Corsairs Beach Bar & Restaurant, Jost Van Dyke

Believe it or not, even after nearly a decade of living in this little island community – there are still things that I want/have wanted to do which I just haaaaaaven’t quite got around to yet… This weekend I was finally able to make one of those dreams a reality.


Ever since I saw Corsairs Beach Bar & Restaurant on Jost Van Dyke featuring prominently in the list of BVI restaurants on TripAdvisor years ago (consistently voted #1 out of 198 restaurants in the BVI) I have been wondering about the beach bar getting all these rave foodie reviews and, on Sunday, I was finally able to try it out!


We were out on a big boat day with friends – 50 people on 4 large speedboats to be specific and – as we cruised over from Virgin Gorda and headed towards Jost (with a quick stop en route at Sandy Spit for a slip ‘n’ slide flip-cup race, naturally), we browsed through their mouth-watering menu so that we could call in our order ahead of our arrival. (You can find their menu here – those lobster cojones sound amazing, right?)


As you head inside Corsairs, greeted first by the (fake) pirate maître d’ and then by your (very real) monocle-wearing host, Captain Vinny Terranova – you can’t help but look around and take in all the artwork, the graffiti, the signs, the stickers and the general paraphernalia. Sure, there are more than a couple of beach bars around the world that have gone with this theme of decor, but you get the feeling that Corsairs has a little something else up its sleeve, a certain je ne sais quoi… Could it be the motorcycles parked out front? The friendly bearded barstaff? Or maybe it was one too many glasses of their signature voodoo juice? But Corsairs certainly has a unique atmosphere.


I’m sorry – I didn’t catch the maître d’s name… seems friendly enough, a bit quiet though!


Captain Vinny and his bottle of Voodoo Juice – I watched him make it and it is guaranteed to put hairs on your chest! 


Their lunch menu features high-end fast food. Fresh Ahi tuna nachos with seaweed salad, crispy wonton chips and pickled ginger. Their Corsairs burger topped with blue cheese, port onion jam, BBQ sauce and thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, served in a brioche bun with truffle fries on the side. There’s even a Kobe beef burger, which sounds phenomenal, if your wallet will stretch to it. It’s casual fare done exceptionally well.

What did I go for, I hear you ask? I just had to try out their lobster roll – a buttery brioche bun piled high with juicy Maine lobster with their moreish truffle fries on the side. I couldn’t resist! (Greedy little piglet…)

Lobster roll 


Ahi tuna nachos

Vinny and his team were not even remotely fazed by our group of 50 who had ordered in 4 separate groups minutes before docking and before long plates starting flying out of the kitchen, stacked high with their massive burgers (portions are large!!)


Huge Corsairs burger – fries mostly devoured before I could get the camera out… 

Sadly, we couldn’t stay for dinner as the rest of our afternoon plans (which may or may not have included the Willy-T) were calling us. Which clearly means that I shall have to pay (at least) one more visit as there are a couple of dishes on their dinner menu which have my name on them!


Read more about where you should be eating in my BVI restaurant guide here. Clearly an update is needed as I have a few more foodie stops that need including – Corsairs Beach Bar & Restaurant among them.

Corsairs Beach Bar & Restaurant is located on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Contact them on +1 284 495 9294 or find more information at www.corsairsbvi.com.

 

BVI Culinary Team Dinner

As you might have already gathered, this blogger is very partial to a good meal, especially one that I haven’t had to prepare myself. I love sampling foods by different chefs, different cuisines and different experiences. I’ve never met a tasting menu I didn’t enjoy!

Even better than that, there’s nothing I love more than a meal for a good cause and that – my friends – is what happened last week.

A small group us gathered on Moskito Island to raise money for the British Virgin Islands Culinary Team. Foodies and supporters got together for a fundraiser in aid of getting the team to Miami to compete against other Caribbean islands in the Taste of the Caribbean Competition and providing a much needed opportunity for new Caribbean chefs to compete and network with each other. A key moment to showcase BVI culinary talent.

