As a world traveller, I’m always on the hunt for a genuine dining experience. Exploring cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about other cultures. On the road, I want to taste local ingredients, meet the cooks, and hear stories and traditions associated with the dishes.
I never expected to experience this at an all-inclusive resort. But Sandals has created a culinary expedition with its Discovery Dining concept. In total, there are 140 restaurants with 18 unique culinary concepts, representing cultures from every corner of the world. Each restaurant has a unique theme and menu of international dishes.
To create Discovery Dining concepts, Sandals turned to the experts: a culinary team of Chefs from 32 countries, led by Walter Staib, an Emmy-award winning celebrity chef. Immense thought and energy goes into preparing every morsel. Whenever possible, authentic ingredients and regional flavours are used in the cooking process.
Whatever you’re craving, there is no shortage of choice: fresh Caribbean seafood, regional Italian, Thai, Sushi, French Cuisine, and even a British gastropub. Monotony is impossible at Sandals. This is choose your own food adventure. Here’s a snapshot of my culinary journey at Sandals in St. Lucia:
After a food tour of the Castries’ Farmers’ Market, we arrive at Sandals Halcyon Beach ready to eat. Luckily, a barbeque luncheon is already in the works – Caribbean lobster tails, corn, chicken breast, and sirloin steaks sizzle on the grill. At the indoor buffet, I load my plate with salad, goat curry, fruit, squash, rice, and warm bananas marinated in cinnamon and caramel for dessert.
As a fourth course, I change into my bathing suit and jump into the pool for a swim. After such a rich meal, it feels refreshing to float like a sea urchin and sip on a cocktail from the swim-up bar.
I’ve never dined on a gourmet meal…while sitting on a pier. But at Gordon’s on the Pier, that’s exactly what guests do. The restaurant is perched at the very end of a pier jutting straight out into the Caribbean, offering sweeping views of the bay and the night sky.
Seated on the pier, we savour the first course of Beef Carpaccio (below) with asparagus, parmesan, lettuce, drizzled with lemon dressing. The meat is so tender that it dissolves in my mouth. Once in awhile, a waiter tops up my glass of Beringer Chardonnay. The wine’s fruity flavour warms my belly and brings out the smokiness in the beef.
Meanwhile, our table delights in sharing tastes of the second appetizer, a Chilled Lobster Salad, and the signature cocktail, Caribbean Muse. Grunts of approval circulate around the table as quickly as the dishes. A warm sea breeze caresses my hair and I catch myself staring at the views of Rodney Bay. Dining on a pier in St. Lucia – it’s just too good.
As an aperitif, we dine on freshly made sushi and sashimi (below) at Soy Sushi Bar, paired with sake cocktails and speciality martinis.Before we get too lethargic from the sake, we move into Kimonos for an action-packed Teppanyaki experience. We sit around a rectangular table with an iron grill in the centre. The kitchen doors open, and our Chef emerges with a cart of ingredients and cooking utensils.
“Who’s hungry?” he says, sharpening his knives.
Right before our eyes, the Chef swiftly chops up vegetables, while chicken, beef, fish, and rice sizzle on the grill. The scent of smoky meat, soy, and spice wafts into the air, leaving our table salivating. Our Chef juggles knives and performs a few tricks to entertain our table. It’s a good distraction from our rumbling bellies.
At last, we are handed heaping plates of fried rice with grilled vegetables, seafood, and meats. We all agree: the Teppanyaki experience is both an epic meal and performance.
My Big Fat Italian Dinner at Armando’s Restaurant (Sandals Regency La Toc)
On my final night, we dine at Armando’s – the Italian restaurant sitting atop the Sunset Bluff like a majestic temple. As I enter the dining room, tables glow with candlelight, inviting guests to sup over a jaw-dropping view of the sea (below).
Armando’s is named after one of Italy’s most celebrated military heroes, Armando Diaz, the general who led the Italian troops a battle that ended WWI on the Italian front. As a tribute to General Diaz, Armando’s restaurant serves specialties from his home region of Campania.
I exercise some restraint at the antipasti bar, only helping myself to small portions of soft cheeses, prosciutto, olives, breads, and Minestrone soup. As a main course, I order the Linguini Alle Vongole – rich tomato pasta and clams flamed with white wine and pepper flakes. I’m stuffed, but the Chef brings out plates of mascarpone cream layered Tiramisu (below). I spoon spongy cake into my mouth, coffee and cocoa flavours melting on my tongue.
Sandals makes dinnertime playful and fun again with Discovery Dining, and the dishes were delectable. If I had one word of advice for Sandals, it would be to have a restaurant concept solely dedicated to showcasing traditional St. Lucian cuisine and local Chefs.
And one word of advice for travellers: you’re going to love Discovery Dining. But as tempting as it may be, it shouldn’t replace visiting and eating in foreign countries. Instead, treat the Discovery Dining experience as a fabulous tasting menu: sample an array of international dishes and, based on your preferences, let the experience help you choose your next destination.
Sandals offers couples-only luxury resorts in St. Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, the Bahamas, Grenada and Barbados, featuring gourmet candlelit dining for two, gorgeous tropical settings and some of the world’s most exquisite beaches.
Book your vacation package at www.sandals.com or through your travel agent.
The writer was a guest of Sandals Resorts. The company did not review or approve this article.