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.
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.
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.
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.