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I’ve never associated the Caribbean with amazing food, but having just gotten back from a whirlwind vacation of island hopping, I’ve decided that anyone who loves the beach and loves food absolutely must visit Anguilla. I could have spent two weeks eating my way around the island. And that’s not counting the fantastic, simply prepared seafood from rundown beach shacks like Uncle Ernie’s on Shoal Bay, where I spotted island legend and restaurateur Cyril Fitzsimons (he owns Zara’s on Anguilla and an eponymous fish house in Amagansett, Long Island).
This also seems to be the island of choice for couples wanting to escape cool climates and open their dream restaurant. Highlights from four spectacular husband-and-wife owned spots:
Spicy (and subtly potent) red sangria and grilled baby octopus with shaved fennel, lemon and Moroccan pesto at Zurra, the newly opened restaurant from Bob and Mel Blanchard, owners of the island’s 14-year-old fine-dining institution Blanchards was spectacular. They also served an ingenious vanilla ice cream–stuffed dark-chocolate cupcake—dessert doesn’t get much better.
The Blanchards’ sent us to their favorite restaurant, Hibernia, run by a couple like themselves, but with reverse roles: At Hibernia, Raoul Rodriguez is the chef and Mary Pat O'Hanlon's on the floor. The 11 tables are set on the front porch of an old house that overlooks the ocean, and the couple added an art gallery a few years back. Thai crayfish and a smoked-fish appetizer were delicious, and the newly expanded wine cellar has an admirable selection of French producers.
After running a restaurant in western Pennsylvania, CIA grad Carrie Bogar and her husband, Jerry, started dreaming of island life and scanning Craigslist. In 2006 they moved to Anguilla, and last year they opened Veya, the island’s current buzzed-about restaurant, which serves inventive dishes (they’ve coined it “cuisine of the sun”) like vanilla-cured duck breast with guavaberry sauce and grilled crayfish with ginger beurre blanc.
Jerry sent us to Barrel Stay. Two years ago, English chef Graham Belcher and his wife, Jill Sheperd, took over the popular beachfront restaurant, elevating the food to an entirely new level with superfresh seafood dishes like mahi-mahi served over a sweet corn–and–spinach cake, plus some fanciful creations like tournedos Rossini seared foie gras with black truffles and Madeira jus.