Secluded elegance, where a hearty appetite is welcome

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your own private island in the Caribbean—an uber-luxury hotel with 5-star service where all your needs are anticipated while you enjoy long walks on white-sand beaches? Of course, there would be no traffic noises—no cars, no helicopters jarring the sounds of the ocean—just the whirr of electric carts, which are the only vehicles allowed on the island, and the sound of laughter as people ride their bikes from restaurant to beach, to spa to swimming pool or tennis court. You don’t need to fantasise any more! A trip to Jumby Bay Island on Antigua and Barbuda will fulfil all your dreams.

Only two miles from Antigua, Jumby Bay is a private island of 300 acres, co-owned by some of the wealthiest players in the world. The island is dotted with breathtaking villas, some of which are for rent when their owners are away. These privately owned villas vary in price, with the most expensive costing a whopping US$35,000 a night. Most of us lesser mortals would need crowd funding to be able to afford that, but fortunately, there are 40 rooms and suites on the property that you can rent. For example, a Rondavel Room costs US$1,150 per night.

Money doesn’t pass hands as it’s considered a vulgarity here, so everyone signs for their meals and drinks, which are taken care of in the “all-inclusive” experience, encompassing all services—everything but the cost of treatments at The Spa. Tropical delights abound: a spa, swimming pools, water sports and cycling, and then there’s the food! Throughout the day as you laze on your loungers, soaking up the sun, drinks and snacks such as ice cream, sandwiches and fresh fruit are constantly being offered by the courteous staff.

On Jumby Island the focus is clearly on food.  Delicious, mouthwatering food is served at three very different restaurants on the island. The Verandah, famous for its Mediterranean-style dishes, is the heart of Jumby Bay. Everything and everybody pass through here at one time or another, and it’s open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as being home to afternoon tea and the weekly White Night barbecue party. This is also where you’ll find the beachside Verandah Bar, boutique, and concierge.

Then there’s the Pool Grille, focussing on freshly grilled meats and fresh, tender seafood. The fish tacos and grilled fish kebabs are particularly succulent. If you can’t be bothered to leave the beach however, there is a Beach Bar, which has the most amazing all-day cocktails, as well as the Beach Shack, which serves a selection of roti and wraps.

Finally, there’s the Estate House, which has recently undergone a year-long, US$6 million restoration by acclaimed interior designer, Dennis Irvine. This stylish, elegant restaurant is a complete contrast to all the other venues. Prepare yourself for a sophisticated, elegant dining experience that’s considered the jewel in the crown of Jumby Bay.

The head honcho in charge of all these wonderful restaurants is the executive chef, French-born Sylvain Hervochon. “As an executive chef abroad, (Britain, Germany and the Caribbean) as well as manager and owner of a restaurant in France, I have acquired a competency in the management field. I came back to the Caribbean to work at Jumby Bay Island because the property is so unique and I really love the natural smile and liveliness of the people”.

When asked about his philosophy on food, Hervochon says, ”As a food lover from an early age, I always admired my grandmother’s preparation of Brittany specialties that she made on her charming farm.  Everything was home-grown and fresh. From that upbringing, the idea of the provenance of food has remained with me and is the recipe for creativity. There’s no limit as long as you know its origins and the culinary history of the region.

I always give the same respect to whatever produce I use and spend time sourcing quality producers.   For example, Hall Valley Farm, owned by Adrian and Vicky Hall, supply us with organic eggs, suckling pig and veal. Other local producers provide us with seasonal fruits and vegetables and on Saturdays we explore the vegetable market in St John’s, where you can find a lot of produce from other Caribbean islands. But obviously certain specialty items we have to import from Europe and America.”