As well as raising money for the travel costs it was also a great trial run for chef, Caswall Ponte, to practice some of his dishes ahead of the competition and show us some of the culinary tricks up his sleeve, naturally I was keen to get involved!


Pre-dinner nibbles – golden beets with mascarpone cheese and pistachio nuts.



Beautifully cooked red snapper with the selection of textures provided by the accompaniments. 

Originally from St. Kitts and Nevis – Chef Ponte moved to the British Virgin Islands in the early 80s, finding employment at Rosewood Little Dix Bay resort. Though not initially working in the kitchens, he soon began assisting the chefs and with that his love for the culinary arts grew – eventually prompting him to do further culinary training in the United States as his passion for the craft ignited. During his nearly three decades at Rosewood Little Dix Chef Ponte held numerous positions in the kitchen, and has been competing as part of the BVI Culinary Team since 1997. For the last year he has made his home in the kitchens at the exclusive Necker Island Resort.



Perfectly succulent chicken – packed with vibrant flavours. 

Warm pineapple and banana cake – demolished – so, so, so good! 

I am so excited to hear more about how Chef Ponte and the rest of the BVI Culinary Team get on in Miami at the Taste of the Caribbean Competition – and wish them the best of luck as they travel up today. Donations or sponsorship for the BVI Culinary Team can be made through the BVI Chamber of Commerce & Hotel’s Association – info@bviccha.org

Poker Run 2017

One of the highlights of the BVI social calendar is the Leverick Bay Poker Run – every year in May, speedboats of all shapes and sizes from around the Caribbean convene in the North Sound for some of the hottest cards in town. The first leg of the Caribbean Poker Run Triple Crown.

Lining the docks the brightly coloured boats and coordinating crews jostle for space – the engines throb and thrum – coolers are filled – drinks are poured – teeny swimsuits are donned and the crew get ready to run the length and breadth of the Territory.


Image via BVI Property & Yacht Magazine

The premise is simple – a trip around the islands picking up a card at each designated spot – the winning hand takes home the dollars – $8,000 of them (this year), to be exact.

Players leave Leverick Bay and head for Trellis Bay, Beef Island – continuing on to Foxy’s Taboo, Jost Van Dyke – Scaramouche Restaurant, Soper’s Hole Tortola – Pirate’s Bite, Norman Island and finally, Tortola Pier Park before heading back to Leverick Bay to collect a final card and complete their hand. The best 5 cards are selected.

Once back at Leverick the party can start!! Traditionally this kicks off with a bikini fashion show (which this blogger used to model in), before the winning hands are announced and everyone gets down to some serious partying – BVI style. Even without the bikini runway show there is still an impressive display of different swimwear and beach outfits at the party. Beach apparel on fleek! Fire dancers, dance-offs, models and partying, there’s no shortage of entertainment for the afternoon.

This year we weren’t out on the water as we were assisting the organizers, but we still made sure to get a good spot to watch the start. Regular readers might notice that I mention Hog Heaven a lot for their unparalleled views of the outer islands and they provided the perfect spot for a crowd of us to grab a cold drink and watch the boats speeding out of Leverick Bay – streaks of colour with their trails of white cutting through the cerulean blue of the North Sound.



A couple of hours later we were back at Leverick Bay to meet the returning boats and collect their hands from them – the board soon started to fill up!



Tensions heighten as the top hands start appearing, a straight, a flush, a full house and finally four-of-a-kind.


The winning hand!! 



Finally the sun sets, the winners are announced, the confetti canons are fired and the prizes are given out. Thousands of dollars are raised for charity every year. Next week the celebrations continue with the Poker Run in St. Maarten and we wait to do it all again next year… will you join me there?

48 hrs on Virgin Gorda

No trip to the British Virgin Islands would be complete with a visit to the beautiful island of Virgin Gorda. Home to one of our most recognizable tourist attractions – The Baths.

But the sad reality is that so much of the rest of what Virgin Gorda has to offer gets overlooked in favour of a visit to our famous monolithic building-sized boulders and I want to show you what else you should be including on your tour.

