Paradise found

Superior seafood comes as standard on St Barths, but the truffle-slathered pizza is also worth writing home about

On the Rocks, St Barths
On the Rocks, St Barths

David Matthews, a raffish, sun-tanned Yorkshireman, looks thoroughly at home at the über-chic resort of Eden Rock, on the Caribbean island of St Barths. He is playing pool in one of the hotel’s villas – Villa Rockstar, a luxurious beachside pad with four bedrooms, a gym and, naturally, a recording studio. Matthews languidly pots a couple of reds as the villa’s butler fixes us some snacks.

Restaurant Le Gaiac, St Barths
Restaurant Le Gaiac, St Barths

He probably looks at home because he owns Eden Rock-St Barths; very generously, he invited me there earlier this year to take a look at the resort’s restaurants, On the Rocks and Sand Bar. They are overseen by the New York-based chef and restaurant consultant Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has created just the sort of opulent, laid-back menus that the average rock star, Hollywood A-lister or Russian tycoon demands after a day in the sun and sea.

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There is local fish but also – thanks to the island’s French colonial history – well-established links with Rungis, Paris’s wholesale food market, so lovers of truffle and foie gras need not go hungry. The former is slathered on a crisp pizza from the wood-fired oven; the latter served with pineapple and lemon jam. I tried a moules frites to rival any you might find in Saint-Germain; some excellent sashimi, dressed with avocado and yuzu; and grilled mahi mahi, served with toasted pistachios and a purée of sweet onions. The wine list, as you might expect, boasts choice clarets, fashionable rosés and a lot of champagne.

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The most gastronomic restaurant on the island is Le Gaiac, in the tranquil Hôtel Le Toiny on the east coast: here, classic cuisine is pepped up with inventive touches and the wine list is superb. The restaurant overlooks a beautiful bay and the food is as alluring as the view: I sampled an intense langoustine jus, for instance, served with a finger of toast and perfect saffron aïoli; a tranche of turbot paired with a briny, spinach-wrapped oyster and crunchy little shrimps; an indulgent dish of spaghetti with parmesan and truffles; and an unusually flavoursome fillet steak, cooked exactly medium-rare. Le Gaiac also has a truly terrific cheeseboard, appreciated by many a homesick French fromage-fancier.

Eden Rock-St Barths is the epitome of luxury on an island that is a kind of tropical St Tropez. Sipping a kumquat mojito outside Villa Rockstar, my toes in the sand, I recalled Shakespeare’s lines about “this scepter’d isle... This other Eden, demi-paradise”, and considered that John of Gaunt would have loved St Barths.

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