Jumby Bay Island has recently added the new Jumby Farm and Kitchen Garden to their portfolio. Accessible by footpath, the farm encompasses a verdant vegetable garden, herb garden and orchard.  The farm also houses the island’s flock of Persian sheep, as well as 24 chickens that will provide fresh eggs daily.  The farm’s produce will be used to supplement the menu at The Estate House, as part of the daily “Jumby-grown” specials.  In addition to serving as a peaceful retreat for guests to explore and relax, the farm will also offer a number of unique programs and activities for the resort’s younger guests, including farm tours and gardening classes. The changing selection of vegetables and herbs grown on the premises includes basil, curly kale, Tuscan kale, local spinach, regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers. Plans are afoot to develop the “farm-to-table garden,” where guests will be able to both dine and watch the chefs prepare their food.

Dining at the Estate House provides a totally different experience from the laid-back ambiance of the Verandah and Pool Grille. No swimsuits and wraps here.  There is a strict “smart” dress code. After a day at the beach, The Estate House gives you the opportunity to get your glad rags out. The original plantation house was built around 1830 and was once the centre piece of the island’s sugar plantations and the oldest building on Jumby Bay. The recently renovated Estate House now includes the Henzell Bar, boasting the largest public rum collection in the Caribbean, a main restaurant and three new private dining rooms, each featuring a different island-inspired menu and wine room.

Walking up the steps to the entrance of the Estate House you see elements of the original structure, including sculpted pineapples on the external balustrades and painted palm trees in the bar area. The enjoyment of the Estate House starts in the bar, where you can sip your cocktails before dinner.  If you feel like an elegant little nibble they serve three oysters from Brittany with caviar in a little wooden box. How stylish can you get!

Aspects of French style continue in the restaurant with crisp, white linen tablecloths, French Christophe silver cutlery and Italian Genori tableware. The food reflects the design of the Estate House–classic and elegant. Hervochon describes dining at the Estate House as having dinner in an elegant private home.

The à la carte menu is impressive. A few examples of what you can expect to taste are: a Foie Gras Terrine with walnut, celery, local pineapple and brioche, or if you prefer something a little lighter, there’s Rainbow Beetroot, which, Hervochon says, came from an inspiration of the beetroot itself: “We wanted to highlight different textures and colours of the beetroot: red, yellow and candy slices, some raw as a carpaccio and some slices cooked and served with a confit of lemon and aged Comté  from France.”

I found it hard to chose between the 18-oz grilled Chairman’s Reserved Beef Ribeye with potato tartiflette (a French dish from the Savoy region in the French Alps, it is made with potatoes, Reblochon cheese, lardons and onions), island organic greens and truffle jus.  Or, the Roasted Local Lobster, with roasted potatoes, baby carrots, asparagus, crispy trompettes and homardine sauce. I decided to go for the lobster, as it was local. It’s very simply pan roasted in butter and flamed in cognac with a reduced bisque as the sauce.  Once cooked, it is sliced and put back in the shell. It was sweet and delicious.

For dessert, I was debating between the Grand Marnier soufflé with citrus, candied peels served with a Grenadian chocolate sorbet and a Grand Marnier custard, or the Black Pineapple Baked Alaska. Hervochon told me that I had to try the signature dish of Black Pineapple Baked Alaska because “Black pineapple is a specialty of Antigua–it’s also gluten-free and dairy-free. Dennis Irvine told me that in England, during Elizabethan times people had glass houses in which they grew pineapples as a sign of wealth.” The pineapple symbol has been used a lot in the interior design of the Estate House. Even the signature baked Alaska dessert looks like a little pineapple made out of meringue with chocolate leaves. Rum is poured over and it and the chocolate leaves melt in front of the guests. Hervochon calls it his “living dessert.”  Needless to say, everything is paired perfectly with wines chosen by the sommelier.

Despite this being a very private island, the good news is that the Estate House Restaurant is open to the public, but reservations depend on the occupancy of the resort guests and villa owners, as they have priority for tables.  A reservation has to be confirmed with the hotel and the ferry has to be reserved in advance.  But it’s highly worth it, a delight for all the senses!

 

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