To explore Virgin Gorda properly I would suggest that you need a minimum of 36-48 hours – that should give you just enough time to hit our beaches, enjoy some meals, tour the Baths and get over to the North Sound and the outer islands.

Follow me – I’ll show you around!

First things first – in order to really explore Virgin Gorda you’re probably going to need a car. The friendly taxi drivers are very good if you’re looking for the odd trip but, if you’re going backwards and forwards over Gorda Peak and in and around the Valley, a rental will likely prove more cost effective. There are a few good rental companies about including L&S, who will meet you at the dock and Speedy’s who will give you a small discount on one of their cars if you came over on the ferry with them.

Secondly – where are you going to stay? If you arrived on a charter boat then you’ll have your own comfy quarters, but if you’re just popping over for the weekend you’ll be looking for a roof over your head. Keep in mind that Virgin Gorda is made up of two main areas, the Valley and the North Sound, you’ll need to decide which one you want to base yourself in.

For those that wish to stay in The Valley a comfortable and family-friendly option is Guavaberry Spring Bay – a little resort made up of affordable one, two and three bedroom wooden cottages nestled among the boulders. Each charming little house is fully equipped with kitchen, living area, bathroom and patio deck and some of the cottages are available with a/c at a small extra cost.

If you fancy something a little more luxurious, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, I suggest that the newly renovated, and super chic bedrooms, at Saba Rock would be the perfect spot to lay your head. Many of them feature gorgeous balconies ideal for enjoying a glass of champagne and taking in the views of the North Sound.

Virgin Gorda also has a host of beautiful rental villas available for larger groups but many of them will have a minimum stay stipulation.

Okay, now we have the logistics out of the way – let’s start building your itinerary! (I’m going to base this around a weekend, but many of these items can equally be done Monday-Friday too).


Day 1 – 

We’ve already discussed the fact that you need to visit the Baths, to miss them would be a complete travesty. But before you head off on that little hike you’re going to need to fuel up. So let’s start with breakfast at Top of the Baths.

Normally I’m hesitant to try a restaurant so close to one of the sights – wary of falling into a tourist trap, but Top of the Baths is one of those rare places that enjoys ideal situation and a great breakfast! All the usual suspects are on the menu (pancakes, French toast, eggs benny) along with a few more unusual options like my favourites – the creole omelette and the Tunisian eggs (I like a bit of spice to my breakfast!) all of which come with a choice of tea or coffee.


Tip: Get there early, if you can (it opens at 8:00 am) (a) to ensure that you get there before breakfast finishes and (b) so that you can get on and hike the Baths before the crowds arrive. 

Right, once you’ve finished your food it’s time to get cracking and get down to the Baths, grab some bottled water before you go. Hopefully it’s still nice and early and shouldn’t be too crowded (I always recommend checking the cruise ship schedule before you plan a visit) or too hot. Please keep in mind that the hike through the Baths is reasonably strenuous and shouldn’t be undertaken if you suffer from heart problems or an underlying medical condition.

Pay your $3 entrance fee to the National Parks and follow the sandy path down to the entrance to the Baths before making your way through the maze of boulders. Be sure to stop and get pictures in the ‘Cathedral’ which is the largest of the caves with a triangular opening and a small hole at the back where the light comes in and bounces around the cavern and off the water. It’s very pretty and is the quintessential image of the Baths – the lighting is also quite flattering 🙂

Hopefully you didn’t bring too much with you and you can squeeze your way through the nooks and crannies. The responsible part of me advises that you wear some sort of amphibious footwear, but equally I always do it barefoot and have never had an issue.

Eventually you are going to pop out at Devil’s Bay – a beautiful little stretch of white sand a calm turquoise water. If you brought snorkel gear it’s a lovely spot to test it out. Equally you might just want to wade in, bob around and cool off!



