Fine dining on St. Martin

One of the highlights of my recent week spent on the Caribbean island St. Martin was a series of amazing dining experiences.

Since 1648, the island has been split in two, with one side the French St. Martin and the other the Dutch Sint Maarten. My friends and I stayed in a villa on the French side, and we were stunned by the quality of the French cuisine offered in an array of outwardly simple restaurants.

The food was both delicious and healthy, and its presentation was a feast for the eyes. Even at a little café next to the beach where we ate lunch, every detail was exquisite.

True to its French nature, the food was very rich but served in small, artistically arranged portions, and each meal was a leisurely, congenial event.

Ingredients were locally sourced and very fresh, from seafood that had recently been swimming only feet away from the restaurants to vegetables from local gardens. Nothing was over-cooked or deep-fried, and we could feel every nuance of each ingredient.

Foie gras was featured in many dishes, both over eggs and with duck tartare at L’Estaminet

Soups were rich and beautifully garnished, including cauliflower soup with speared shrimp at Le Pressoir and asparagus soup at L’Estaminet. 

Le Cottage’s seafood, lobster and duck trays were sampler plates of delicacies, presented with the beauty of a still-life painting.

Desserts were both indulgent and artistic. Le Cottage’s chocolate lava cake and Grand Marnier soufflé were marvelously luscious and L’Estaminet’s creative offerings included goat cheese ice cream and a chocolate cigar.

Like the food, the service was exemplary at each restaurant we visited. Wine was poured without disturbing the conversation, and food arrived with great timing yet without interruption. Gracious servers always materialized just when we needed them.

At L’Estaminet, the entire staff seemed to consist of the chef, one assistant and one server, yet I watched 20 tables being served promptly in a wonderfully calm ambience.

In every element, these restaurants – in buildings that were sometimes as simple as a diner – would rival the best one or two restaurants in a large city. They are truly a gem that awaits discovery for any visitor to St. Martin!