Aqua "Food should be entertainment," says Claudio Vigilante, Aqua's manager and its creative force. That's a fitting motto for the restaurant at the recently renovated Ariel Sands, the resort owned by actor Michael Douglas's family. In keeping with his philosophy, Vigilante recently brought in talented young chef John Wason, who isn't afraid to experiment in the kitchen as long as the resultslike goat cheese fondue with crostini and raspberry coulisare as delicious as they are entertaining (34 South Shore Rd., Devonshire; 441-236-2332).
La Coquille With yacht-filled Hamilton Harbor as his backdrop, veteran Swiss-Italian chef Serge Bottelli serves some of the island's best seafood. The menu ranges from French country-inspired dishes, like the catch of the day with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and roasted garlic, to more haute offerings, like salmon stuffed with scallop-and-lobster mousse and wrapped in puff pastry (40 Crow Lane, Pembroke; 441-292-6122).
The Newport Room The dining room, on the lower level of the Fairmont Southampton resort, doesn't have water views, but the lovely blue-and-white nautical motif and chef Michael Scott's polished, unfussy cooking more than compensate. Dishes such as velouté of fennel with roasted cod or dover sole meunière with citrus and caper beurre noisette are served with humble but outrageously delicious sides like deep-fried mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes with Smithfield ham and fresh corn (101 South Shore Rd., Southampton; 441-238-8000, ext. 6964).
The Pickled Onion Most Bermuda restaurants are closed during the day on weekends, and it's hard to find restaurants even in downtown Hamilton that are open for lunch on Saturdays. The Pickled Onion, a casual spot in the city's shopping district, is a surprisingly good option for crispy pork ribs with a soy dipping sauce or a perfectly fried batch of corn fritters with tartar sauce. To avoid the crowds, stop in after the cruise ships leave port, usually between 3 and 4 p.m. (53 Front St., Hamilton; 441-295-2263).
Tamarisk Room In the restaurant at Cambridge Beaches, a resort on the remote northwestern corner of the island that attracts a European clientele, chef Graham Singer tweaks classic dishes, as in his terrine of butter-poached lobster served with a chilled broth made of smoked scallops, and his duck breast roulade with white peach-grape chutney and parsley puree. To best sample Singer's inventions, order the tasting menu, which is served in a 200-year-old cottage at the resort or, during the summer, on a dock overlooking Mangrove Bay (30 King's Point Rd., Somerset; 441-234-0331).
Aggie's Café Bermuda's most progressive new restaurant is run by a member of one of the island's oldest families. Owner Judith Wadson is out to share the philosophy of seasonally based cooking she perfected at California's Chez Panisse. Many of her ingredients (for dishes like roast chicken with lemon-yogurt sauce) come from one of the few local independent farmers, who happens to be her brother (108 Pitts Bay Rd., Pembroke; 441-296-7346).
Bermuda Culinary Arts Festival This fall, top chefs from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom will converge for the annual Bermuda Culinary Arts Festival. Sponsored by F&W, the event will take place November 11 to 16 at the posh Fairmont Southampton resort. But cooking demos and wine seminars aren't the only reasons to sign up: Participants can also hang out at the resort's private beach club or tee off at its 18-hole golf course (for more information, call 800-BERMUDA).
Most Unusual Tea
The Heritage Court at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Although Bermuda was once a British colony, the island has given the teatime ritual its own cosmopolitan spin. At the Heritage Court, in the grand lobby of Bermuda's original luxe hotel, the traditionally stodgy tea sandwiches have been replaced with a more internationally inspired selection, such as Thai duck salad on salt focaccia and Jonah crab and avocado salad on Indian fry bread. The Heritage Court also does its part to promote Bermudan products: The resort's signature tea is made with a locally blended rum (76 Pitts Bay Rd., Hamilton; 441-295-3000).
The Elbow Beach Club An ongoing, multimillion-dollar face-lift is helping this resort shed its reputation as a preppy outpost for honeymooning New Englanders. A big update is Scott Connor's innovative cooking at the signature restaurant, the Seahorse Grill, which looks out over one of Bermuda's prettiest pink beaches (doubles from $300; 60 South Shore Rd., Paget; 800-223-7434).
The Reefs This resort offers a variety of room options, including cottages nestled among pristine limestone cliffs with dramatic views of Bermuda's south shore. La Serena, the full-service spa, specializes in traditional Thai massage (doubles from $284; 56 South Shore Rd., Southampton; 800-742-2008).
The Royal Palms This hotel in a tree-lined neighborhood is a perfect spot for travelers who like island vacations but hate the beach-resort scene. The 25-room boutique hotel, on the site of a 19th-century estate five minutes from downtown Hamilton, has been restored to its former grandeur. It also houses Ascots, a restaurant that helped put Bermuda on the culinary map (doubles from $160; 24 Rosemont Ave., Pembroke; 800-678-0783).
Gosling Brothers The Gosling family has made Bermuda's famed Black Seal Ruma rich, dark brown variety used in the popular Dark and Stormy cocktailfor seven generations. At this Hamilton shop, visitors can sample the drink; plans for tours of the distillery, where the rum is blended and aged, are in the works. The shop stocks a great selection of hard-to-find wines and other spirits, including Gosling's surprisingly good canned Dark and Stormy (Front St. at Queen St., Hamilton; 441-295-1123).
International Imports This well-stocked cookware shop is where professional chefs and island billionaires go to find the latest kitchen equipment, tableware designs and cookbooks. The store also offers cooking classes run by some of Bermuda's top chefs (44 Par-La-Ville Rd., Hamilton; 441-292-1661).
Miles Market Bermuda's answer to the American epicurean chain Dean & DeLuca, Miles Market is a one-stop shop for picnickers, featuring a selection of high-quality brands from the United States and Europe, along with an in-house butcher, bakery, wine shop and take-out counter (96 Pitts Bay Rd., Hamilton; 441-295-1234).
Best Reasons to Go Outdoors
Boating Locals insist that Bermuda is best seen from the water, whether that means kayaking around the coves or taking the ferry from Hamilton to Somerset or St. George's. More serious boaters can rent yachts from Haywards Charters (441-236-9894) or Oyster Point Yacht Charters (441-238-SAIL).
Garden Tours A visit to the 36-acre Botanical Gardens in Paget Parish is the best way to see the island's spectacular varieties of flowers and trees; a garden for the blind features scented plants (441-236-5902).
Golfing Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than any other nation. Most of the island's private country clubs are accessible to visitors staying at local hotels (arrangements must be made by a concierge); these clubs include the new Tuckers Point Golf Club (441-298-6900) and the beachfront Mid Ocean Club (441-293-0330), where actor Michael Douglas and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg are members. The challenging Robert Trent Jones-designed Port Royal Golf Course (441-234-0974) is open to the public.