Caribbean hotels stand still – and change too radically at their peril. Regulars want to see a place loved, tweaked perhaps, but not transformed when they return year after year. Improvements, then, come in increments, and this year’s offering at the Calabash hotel in Grenada, where Gary Rhodes has a restaurant, is a new tapas menu at Bash Restaurant, the beachside dining venue. This menu runs for most of the day, so if your lunch was too light you can nip back at 3.30pm for a top-up.
The dining room at Bash (by chef Mark Banthorpe, also from the UK) is a covered deck dressed in dark-stained wood. Louvred windows form a wall at the rear, from where bench seats and tables look onto the placid waters of l’Anse aux Epines bay. Fans paddle gently overhead. By the time I sat down to eat at 3pm, the sun had passed its zenith, but the heat was still intense. Everything sat unnaturally still. Parasols stood slightly off the vertical and the palm fronds hung heavy. Only the yacht masts managed to stay upright. A surrealist with time on his hands might have found the scene miraculously decomposing before his eyes, as time and space flowed into some fluid oblivion.
So it was a relief to find my attention wrested by the arrival of four plates of tapas. No question of fluid decomposition here. Everything was minutely ordered in colour and shape – chopped chive and parsley in neat green flecks against the red and maroon of bell peppers and mixed leaves. Grenada is called the Isle of Spice and the flavours more than stood up to the reputation of their location.
Calamari ($8.75, around £5.80) came almost fluffy, a tiny crunch pre-empting elastic squid. I often don’t try the mayonnaise, but this time – lime and sweet chilli – I’m glad I did. Next were wafers of mahi mahi ceviche (around £6.80) that zinged on my tongue – lime in a dance with sweet nutmeg syrup and little stabs of chilli. The ginger chilli chicken (around £7) with hoisin and black bean sauce was a sparring match of sweet and sour, soy and ginger.
My favourite, though, were the jerk pork rolls (around £4.80). Jerk is never normally a thing of subtlety, but when the pork shoulder has been dry-rubbed and marinated overnight with spring onion, garlic and ginger then slow-cooked for four hours before being packed into a roulade with a jerk sauce and coconut milk, it becomes soft, aromatic, pungent and delectably sweet.