Barbados is one of the Caribbean’s culinary hotspots. Not only does the island offer lots of excellent gastronomic – and expensive – restaurants, but it also has plenty of dining options where you can eat good, down-to-earth, local cuisine at affordable prices.
Most restaurants open early in the evening. In the peak winter months, ideally make reservations at smart restaurants long ahead, especially if you’re after a prime table. Many restaurants automatically add a 10 per cent service charge to the bill. Even so, credit card slips are often left open: don’t end up tipping twice.
The Fish Pot
This lovable, casual-chic restaurant is part of the Little Good Harbour hotel on the sleepy north-west coast, a short drive north of Speightstown. It is in a gorgeous spot: its art-filled dining rooms occupy an old coral-stone fort directly above a beach, and outdoor dining areas on covered decks run along above the sands. It’s therefore a great lunch venue. As for the food, expect enjoyable, not overly complicated dishes including top-notch salads, beautifully presented catch of the day platters and excellent curries. Prices are more reasonable than other top-flight restaurants on the west coast, and the atmosphere more laid back – T-shirts and shorts are fine for lunch.
Contact: 00 1 246 439 3000; fishpotbarbados.com
Reservations: Recommended, and essential for a good table at dinner in high season
Best tables: On the outdoor covered deck above the sands
At The Fish Pot, opt for a table on the covered decks that run along above the sands
Glitzy Hugo’s is part of Barbados’s upmarket dining scene. The location – right over the beach at the northern end of Speightstown – is memorable. Come for lunch and you are treated to unbroken views out to sea, and can watch sleek yachts sailing up and down the coast. Aspects of the décor are eye-catching too: the air-conditioned, glass-walled bar is decorated with artwork Lord Glenconner once commissioned for a visit to Mustique by his friend Princess Margaret. In terms of the food, expect accomplished, not too elaborate Caribbean/international dishes, such as crusted shrimp, lobster salad, pan-seared barracuda and chicken masala. Simpler options, including fish and chips and pasta, are also available for lunch. Desserts are mostly classics, such as sticky toffee pudding and bread pudding.
Contact: 00 1 246 624 4846; hugosbarbados.com
Best tables: Upstairs, closest to the sea
Come to Hugo’s for accomplished Caribbean and international dishes
The Fisherman’s Pub
If you want a budget-priced, traditional Bajan lunch on the west coast, the Fisherman’s Pub in Speightstown is just the place. On the seafront, just along from the fish market, it’s a long-established, few-frills joint owned by the very welcoming Clement Armstrong, who is invariably dapperly dressed in a bow tie. The food – perhaps fish cakes, conch fritters, macaroni pie, fried plantains, goat curry, jerk pork, steamed billfish, the selection changes by the day – is presented cafeteria style, and priced by item. Having chosen what you like the look of, you take it through to a table on the large waterfront deck. The food usually peters out by around 4pm. But in winter, you can also eat on some evenings – call ahead to check.
Contact: 00 1 246 422 2703; @fishermanspubgrub
Reservations: Not necessary
Food at The Fisherman’s Pub includes fish cakes, conch fritters, macaroni pie, fried plantains, goat curry, jerk pork and steamed billfish
This elegant, waterfront restaurant is the highest quality place to dine in Holetown by some margin. Chef/owner Guy Beasley produces beautiful-looking seafood dishes, often with Asian touches, and using the freshest of ingredients. The catch of the day – grilled, blackened or pan-fried, and maybe served with a saffron risotto – is recommended. Desserts, such as a salted caramel Mars bar cheesecake, are indulgent. You can dine on a lovely open-air terrace, with Casuarina trees growing through the roof of the building, or in an air-conditioned, glass-walled space. Come early for a drink in the bar, which doubles as a gallery for excellent local art. Service is informed and engaged, and without the airs and graces of some other top Barbados restaurants.
Contact: 00 1 246 432 8356; tidesbarbados.com
Reservations: Essential at dinner for the best tables in high season
Best tables: On the outdoor terrace nearest the waterfront
Service is informed and engaged at The Tides
The two few-frills, open-sided Just Grillin’ eateries – one on the west coast near the Chattel Village shops in Holetown, the other on the south coast in the middle of a car park in Rockley near Accra Beach – are understandably a big hit with locals and tourists on a tight budget. You place your order at a window, wait to be called, then dine at a bare wooden table (which you may need to share). Options include steak, ribs, chicken and freshly caught fish, served with a choice of veg, salad, rice and potatoes. They also do sandwiches. Service is quick; the food is tasty; portions are huge; and alcohol is served.
