Between the glamour and the glitz of the well-known international brands, the rooms with butlers on tap and the helipad hideaways, there’s still an authentic haven of homespun Caribbean beauty on St Lucia, and it’s called Ladera.
Perched on a lush, forested ridge high above the azure sea at 1,100ft, the nine villas and 23 suites are made from Caribbean timber, stone and tiles, and filled with locally crafted furniture. The fourth wall of each is open to the elements, allowing magnificent vistas on to the Pitons, the island’s mountainous landmark.
But it is the restaurant, Dasheene (pictured), that’s the real treasure I return to. For its flavours, more than any view, root me in situ, providing me with a literal taste of the local culture that I was seeking the first time I came. Named after the multitude of glossy dasheen plants (otherwise known as elephant’s ear) harvested in the area, its food has to deliver on all fronts to hold its own against that mesmerising view; and it does.
Chef Nigel Mitchel takes pride in elevating sustainable ingredients, which he sources from neighbouring plantations, local farms and the sea on his doorstep, into dishes to remember. One of my favourites is the St Lucia seafood consommé, which Mitchel infuses with Seventh Heaven Rum and serves with scallops blackened in cajun spices. I also tuck happily into his mixed grill of curried lamb, sugar cane poulet and lemongrass shrimp, which he serves on callaloo mash with a tamarind wine jus.
But the dish I’d in particular suggest is the Derek Walcott Accra, named after the Nobel Prize-winning poet and native St Lucian. A savoury cake made with salt fish, green fig and creole sauce, served with ripe plantains and sweet potato fries, it is utterly delicious – and as eloquent and colourful a description of the joys of this place as the words of the great man himself.