Jacques is the perfect antidote to the madness and Vegas-like neon of Rodney Bay. Situated opposite the thumping bass “strip” and almost balanced right on the water this elegant, family-run eatery is serenity personified.
We were about two thirds into a 14-day tour of St Lucia and Rodney Bay, in the northwest, was quite a shock after the tranquility of the rather isolated resorts we had been in near Soufriere.
Rodney Bay can be brash and loud and it is of course a cruise ship stop so very, very busy. So while one evening of dancing and drinking 80-proof rum was brilliant, the next night we sought something a little more soothing.
Jacques’ exact location is in the grounds of the Harmony Suites Hotel, about a 10-minute walk from the centre of Rodney Bay. It’s a little bit tricky to find in the dark, but it’s clearly signposted and that makes reaching it even more rewarding.
It’s run by husband and wife duo Jacques and Catherine Rioux – he’s the chef and Cathy, the front of house. They’re French and English and came to the Caribbean years ago to work at various luxury resorts – a chef and Director of Restaurants dream team. But for the last 20 years they’ve run this gem, bringing a splendid mix of Continental and local cuisine to one of the busiest and most tourist-heavy parts of the small island.
The space is all white linen and candles with a big central bar – a blissful oasis. We were seated right on the waterfront with a beautiful view of the bay. The menu is simple but with a good choice of seafood, meat and vegetarian options. We started with cocktails and a tuna amuse bouche, which was meaty and fresh – a tantalising hint of what was to come.
Cathy was delightfully friendly and expertly recommended dishes from the menu – she was also happy to chat to us about the restaurant’s history and how her family ended up in Rodney Bay.
She makes a point of talking to each table, which is a really homely touch and something we hadn’t experienced so far in St Lucia. On Cathy’s say-so we went for the croustade of asparagus with hollandaise sauce and the leek, portabella and goats’ cheese tart. Neither dishes were particularly tropical but the vibe at Jacques is decidedly more European fine dining than beach barbecue.
The asparagus was tender and flavoursome and the hollandaise, spot on. It’s a sauce which of course requires a lot of patience. The tart pastry was rich and crumbly and the filling, plentiful. The creamy cheese and fresh vegetables were scrumptious, albeit rather filling. We’d recommend having a lighter main course if opting for this.
Next up, we were recommended a combination of flavours that shouldn’t perhaps work, but did – tuna steak in peppercorn sauce. The steaks were enormously generous and butter-soaked and seared with just the right amount of pink in the middle.
This was accompanied by a selection of fresh vegetables and of course, the rich peppercorn sauce – definitely turn up to Jacques hungry. All the dishes were simple and refined but without being showy and the chef really takes advantage of St Lucia’s lush and bountiful produce.
The first two courses were paired with a light, dry rose wine from Provence. After a pleasant pause – there was no sense of rush at all – we decided to try the coconut creme brulee with coconut rum sauce and the pineapple flambe marinated in St Lucian spiced rum.
Coconut will most likely feature on all menus in St Lucia – its versatility is well lauded with locals and is used from everything from cooking to medicine. So I was excited to try it in creme brulee form. It didn’t disappoint – all we can say is go and try it. The flambe, a classic French dessert with an island twist, was equally tasty.
Jacques is perfect for a quiet, sophisticated supper set away from the heart of the bustle, while still being easily accessible. Cathy and Jacques have worked hard to create a lovely, cosy place that’s welcoming while still making you feel special. It also does a fabulous Sunday jazz brunch.
So if you find yourself in St Lucia’s Rodney Bay – make sure you factor in Jacques – even if just for a drink. It’s a real Caribbean treasure.
To discover more, visit: jacquesrestaurant.com
By Hayley Coyle, Editor
Tel: +1 758 458 1900
Tue-Sat: 12-3pm, 6pm-10pm
All images courtesy of the author/Jacques.