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Antigua and Barbuda / Special Interests / Food and Cooking

By Deana Bellamy , James Henderson

In the hotels in Antigua you will generally be served international fare, with a twist of the Caribbean in some of the ingredients. Caribbean fish, some of the vegetables and, of course, much of the fruit is caught or grown in the area. A couple of the hotels sidestep this formula by offering a different style of cuisine, perhaps Asian or Italian, but hotel dining rooms tend to have a certain uniformity about them, so you may want to head out to some of the island’s many restaurants for a change of taste and scene.

Although many of the hotels are now “all-inclusives” (which can often lead to the demise of independent restaurants, because guests have already paid for their food and consequently do not want to go out), Antigua has a big enough population of restaurant-goers to sustain a number of good restaurants. There is reasonable variety too, with a handful of smart restaurants, mostly French and Italian, but also some really cool spots on the beach where you can get simple, mostly Caribbean fare in a lovely setting. As with much of life on the island, there is a fair concentration in the north-west around St John’s and in the south-east around English Harbour, where, in season, there is a whole strip of lively restaurants between Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour.

Hotels often include Caribbean cooking lessons or demonstrations as part of their weekly round of activities and if you are staying in a villa you might get some impromptu lessons from your housekeeper. Caribbean cookery classes are also available at Nicole’s Table with Nicole Arthurton, who has set up the service in the privacy of her home in Cedar Valley. There are four set classes held on a regular basis for visitors and a cookery club for locals.

Local Food in Antigua

Antigua has its own food, of course, a combination of African traditions adapted to the ingredients of the region. Favourite dishes include duccana and saltfish, which is a mixture of grated sweet potato, coconut and cornmeal flavoured with spices and steamed in banana leaf. It is served with a saltfish stew which has a tomato and onion base.

The national dish is fungi and pepperpot. Fungi is a polenta-type paste made with cornmeal and okra which is then cooked in a ball. Pepperpot is a type of stew that includes a small mountain of ground provisions such as yam, eddoe, pumpkin, green fig, plantain (both types of banana), sweet potato, dasheen leaves (not unlike spinach) into which are added pig tails and salt pork and then beef. It makes a hearty casserole which is also highly seasoned.

Another favourite stew is goat water, which is made with goat meat and is spiced with hot peppers, clove and even cinnamon.

It is said that the indigenous black pineapple or Antigua black is the sweetest in the world. It is one of a number of varieties (Joseph Brown, Crabb Pine and a smooth pineapple) that are grown at the government-owned agricultural station, Cades Bay Pineapple Station in Cades Bay. Currently 12 of the 20 acres are in production and the pineapples are harvested (and for sale) twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Tours of the farm can be arranged through the station manager, Irose Henry.

Occasionally there will be an evening of West Indian and Antiguan food in your hotel but, of course, there are restaurants where you can find local fare.

Restaurants in Antigua with good local food include:

Parham Corner - Literally on the corner in Parham, this is a spot where people meet to “lime” (hangout) and enjoy authentic Antiguan food on Friday and Saturday evenings from 9am to 6pm. Run by chef Troy Watkins (who with chef Calvin Francis also operates a gourmet catering service called Chef 2 U Events Ltd). You can try local specialties such as bull foot soup, goat water, souse, barbecued ribs and chicken, and interesting local drinks such as sea moss and linseed.

Quay Bar & Grill (formerly Commissioner's Grill), St John's - The recently refurbished restaurant has retained some of the Commissioner's classic West Indian fare, along with some international dishes. Close to Redcliffe Quay and sees a mixed crowd of Antiguans and visitors.

Grace Before Meals, English Harbour - Set in a chattel house with white-painted walls, floral curtains, silk flowers and plastic tablecloths; a simple, cheerful and clean dining room. Seating shared at two long trestle tables and three smaller tables for couples. Family-run by Grace and her daughter (even the youngest child helps out). Good Caribbean fare – conch, chicken, fish, and particularly rotis, including conch, fish, mutton, shrimp, vegetable, chicken or beef. Great for a cheap meal out. Can deliver to yachts.

Caribbean Taste, English Harbour - Trusty local fare in a simple setting right in English Harbour.

Diane’s Bar, English Harbour - Very simple, but hearty local food.

Food and Cooking on Antigua and Barbuda

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  1. Visit Nelson's Dockyard, the oldest functioning naval facility in the world
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