When it comes time to leave you could just head back the way you came and go back through the Baths, or you can take the shortcut up to the car park – but personally I like to continue the walk around through Stoney Bay (which is definitely the path less travelled)! As the name suggests it’s a shingle beach that looks across to Fallen Jerusalem. To find it head towards the far end of Devil’s Bay and find the gap in the rocks, there’s a little path.

It’s very quiet and there’s lots of wildlife hanging out undisturbed, there will almost certainly be lizards and hermit crabs and I’ve even seen a couple of small snakes sunning themselves on the path. They’re all harmless and will beat a hasty retreat when they hear you coming!

The path will eventually meet the shortcut to the car park and you’ll end up back by Top of the Baths. Consider paying a visit to Mad Dog Restaurant & Bar for a cold refreshment before you head out, it’s on your left-hand side as you leave the car park (I have it on good authority that their pina coladas and bushwhackers are some of the best you’ll find).

Now – I suggest moving on to Spring Bay for a quick stop, if you’ve chosen to stay at Guavaberry you may have already found this little spot, since it’s right next door. If not head back towards Spanish Town and you’ll see the sign on the roadside. It’s another pretty little beach with boulders, but it tends to be a lot quieter than the Baths!



Stop a while – or if you’re hungry by this point we can progress to lunch…

For lunch we’re going to head up the mountain to Hog Heaven which has one of the best views in the Territory! High up on the hill, perched right on the edge, overlooking the North Sound is this great ribs joint. Simple BBQ food done well. There are other things on the menu but I always gravitate towards the ribs – fresh and local meat (it’s owned by a pig farmer). Why would you go to a place named Hog Heaven and eat anything else? 🙂 The cocktails are great too – frozen rum smoothies!

If BBQ food’s not your bag do not despair – I have you covered! Head into nearby Nail Bay to the Sugarcane Restaurant for some lighter fare – salads, soup, burgers, wraps and even some local favourites including Anegada lobster freshly grilled (when in season) just make sure you still promise to stop by Hog Heaven for a smoothie (and a few pictures!)

On the way back down the mountain after lunch make sure you park up at the various viewing stations for gorgeous views up and down the island and consider hiking Gorda Peak… Work off that lunch with a steep hike up through the brush to the viewing platform (you will need trainers) it’s not for the faint of heart (hopefully you didn’t have too many of those smoothies). I promise that tomorrow’s activities will be less strenuous!

However, if a steep hike doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, consider paying a visit to one of our other National Parks and explore the Copper Mine ruins instead.
After this there will be enough time to maybe take a quick nap and hopefully a shower – you’ll want to be ready before sunset though because we’re headed to CocoMaya for cocktails and sunset views by the fire pit before dinner!

Get to CocoMaya, grab a seat on the swings and a lychee champagne cocktail, maybe sample a snack or two at the bar – share the edamame. Then make your way into the restaurant and enjoy their delicious tapas style small plates and mains (also designed to be shared). I actually have too many recommendations for this place (I’ll obviously have to do a full post soon) but I will say this – get the churros for dessert… you won’t see them on the menu (they are hiding on the iPad) but they are seriously good… dunk them in the milk ice cream and espresso.

By now you should be ready to roll your way back to bed!


Day 2 – 

If you’ve read my post on what to eat in the BVI you may remember a mention of the Sunday buffet brunch at the Bitter End Yacht Club. It’s fab and only $45 including bottomless mimosas. Buuuut I recently found out that the Sunday breakfast buffet (8:00 am – 10:30 am) is only $25 and still includes the mimosas! Bargain! Plus, the breakfast buffet is where they hide all the bacon… so that’s where we’re headed! Pick up the boat at Gun Creek for the short trip over.


After breakfast stay a while at the Bitter End and explore – there are a couple of little walks that you can do, you can lounge on the beach or swim out to the platform. Ask nicely and you can even rent a Hobie cat for an hour. Head over to Saba Rock to browse the gift shop, check out the aquarium, maybe enjoy a drink and the views.


Then I have a couple of suggestions for your afternoon.

Book a tour with Gumption at Sea It Clear, either his wildlife tour or the glass bottom boat tour. Be aware that they are both very popular so availability is limited and it will need to be booked in advance.

