I walk in fear of grenadine syrup when in the Caribbean, that sticky red concoction and extreme sweetener. With a name like that you might think it originates in the area, but it is certainly not from the Grenadines. What it is, however, is the lazy bar-keeper’s default, liberally dashed into far too many drinks. But I am pleased to say that at Cocomaya (restaurant-bar-lounge-beach), you’d never find grenadine in a rum punch.
Cocomaya sits on the leeward shore of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, its open-fronted decks giving onto a superb seascape of islands, where lines of stacked cumulus sail south-west like an armada. On my recent visit, we arrived just as the golden late-afternoon light was setting the island foliage aglow. We walked around the restaurant and mainlined the bar-lounge-beach, installing ourselves in the hanging-bench seat at the far end of the bar.
The building at Cocomaya is a little disconcerting at first. It is a compendium of tropical materials: surfaces of polished hardwoods surrounded by natural woods; spindly sticks that have been trained into balustrades and barriers made out of branches. Elsewhere, there are taut nautical-wire balustrades, sections of stone, buffed concrete, recycled glass and faux thatch.
The menu blends Asian and Latin with the Caribbean. Its sushi firecracker roll ($14) comes with local snapper and jalapeño pepper, while the grouper-curry main course ($24) has bok choy, jasmine rice and gentle coconut milk. The tempting champagne cocktail ($12) has ginger and lychee.
But on the specials board I spotted a rum punch ($10). It’s made with Cocomaya’s own golden rum, and mixed with passion fruit, pineapple, a touch of orange and squeezed ginger – again something both Asian and Caribbean. And not a dash of grenadine in sight. “No fear,” said Aaron Seddon, the Australian who co-owns Cocomaya with Kim Takenchi. “We barely use it.”
We took our drinks down to the lounge-beach, where low armchairs in outdoor wicker sit square on the sand, around a stylish fire pit. The angled sunlight was gilding the underside of the clouds. I looked around. The setting was a small moment of tropical perfection. Ambient warmth, the gentle wash of waves and the pulse of easy reggae. Certainly not rustic Caribbean, for all the natural wood, it chases something more refined – a rounder tropical fusion. And as the rum punch got to work, a warm feeling settled and it all fell into place... Cocomaya is a very cool spot.
Ahead, the sunset was in full swing, a rich roseate hue on the sea horizon, pink as grenadine syrup. And that’s about as close to my drink as grenadine needs to be.