Contact: 00 1 246 432 5410 (Holetown), 001 246 435 6469 (Rockley); justgrillinbarbados.com
Reservations: Not possible
At Just Grillin’, options include steak, ribs, chicken and freshly caught fish, served with a choice of veg, salad, rice and potatoes
Long-established Daphne’s is a mainstay of Barbados’s upmarket eating scene. Set directly behind Paynes Bay beach, it is stylish and romantic, yet at the same time rather less self-consciously smart and trendy than some other top-end, west-coast restaurants. The food is mostly Italian. You won’t go wrong if you order the generous antipasti platters of cured meats and the homemade pasta – maybe with duck or lobster. Leave room for moreish puddings such chocolate and passion fruit mousse, and arrive early enough to allow time for a drink in the cocktail bar.
Contact: 00 1 246 432 2731; daphnesbarbados.com
Reservations: Essential in the winter season
Best tables: Closest to the beach
Daphne’s is a mainstay of Barbados’s upmarket eating scene
Barbados’s most famous restaurant is eye-wateringly expensive, but to celebrate a special occasion in style nowhere on the island can match it. The setting is theatrical, with torchlit decks perched above an idyllic cove where stingrays and tarpon swim in the floodlit water. The food is equally memorable, both for its intricate presentation and flavours. Desserts such as The Flaming Snowball – strawberries and ice cream inside a meringue ball drenched in lit Grand Marnier – are great fun. The service is fantastic, with the legions of staff as attentive to mere mortals as the many celebs that visit. To get your money’s worth, come early and have a drink and gawp in the upper-level bar.
Contact: 00 1 246 432 1922; thecliffbarbados.com
Reservations: Essential; book as far ahead as possible, particularly in the peak winter months, and to bag one of the better tables
Best tables: Nearest the rail and overlooking the cove
The food is as equally memorable as the theatrical setting at The Cliff
The Cliff Beach Club
This is The Cliff’s more casual and somewhat more affordable (though still pricey) younger sister. Set right next door to its more famous sibling, it’s a thrilling, theatrical space, tiered amphitheatrically over four levels and facing out to sea, with the roof formed by cream sails and hung with glitter balls. It’s very much a place where you can pop in for a drink – there’s a funky bar/lounge on the top floor, and live music and a fashion show Sunday lunchtimes. Though the head chef Jeremy Dupire is French, the food is wide-ranging – from fish and chips at lunchtime to truffle risotto at dinner. The artistically presented octopus carpaccio is recommended. If you come for lunch, T-shirt and shorts are fine.
Contact: 00 1 246 432 0797; thecliffbeachclub.com
Reservations: Usually not necessary for lunch, recommended for dinner
Best tables: Those on the lower level closest to the sea
Cliff Beach Club is the more casual younger sibling to The Cliff
Bridgetown and Garrison area
Easily the best place for a lunch stop in Bridgetown, this café/bistro is set apart from the bustle of the town, its dining terrace overlooking the deep-sea sports fishing boats moored along the Careenage. It’s also a good place to pop in for a drink: inside the former warehouse there’s a cool bar, with local art on display. Salads and sandwiches – the pan-fried flying fish one is very popular – are substantial, and there are various Bajan/Caribbean dishes, such as fish cakes and jerk chicken. Expect extremely solicitous service from the ladies who run the place. On the nights the café is open there’s a full dinner menu, and there’s live jazz on Thursday evenings, and sometimes music on other evenings.
Contact: 00 1 246 427 0093; waterfrontcafe.com.bb
Reservations: Not necessary daytimes; recommended in the evenings
Best tables: On the terrace
Waterfront Café’s dining terrace overlooks the deep-sea sports fishing boats moored along the Careenage
Set off a street between Carlisle Bay and the Garrison Savannah, Brown Sugar is one of the best places on the island to try Bajan dishes, and the restaurant’s fan-cooled, flower- and fern-filled patios provide gorgeous surroundings in which to do so. Lunch is more popular than dinner, as it’s a fantastic-value, all-you-can-eat buffet. As well as including a roast and fish, it includes local specialties such as cou-cou (cornmeal and okra), pepperpot stew, macaroni pie, and bread pudding with a potent rum sauce. Dress nicely if you want to fit in: the restaurant attracts quite a few businesspeople.