Or hook up with local dive operators DiveBVI and (it hopefully goes without saying that you will need to abstain from the mimosas if you’re choosing this option) request to dive the new Virgin Gorda attraction an artificial reef project, the Kodiak Queen. Advanced reservations and open water certification are required. On afternoon dives snorkelers may also be able to join, but please check first.

If you’re staying a second night I have a couple of recommendations for dinner!

If you’re staying in the North Sound head over to the restaurant at Leverick, situated upstairs you can look out over the marina as you dine. The seared scallops or the lobster risotto make for tempting starters and they serve the juiciest strip loin steak. Downstairs serves a more casual menu of pizzas, tacos, snacks and wraps.

If you’re headed back to the Valley, consider checking out Chez Bamboo for an eclectic mix of different cuisines; sushi, Caribbean dishes, delicious dim sum items – there is truly something for everyone!

Wow this is a long post – see, I told you there was lots to do in Virgin Gorda! Any suggestions you think that I’ve missed?

PS. You can find more recommendations for what to do and where to eat in the BVI here and here!

From Farm To Table: Brandywine Estate Restaurant

For years the farm to table concept has been gathering momentum across the world and for good reason. Eating local, shopping local produce, farmer’s markets, organic and now the freshest of the fresh – straight from the garden to the plate – means that many of us are eating better than ever.

Finally, the initiative is starting to arrive in the BVI – first with local farmers and now the restaurants.

Chef Regis Bourdon, and his team at Brandywine Estate Restaurant, are the latest to embrace the movement and have been working hard to cultivate an impressive garden area, bringing all the herbs and vegetables out of the earth and right onto their menu.


Regis and his climbing spinach seedling army in the nursery – who knew there was climbing spinach? 


It’s been no small undertaking, a labour of love – not without it’s challenges. Leveling the ground, building the beds, keeping out the livestock, improving the soil quality, irrigation, it’s still a work in progress and Chef Bourdon has big plans, but what they’ve achieved already is very exciting.


I took some time this weekend to go and explore this herby-oasis, their garden of green goodness in the midst of the Caribbean cacti and aloe plants. I sampled some of the harvest and wanted to hear a bit more about what they’ve been up to.

Beautifully peppery arugula. 

The plan is that once the garden is fully established it will be supplying all of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant, (with maybe the exception of onions and potatoes). Even better news for the rest of us, Chef Regis estimates that some of his farm fresh produce will be available for sale since supply may well exceed the restaurant’s demand.

Brandywine recently changed up their lunch and dinner menus for the summer season – so along with our usual favourites there were a few new treats available. This and the new half-price bottles of Rose on offer on a Saturday lunchtime made for some big smiles and full tummies.

Creamy Burrata and Parma Ham salad with their fresh arugula leaves

The new salmon deviled eggs are a bit of a game-changer

We typically ended up staying far later than intended (it miiiiight have had something to do with the half-price wine deal) but it’s just such a charming place to wile away a leisurely afternoon. We took ourselves up to the pétanque court, caught up with friends and spent ages just enjoying the views and the breeze on the terrace, until before we knew it we were the only ones left… (Oops!)

The garden at Brandywine is just getting started and I can’t wait to see what they’ll be coming up with next. Looks like I have a few more long Saturday lunches on the cards, maybe I’ll see some of you there… 🙂

See more about Brandywine Estate Restaurant here, or call +1 (284) 495 2301 for reservations.

EDIT: Very sadly the Brandywine Estate Restaurant was significantly damaged during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The team are busily re-building their restaurant but a re-opening date has not yet been confirmed. In the meantime you can find Chef Regis’ culinary creations at their newly opened ‘Rooftop by Brandywine’ restaurant in the heart of Road Town. Serving tapas plates in the evening as well as a delicious lunch time menu (featuring many of the old favourites and some of the dishes mentioned above), ‘Rooftop by Brandywine’ is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. The same contact details apply. 

PS. See more about where and what to eat when visiting the BVI here.