The world’s most romantic place to eat – with kids?
Tina Lofthouse tries the foodie haven of Cap Maison in St Lucia
There are hotels for foodies and there are hotels for kids – it’s a rare breed indeed that can cater for both. But given I am of the school that lives to eat rather than eats to live, it has become something of a personal mission to find holiday destinations that will sate my lust for good food and wine while the kids can have a damn good time as well.
It helps that my kids love good food too. Pretentiously they will scoff down olives and anchovies by the bucket-load, they love seafood and fish, and won’t turn their noses up at a good steak. But some gourmet family breaks have not gone well – the horrors of an incredible hotel in Provence spring to mind – one irate lady unimpressed that our children dare disturb her sunbathing slumber by actually swimming in the pool. And the children irate that we had the audacity to book a babysitter rather than take them into the hushed (and ridiculously reverential) environs of the restaurant.
So it was with some excitement that I read about Cap Maison in St Lucia – not only does it have one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the Caribbean and an extensive wine cellar – but it actively welcomes families. And, as we found, not in a free-for-all kids-going-wild kinda way either. There are just 49 rooms, villas and suites, and everything is idyllically, but rather glamorously, low-key. Days can be spent by one of the two pools or on the small but perfectly formed beach.
And what a beach it is – a gentle cove with turquoise waters, white sand, and backed by tree-clad cliffs. It is also home to one of the of the world’s top 10 beach bars according to USA Today. The Naked Fisherman is one of those beach bars you dream of with simply cooked fresh fish on the menu and awesome cocktails.
Meanwhile, the restaurant, proper, The Cliff at Cap, offers more complex dishes, inspired by French West Indian cuisine. It is overseen by UK-born Craig Jones, who has worked at the likes of Gravetye Manor and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, and, in 2016, won Caribbean Chef of the year. It’s exceptionally good. We enjoyed such dishes as cinnamon roasted beef mignon, oxtail, and barley, and braised dorado with Noilly Prat and sweet rock shrimp. There’s stunning views from the restaurant but if that’s not enough for you, you can hire the deck below for private dining.
Set impossibly on a rocky outcrop, dinner is brought down several flights of steps while you sit and gaze at the sunset from your own private veranda – Champagne, meanwhile, is sent down via a basket on a zip wire. The waves are your background music, and, as night falls, the star-filled sky is your ceiling. It looked incredibly romantic and it was a proposition we couldn’t resist.
Did my husband and I book a babysitter? No – we didn’t fancy the kids’ reaction – and I would have felt guilty. This is one of those lifetime experiences that should be shared with all of your loved ones (okay, so we did have to interrupt our sunset viewing to prise a large splinter out of eldest son’s hand – bless the staff who had to make an extra journey back up and down the stairs to fetch us matches and a needle for the delicate operation!) Dining so close to the ocean as night fell is something we will all remember forever. It also helped that the terrace has a sofa too, so rather than have to sit at the table all evening, the kids could relax on the couch when they grew tired.
But even this magical evening had competition as the favourite. We also had a private dinner in the atmospheric wine cellar. So as to be able to concentrate fully on the fantastic wine expert, who guided my husband and I through a tasting of incredible wines matched with cheeses, risotto and chocolate, we propped the kids on their iPads with burger and chips. Everyone was happy. The kids kept asking to return to the wine cellar – bemusing anyone who might have overheard…
Oh – and the breakfasts – no review of this foody haven would be complete without mentioning Cap Maison’s wonderful ways to start the day. As well as a delicious buffet of fruits and cakes, there is a daily changing menu – we enjoyed coconut pancakes, caramelised banana pancakes (my fave), a full English (elegantly done) and a breakfast designed to chase away a hangover – with the wine cellar and cocktail list here, it is clearly needed.
We also enjoyed a trip to the local market at Castries with one of the chefs from The Naked Fisherman, buying some ingredients to take back for our lunch as part of a cookery experience. We would have loved to have been able to get more hands-on with the actual cooking (it was more watch-and-learn) but perhaps our resulting fish would not have been so good! And it did inspire the kids – they have since cooked our own version back home, complete with the refreshing cucumber salad that we had enjoyed so much.
My one regret – other than the expanded waistline upon return – was that we didn’t take advantage of the all-inclusive or half-board options. This is a high-end resort and priced accordingly so if you’re eating there all week, costs mount up. On previous holidays, we wouldn’t have dreamed of eating in the same place the whole time so all-inclusive for us would be a false economy. Here though, we had just a couple of meals outside of Cap Maison. Taxis and car hire are expensive and Cap Maison is not really within walking distance of anywhere else. However, that was not the reason we felt so disinclined to move – great food in several stunning locations – all with a very different feel to them – meant that we were all more than happy to stay put…
More luxury family travel: Best Kids’ Clubs around the world.