Contact: 00 1 246 426 7684; brownsugarbarbados.net
Cuz’s Fish Shack
This little blue-and-yellow hut is arguably the best place on Barbados to sample a fish cutter – a cutter being a Bajan sandwich, made with a soft white salt bread roll. The island institution lies at the side of a car park behind the popular Pebbles Beach (though it is in fact sandy), close to the entrance of the Radisson Aquatica hotel. Cuz Junior, whose father set up the business more than 50 years ago, will lightly fry the fish (usually marlin), put it in a roll, and if you want add a slice of cheese. And that’s it: yours for BDS$9 (around £3.50), or BDS$10 (around £4) with cheese.
Opening times: Daily, 10.30am-5.30pm
Reservations: Not possible
Sample a fish cutter at Cuz’s Fish Shack
Set back from the busy main road through Hastings, Salt’s location is nothing special. And with bare wood tables in its terracotta-tiled interior and a modest terrace out the front, the place looks pretty ordinary, more like a little café than restaurant. But Salt’s food is really excellent. Some dishes are Caribbean: the fried chicken with a cheddar scallion biscuit (similar to an English scone) and the sweet potato-crusted fish are highly recommended. Also consider ordering the Asian-inspired dishes, especially the delicious baos, filled with the likes of braised lamb, yogurt and crushed peanuts. Drinks include homemade lemonades flavoured with coconut and mango.
Contact: 00 1 246 537 7258; @saltcafebarbados
Don’t be fooled by the ordinary interiors at Salt, the food is excellent
Tapas occupies a cracking spot right by the south coast’s boardwalk, a concrete path that snakes its way along the ocean’s edge between Accra Beach and Hastings. The restaurant is an airy and buzzy place, as popular with locals as much as tourists. The Asian/Mediterranean tapas – spicy Thai fish cakes, smoked marlin, calamari, meatballs, shark fritters – are substantial, delicious and reasonably priced. Three tapas and a pudding would make a pretty filling – and for Barbados – decent-value meal. Opt for full dishes (mains include seafood, pastas and curries) and your bill will be much higher.
Contact:00 1 246 228 0704; tapasbarbados.com
Reservations: Recommended, especially for a table by the boardwalk
Best tables: Closest to the boardwalk
Tapas is an airy and buzzy place, as popular with locals as much as tourists
Champers is a strong contender for the best high-end restaurant on the south coast. Its oceanfront setting, on the rocks just along from the eastern end of Accra Beach, is spectacular, especially if the sea is a bit rough and the waves are thumping against the rocks below and spray is heading up towards the dining terrace. The food is memorable too. Expect plenty of fresh seafood, generous portions and striking flavours; the coconut pie with coconut ice cream is a standout pudding. Service under the watchful eye of hands-on owner Chiryl Newman is excellent. Be sure to have a browse in the quality arts and crafts gallery upstairs.
Contact: 001 246 434 3463; champersbarbados.com
Reservations: Essential for a good table on the terrace
Best tables: On the edge of the outdoor terrace with a view over Accra Beach
Expect plenty of fresh seafood, generous portions and striking flavours at Champers
This superior café/deli lies on the road behind Crane Beach. It does excellent, substantial made-to-order sandwiches (cutter means sandwich in Bajan dialect): the flying fish and roast beef cutters are particularly recommended. Also on offer are breakfast dishes (pancakes, eggs and more), homemade pizzas, macaroni pie, fish cakes, roti, as well as beer, wine and award-winning rum punches. You can eat inside or on the little terrace, take your food away, or even have your order delivered to you as a picnic on Crane Beach.
Contact: 001 246 423 0611; cutters.bb
Cutters does excellent, substantial made-to-order sandwiches (cutter means sandwich in Bajan dialect)
If you want a quick and cheap bite to eat, consider dropping in to a Chefette. Barbados’ locally owned fast-food chain has 15 outlets dotted around the island, and they are generally spotlessly clean, and staff in their purple-and-yellow uniforms are friendly. You can have fried chicken, pizzas or burgers, but arguably the best choice are the slightly spicy roti, with beef, chicken, potato, lentil – the curry wraps are a popular snack food on the island (and throughout much of the Caribbean). For a drink, try mauby juice, which is made from the bark of the mauby tree.
Reservations: Not possible