A Leisurely Lunch

As a last treat before leaving St Lucia, DonQui has a long leisurely lunch at the Dasheene Restaurant which is part of the  Ladera resort just a short trot down the road from Fond Doux where he is staying.

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All the locals raved about it and they were right. The setting is idyllic. The view overlooking Sugar Beach is surely unbeatable.

Few things please DonQui more than lingering over an alfresco meal in hot weather with a good bottle of rosé and excellent food.

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The food is great with lots of tasty fish dishes on the menu which are perfect for a hot afternoon.

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DonQui reckons there is always room for desert but he is glad that he chose a relatively light main course to enjoy it properly.

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He hopes that one day he will return again.

Relaxing at a Cocoa Plantation

After the indulgent luxury of Sugar Beach, DonQui decides something a bit more rustic, authentically Caribbean and affordable is in order.

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So it is that he finds himself up in the rainforest above Sugar Beach at the wonderful Fond Doux (Sweet Valley).

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Fond Doux is a working organic cocoa plantation owned and run by local St Lucians. Nestled on the hillside, tucked in amongst the lush vegetation are 15 colonial style holiday cottages.

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There is no TV, no air conditioning but there is wifi. The comfortable welcoming cottages are well designed to be airy and cool even when it is hot outside.

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DonQui is quite happy to make friends with the resident gecko who shares the cottage. He is glad that it is a lizard not a spider keeping the insect population down as DonQui has issues with spiders.

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The spacious verandah is a perfect places to sit out and let the day slip slowly by. DonQui’s even has its own plunge pool.

At night the insect noise from the forest is so intense that DonQui uses ear plugs when he tucks himself into bed beneath the mosquito net. At around 05:30 the insects take cover as the birds begin to wake up and salute the rising sun with a deafening dawn chorus.

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It is a perfect place to laze about, take the odd walk or two through the lush vegetation or lie by the pool with its soothing artificial waterfalls.

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The Bamboo Restaurant on site may not offer fine dining but it is it pretty good with St Lucian staples such as goat curry, jerk chicken, roti, and locally caught king fish and mahi-mahi on the menu.

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Goat curry with rice, plantain, and a bit of jerk chicken which DonQui stole from Duchess’ plate. DonQui washed it down with a couple of chilled glasses of the local Piton beer while Duchess experimented with various coconut and chocolate cocktails.

DonQui highly recommends Fond Doux if you want a few days to chill out and relax. He also highly recommends booking a massage. It is probably not the place to go if you are looking for action-packed days or a beach holiday. There is a daily shuttle which goes to sugar beach but DonQui did not bother taking it as he much preferred to simply laze about on the plantation.

The staff are super friendly and helpful, The owners Lyton and Eroline are often around and are more than happy to chat with guests. On Thursday nights they host a cocktail party for guests, staff and local dignitaries.

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The ebullient Lyton Lamontagne holds court at his weekly cocktail party

 

Chocolate Cuisine

Avid readers of DonQui Oaty’s blog will be aware by now that he has a great fondness for chocolate.

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It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when Duchess asks him where he would like to go for dinner, DonQui suggests the Boucan restaurant on Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa plantation.

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According to the blurb the Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant: “explores the sweet and savoury nature of cocoa, together with the superb local  produce found on Saint Lucia.”  It is all about chocolate and every dish has at least some in it — even if only a few roasted cacao nibs.

DonQui’s starter is chicken liver parfait with poached pear, chocolate and black pepper-cacao nib crumble. The chocolate adds a rich spiciness to the liver and the pear balances the flavours nicely. The dish has quite an exotic taste — too rich to sample very often but DonQui is very glad to have experienced it.

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Duchess feels much the same about her cacao pasta filled with mahi-mahi fish and goat’s cheese — looks fabulous, most interesting taste but perhaps not something one would want to eat every day. This, of course, is the whole point of a special dining experience  such as this.

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Chocolate is less in evidence in the main courses. Chocolate spiced lentils with chickpeas and naan bread are a big hit with Duchess while DonQui tucks into a delicious local kingfish filet served with roast pineapple and dasheen. There is little evidence of chocolate here apart from a few nibs on top and a coconut sauce made with cocoa butter.

wine.jpgAll of this is nicely washed down by a fine Côtes de Provence rosé from a very good wine list put together by Berry Bros of London.

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As one might expect there are lots of chocolate delectables for desert but there are other options including one of Duchess’ favourites — Rum Baba with a good shot of the local St Lucian rum.

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The atmosphere is smart and laid-back at the same time. The restaurant is spacious, tastefully decorated in Hotel Chocolat’s trademark dark chocolate brown with magnificent views out over the estate. The staff are all very friendly and professional and diner was enhanced by a musician playing Bob Marley and Santana at just the right volume.

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DonQui is very glad he came and thought it was a most memorable experience. He highly recommends trying Hotel Chocolat at least once — an absolute must for chocoholics and adventurous diners looking for new flavour combinations.

For those not planning on going to St Lucia just yet, Hotel Chocolat also has restaurants in the UK; in London and Leeds.

Paradise in Saint Lucia

“Welcome to Paradise!” announces the jovial Mr Mugabe as DonQui trots out into the pleasant 28º heat at St Lucia’s Hewanorra airport. It turns out that the taxi driver’s name is McGuiver not Mugabe but DonQui’s ears have yet to become attuned to his West Indian accent.

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A proud St Lucian, Mr McGuiver drives DonQui south along the shore, proclaiming that he has lived on the island all his life and has never been anywhere else. When one lives in paradise it seems a bit pointless contemplating travels to another place.

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And first impressions do seem to confirm Mr McGuiver’s opinion.

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DonQui’s destination is Sugar Beach, a wonderful secluded estate set between the two Piton mountains on a lush hillside that used to be a sugar plantation. At the bottom of the hill is a pristine beach of white sand looking out onto a protected bay on the Caribbean side of the southern tip of the island.

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The accommodation is pretty decent too. DonQui’s villa is set on the hillside complete with plunge pool cascading over the edge of a verandah with views of the bay beyond.

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Inside all is pristine white with every comfort and convenience a globe-trotting donkey might require, including an on-call butler at the other end of a handy local mobile phone. One downside is that the villa is a long stroll from the beach. This is not too bad going down but is a bit of a trek coming back up the hill. Fortunately there are frequent tuc tucs roaming around the estate to whisk people from place to place. The other downside is the price. This sort of luxury does not come cheap but for an occasional indulgence DonQui thinks it well worth the lightening of his purse.

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Evidence of the French manager and French chef can be seen in the elegantly understated details and the quality of the food and drink. DonQui had not expected to be drinking a fine Alsatian Pinot Noir in the Caribbean but he enjoys one here.

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The food excellent but it is not cheap, nor most especially is the wine. There is a price to be paid for a reliance on French imports and although DonQui is a great fan of French cuisine he thinks a nod or two to local dishes with local ingredients would not go amiss.

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As the sun begins to set, DonQuis sips on a complimentary piton beer, listens to the sounds of a rather good jazz duo and looks out over the Anse des Pitons. It would be hard to imagine anywhere he would rather be at this moment.

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The affable resort manager was recently quoted saying that he has tried to create a sanctuary where everyday life is left outside the gates. DonQui thinks he has succeeded.