Food in Barbabos is as vibrant as the island and its people. And that doesn’t just apply to typical tasty Bajan food. Virtually every style of cuisine seems to be available in hundreds of restaurants, yet every dish seems to have been given a power boost in terms of flavour.
This is down not only to the local produce – ripe, sweet fruit and veg and super-fresh fish in particular – but the chefs, who just love to experiment with different combinations of ingredients and spices.
A number of chic restaurants in idyllic seaside settings command a lavish budget, but there are plenty of mid-range options and others that are excellent value.
Here are some suggestions but you really can’t go too far wrong in Barbados. And don’t forget to try the nectar from one of Barbados’ four rum distilleries.
Starting at the top end, The Fish Pot is in an old fort and serves up catches that come in to the neighbouring fishing community at Six Men’s Bay. The chef cleverly brings out the natural flavours and the setting is a delight.
There’s more seafood at the rustic, homely Fisherman’s Pub in the pleasingly ramshackle Speightstown, along with grilled chicken with rice ’n’ peas.
Nearby Juma’s combines Caribbean, French and Thai cuisines and has an inviting three-course menu that could include flying fish pate followed by thai green curry and rum and raisin cheesecake.
At the eponymous restaurant on the beach at Mullins, you can sample fish cakes, steaks and salads looking out over a classic scene of palms and powder-blue water.
Heading down into Holetown, you’re spoilt for choice. Sea Cat does British-style cod and chips, but you should go local and try amberjack, grouper or barracuda – or ask for a platter if you can’t decide.
Upmarket Nishi presents top-class sushi and sashimi as well as bistrostyle main dishes.
A little further south you enter the zone of glamorous waterside restaurants frequented by celebrities.
Cin Cin by the Sea and Daphne’s are great but if you want one very special experience while in Barbados, book in at The Cliff. It’s pricey, so make the most of your evening by turning up to watch the sunset with a cocktail on the wooden terrace, overlooking the cutest little cove on the island, before taking your seat for dinner.
Bridgetown sometimes gets overlooked for a foodie night out but there’s a decent selection of eateries here. Waterfront Café on the quayside is a good bet for succulent shrimps and live music and is apparently a favourite of Rihanna.
It’s easy to work out what Lobster Alive offers at the top end of Carlisle Bay. The spiny crustaceans in the tank are flown in live from the Grenadines by the restaurant’s owner on his private plane. A medium lobster, enough for two, will set you back about £45.
A perennial hotspot in Barbados’ south is Champers, where generous portions of quality meat and fish – and divine desserts – can be enjoyed on the terrace above the waves. It won’t break the bank either.
Tapas is making a name for itself with a choice of small dishes such as calamari and ceviche, as the name implies, or bigger plates of grub including West Indian curry.
Blakey’s on the Boardwalk is reliable for gourmet burgers and hunks of grilled fish, while for lighter fare visitors are raving about the waffles and paninis at Bliss Café.
The combination of Caribbean and Japanese cuisine at Naru (jerk spring rolls?) sounds odd but it is receiving great reviews. Plenty of thought has gone into the design of the restaurant, which is right beside the seaside boardwalk.
There’s satisfying value at Shakers Bar & Grill, where a plate of catch-of-the- day in batter with chips and trimmings will cost less than £9. Washed down with a chilled Banks beer, that’s a tasty lunch.
Harlequin is a St Lawrence Gap favourite, with tables out on the deck, jazzy background music and a menu that features meaty king fish, tangy pork chops and pasta dishes.
For traditional Bajan fayre, the “fish fry” at Oistins is a must.
At the east end of the south coast, near Crane Beach, is a modern take on the Bajan rum shop: Marco Polo. It offers a collection of classic dishes ranging from grilled mahi mahi to lasagne (it’s run by British expats), with locally-sourced ingredients. There’s a short but well-chosen wine list.
The wild east coast of Barbados inevitably has less choice, but the settings can be magical.
The Round House, a historic inn, looks down on the palm-fringed shore of Bathsheba and has been going for more than a century. The coconut shrimp with vodka-lime sauce is recommended, as are the grilled fish sandwiches.
Open to non-residents, the restaurant at The Atlantis hotel on Tent Bay is charming. It is well known for the West Indian buffet served on Wednesday and Sunday lunchtimes, though the a la carte menu is worth a look too.
Casual Dina’s Bar & Café is relaxing with fishy staples, a house-special macaroni pie and friendly service.
And in the middle…
Much of central Barbados is rural but there are a couple of hidden gems here. Visit the lovely 17th-century Sunbury Plantation House and its horse-drawn carriage collection then dine on calypso chicken or a choice of fish. The Sunday buffet lunch is something of an institution.
Drive around the lanes of inner Barbados and you may come across Judy’s Watering Hole at a crossroads. One of the most revered rum shops, it is perfectly placed for grabbing a box of grilled chicken, rice and okra along with a cool beer.
• Find out more about visiting Barbados at visitbarbados.co.uk