The hammock-strewn beaches, unbelievably blue waters and phenomenal scuba sites of the Virgin Islands are so alluring that the cuisine usually gets forgotten about. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of gastronomic offerings to whet your appetite on a luxury yacht charter in the region.
Whether at a fine dining establishment, local tavern or beachside shack, eating out in the Virgin Islands provides an unmissable opportunity to experience some real Caribbean flavours.
Spicy soups, curried meat dishes and all manner of grilled fish and shellfish are on the menu and will be sure to lure you ashore. Here’s a list of the best local specialities to sample on your next Caribbean yacht charter:
Pates – pronounced pah-tays – are fried dough pockets stuffed with spiced chicken, beef or salt fish. Similar to Spanish empanadas, the warm, fragrant puffs can be bought from street stalls or bakeries and eaten on the go. Hawkers at the Vendors’ Plaza on St Thomas sell particularly tasty versions of this classic island snack.
Most islands in the Caribbean have their own version of Callaloo, a type of soup originating from West Africa. In the Virgin Islands, spinach is often used as the base and stirred with okra, onions, thyme, hot peppers and various meats - anything from fish to pig’s tail and smoked turkey.
The dish is often served with a side of fungi which, despite its name, is not related to the mushroom. Instead, the US Virgin Islands staple is made from corn flour and okra and similar in flavour and consistency to polenta. For some of the best – and spiciest – callaloo, order a bowl from Gladys’ Café on St Thomas.
The reefs around Anegada – the most far-flung island of the British Virgin Islands – teem with gigantic crustaceans. The meat in these Anegada lobsters is in the tail, rather than the claws, and has a reputation for being too chewy. But most restaurants on the island cook them to mouth-watering perfection.
Usually, the lobsters are grilled on the beach in a converted oil drum and spiced with the chef’s secret seasonings. One of the best places to try out the critters is the Lobster Trap at Setting Point, which has simple white tables spread across a wooden jetty lit by fairy lights.
Distilleries throughout the Virgin Islands have been pumping out rum since the 1700s when sugarcane plantations covered the area. As many factories offer tours and tastings, charterers can step ashore and brush up on their rum knowledge while enjoying a fresh-from-the-barrel tipple.
Top picks include the Callwood Rum Distillery which at 300 years old is one of the oldest in the Caribbean and lies hidden in the jungle by Tortola’s Cane Garden Bay. There’s also St Croix’s award-winning Cruzan Rum Distillery, run over the years by eight generations of the Nelthropps family.
The meat from local conch shells is a British Virgin Islands speciality. To make fritters, cooks pound the clam-like substance until its tender, batter it, season it with cayenne, sage and other herbs, and fry it until golden brown. They usually come with a tangy Caribbean dressing on the side.
Conch fritters are served across the island, from island shacks to upscale eateries. Yachtie-favourite De Loose Mongoose on Tortola and the open-air restaurant-bar at Cow Wreck Beach Resort on Anegada rustle up some of the most delectable in the island chain.
Roti is a soft tortilla-like flatbread folded and filled with curried chicken, beef, goat or chickpeas and an extra-large helping of chilli-laden chutney. They were brought to Trinidad by East Indian labourers in the mid-19th century and are now popular throughout the entire Caribbean.
Some restaurants in the Virgin Islands devote themselves entirely to the dish, such as the spice-loving Ruby Roti Queen Restaurant on Tortola. Elsewhere on the island, there is Roti Palace, an unassuming spot in Road Town renowned for its delicious homemade mango chutney accompaniment.
Sweet potato pie
Sweet potato pie is a quintessential Virgin Islands dessert. Made with sugar, eggs, butter, milk, salt, cinnamon, raisins, chopped raw almonds and, of course, sweet potato, the pudding is usually dished up among islanders on special occasions alongside a dollop of whipped cream.
For further information on planning a Virgin Islands charter, talk to your preferred charter broker.
Alternatively, view all luxury yachts for charter in the Virgin Islands.