in his iconic song Still in Paradise, this is the place for just ‘sitting here doin’ some quality time’.

Pool meets ocean at the Malliouhana

Bankie has also been active in environmental issues. On his home patch of the tiny Leeward Island, he has campaigned to protect the beautiful Rendezvous Bay dune where he has built a funky-cool beach bar, The Dune Preserve, out of driftwood and shipwrecked boats. The island’s government aims to be the first truly 'green' one in the Caribbean, and most people recognise the negative lure of mass market tourism that often comes with global food and hotel chains. In fact, Anguilla’s very remoteness and historic lack of presence on the colonial and commercial stage have probably worked in her favour. Unlike some other islands in the sun, they understand the need to balance the tension between development and exploitation.

Baked Anguillian seafood

The name Anguilla means ‘eel’ and refers to the narrow serpentine shape of the island fringed by 33 crowd-free beaches (yes, they’ve been counted). Fanned by refreshing trade winds, they have their own mood and character, from the lonely and majestic to the broad and hospitable, from Robinson Crusoe islets to the exquisite ivory coves at the Malliouhana hotel, which vanish from time to time with the tides. There are havens for green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles on the crushed coral sands, bleached bone-white, soft as butter, fine as face powder. The startlingly clear sea constantly dazzles with the occasional ruffle of white surf, and impossibly turquoise waters are painted with stripes of azure, indigo and navy like a Pantone colour chart.

Sandy island

The largely flat interior of the island is dotted with timber-framed or post-hurricane concrete cottages painted in Creole greens, pinks and blues with corrugated red roofs; nearer the coast, fabulous designer villas are sheltered by palms, bougainvillea, white cedar and the aromatic flowers of wild lantana. On the eastern side, a narrow channel and fast currents separate Anguilla from her more boisterous French-Dutch neighbour St Martin/Maarten.

Islanders have a genuine friendliness and courtesy, placing great value on being hard-working, entrepreneurial and respectful, and family and church remain the twin pillars of life. Food too. Everyone likes to eat, dine out and talk about what they’re eating. From upscale to down-home, you are unlikely to get a poor or meanly portioned meal. And this unpretentious hospitality and generosity is matched with unaffected friendliness. At the opening night of The Lobster House restaurant, the smart new venture is celebrated with preacher and prayers; owner Garvey Lake throws his arms around diners and cries, ‘Come back and let us shower you with love!

Island-born George Reid helped launch this latest addition to Anguilla’s already impressive reputation as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Having worked in many Michelin-starred restaurants, the softly-spoken, modest chef is on a mission to ensure a future in the culinary arts for the young people of the island.

‘I visit schools to get the kids interested,’ he says. ‘It’s satisfying work but I always emphasise that just because we have few natural resources it’s no excuse to be lazy – in fact, it’s an incentive to be more creative. The way my mother cooked is still the basis of what I do.’

George talks sincerely about his love of foraging, roaming the fields and forests inhabited by wild chickens and goats, and the treasure trove of fish and seafood to be found in the surrounding waters. ‘It’s important to look at the natural world around you and not just rely on expensive imports,’ he says, referring to the produce that comes from the US and Europe. Most hotels and restaurants offer a degree of refined international fare such as the superb sushi and Italian food at the Aurora Anguilla, but there is no shortage of sophisticated takes on pan-Caribbean cooking too: at the Malliouhana, for example, perfect ceviche is made table-side with local mahi mahi.

Local cafés and rum shacks serve more affordable ribs, wings and rice ’n’ peas – there’s even one friendly family who offer a weekend barbecue on their front porch – but you will meet the same high standard of cooking and hospitality, in their own way, as you will in the super-exclusive, super-sybaritic, super-luxury (and super-expensive) hotels that dot the coast.

Josephine Gumbs-Connor, the vivacious and enterprising bearer of a historic island surname and owner of the idyllic Viewfort Estate and boutique hotel, says the all-inclusive model would not work on little Anguilla. ‘We have such a rich offering of food on the island, and there’s great support from both residents and visitors. We’re so small, it’s easy to eat out,’ she says. In the past, poor soil meant only staples such as peas, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and bananas were grown: goats and chickens were the sole livestock. Today, it’s a different story and more growers are cultivating crops of fabulous fresh fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs. The immaculate hydroponic, lush gardens and greenhouses of Aurora Anguilla hotel – 15 varieties of lettuce? No problem – is the leading exemplar of skilful horticulture and high-tech systems. Rohan, the green-fingered and zealous head gardener, controls his verdant kingdom remotely and precisely on his cell phone, yet old tricks are not forgotten either: pickers use folkloric carnival stilts to harvest the high-strung tomato vines.

