Dine in open-air Bajan style
For an island that has a small-town culture, the meal options in Barbados are copious. From street-side cookshops to elegant fine-dining establishments, the food offerings are extensive across authentic Afro-Caribbean, European and Asian cuisine.
With hardly enough time (just about one week) to explore all the restaurants, it was important to sample from those that served the flavours of the Eastern Caribbean island – fish being the most popular dish – the active fishing town on the south coast in the parish of Christ Church known as Oistins was a must-go.
According to Alison Alleyne, a representative of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, Oistins is the best area to take any guest who wants to get the full open-air Bajan dining experience.
“It is the most popular area that is known for its authenticity as well as joie de vivre; definitely a location to enjoy great food and music,” Alleyne told The Gleaner.
The coast is lined with several restaurants and bar lounges in a casual setting that encourages formality with orders served in ceramic plates accompanied with a knife and fork. Customers can get their fish whether tuna, swordfish, mahi-mahi, marlin or flying fish, grilled, steamed or fried, depending on which vendor, but Pat’s Place appeared to be one of the top choices. Alleyne says she often orders her meals via telephone and pick up to avoid the rush and the expected crowds, especially on the weekends.
One part of Barbados’ national dish, flying fish is highly favoured. A plate of it, served with fried breadfruit, or breadfruit chips as the islanders call it, with a beer will range from BDD $30-35 (US$17.50).
On a Friday night the thing to do is the fish fry at Oistins, but it is important to get there early and secure a seat. Music is always playing from back-in-time ska and reggae to soca of the season, and some nights there is a live band, which sometimes cannot be heard over the chatter coming from the dining tables or from the elders playing a game of domino. Searching for a bit more quiet, then 17 kilometres away on the east coast in Bathsheba is a beautiful bar and café called Dina’s Bar and Café.
The colourfully painted café exudes the warmth of the calypso country, welcoming passers-by to drop in for a drink but stay for a special dish prepared by the owner, Adinah ‘Miss Dina’ Guanchez, and her kitchen staff. Miss Dina is a true chef but a comedian at heart, leaving customers smiling from ear to ear after a conversation. Oh, and she does not take no for an answer. Adding a Bajan or Caribbean twist to international foods like lamb stew (which is a traditional dish of Ireland) and Creole shrimp marinated in a variety of spices from the region, has earned the establishment its reputation that could be called artsy authenticity. When the meal has been consumed and the plate has been licked clean, there is the garden overlooking the interesting rocky landscape and a breezy beach to just sit back and digest all there is to enjoy.