Although there is a degree of competition between the island chefs and cooks, it is a co-operative one that reflects the island’s close-knit community, showcased in May’s Anguilla Culinary Experience. This jamboree of talented chefs from the island and beyond sees them serving epicurean menus and battling it out in mystery basket competitions. More down-home events take place in April at the Festival Del Mar with all things seafood, a deep sea fishing competition, crab racing, music and fun, and the ever-buzzing summer Welches Festival where old-school foods such as sham, sugary ground roasted corn, are made the traditional way (without electricity), corn soup is cooked over fire and Johnny cakes baked in metal drums. The latter are warm, doughnut-like buns that were once baked in stone beehive ovens, which are still occasionally used. So iconic are they that Johnny cakes have found their way on to upscale menus for breakfast and are served as savoury and sweet dishes such as Malliouhana’s super- tempting versions with dark chocolate sauce, rum and vanilla custard.

There’s as much friendly competition and secrecy over Johnny cake recipes and techniques as there are for barbecue sauce and rum punch. The shake and rattle of the cocktail shaker is also ever- present. At Aurora Anguilla, mixologist Karen has been whipping up eye-popping cocktails for over 17 years. Her signature is Rendezvous Breeze, made with vodka, blue Curaçao, lime juice, mint, basil and Sprite. At the Malliouhana, The Passionate is a voluptuous, mega- size concoction of rum, lime and bitters into which you can take a deep dive as the setting sun casts a glittering road to heaven over the darkling sea (it also makes you go all poetic)

The Manoah's Miami Vice cocktail, Meads bay; its dazzling waters

The island’s history has been somewhat chequered over the centuries, with Dutch, Spanish, French and British colonialists and settlers – an intriguing insight into 18th-century life can be found at Wallblake House near St Gerard’s Church in The Valley, a restored plantation house and museum. British heritage in the Overseas Territory is seen in left-hand driving, the language, love of cricket and a fondness for Spam and mashed potato, plus a wry curiosity about the fortunes of the royal family. Mostly, however, popular culture is heavily Americanised – you’re more likely to read a digest of The New York Times than a London newspaper.

Tourism is the most important industry – a new airport and marina will this year boost the national sport of yachting – followed by financial services. Fishing for snapper, mahi mahi, wahoo, yellowfin tuna and more remains small-scale and domestic, and historically, scant rainfall, along with the thin soil, meant cotton, tobacco and, most importantly, sugar largely failed to flourish. Rum was made, but although the potent Pyrat brand still exists, it is now produced in Guyana. Enterprising young entrepreneurs have started work on a new island rum, however: its advent is enthusiastically awaited.

Clockwise from far left: fruit rum producer Glo; blackberry and blackcurrent cheesecake; seagrapes; rum punch with lemongrass; rum cake with pineapple; from Aurora Anguilla's hydroponic garden; panzanella di tonno, Oliva; old favourite Pyrat; Millhouse chef Fabian

Another artisanal craft producer, the 71-year-old, no-nonsense matriarch Gloria Leveret, or Glo as she is known, decided after retirement to launch a range of naturally flavoured fruit rums, from passionfruit to mango, seagrape and tamarind, all grown locally. Although available around the island, it’s a vibrant experience to sample a rum and chocolate tasting at the Malliouhana, where they are paired with irresistible hand-made chocolates

Salt was once a significant source of national income, exported to Trinidad for use in the oil industry until the Eighties. Despite a small amount of tourist-focused pond-panning, it’s fallen to young Anguillian Josveek Huligar to develop his own method of extraction direct from the ocean, adding a range of flavours such as rosemary, thyme and red pepper. Just one crystal and you can taste the whole island.

From far left: night spot Lit Lounge; Queen Bees mead; Devon Carter from Anguilla National Trust

Queen Bees are a newly formed collective of women beekeepers with a potentially bright future too. Set up under the auspices of the Anguilla National Trust, with the hives located in some of the island’s nature reserves, the honey has a fine, deep, floral and spicy quality. An intense, warming mead they are also trialling will be another intriguing link to the Old World.

Yet on Anguilla, time goes its own way: it means you’re never really late, you just arrive in your own way. Every day is a beautiful one, whatever the forecast. No socks, no sleeves, just flip-flops and first names. The downy clouds and cobalt sky play hide and seek as you stand in the aquamarine waters and feel the ivory sand flow between your toes in tune with the little swells of sea and surf.

There are louder, wilder and glitzier islands in the Caribbean but people return here because it’s none of these things. It’s a gentle, dreamy place with an easy vibe where there’s always time for one more game of dominoes.

Meads Bay

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