While we were wrapping up another gruesome beach day on Anguilla (someone has to do it), we noticed something peculiar happening next door. A private table for two was being set up right on the beach. Toes in the sand, under the stars, with soothing gentle waves just steps away. Just you and the person you love. Oh how lovely, how beautiful, how romantic… say other people. For us however its the equivalent of being locked in an apartment for four days with only one channel showing Full House nonstop. Lets forget the fact that you are potentially wasting a meal on an island known for some of the best food in the Caribbean. Potentially! I’m sure there are excellent private caterers somewhere out there. The entire experience simply sounds torturous to us. The sand flies, the darkness, the isolation, wind blowing sand. Other people passing by going awwwwwe, taking pictures of you. Toes in the sand.. pretty sure can cause a fungus. And yes we’ve done it before, when we were younger. Not our cup of tea. Even the requirement of being close to the ocean during dinner faded for us over time.
On the other end of that spectrum, was our private lunch the next day at Hibernia. If “private” means alone, than I suppose this was private, but not in the usual Private Dining sense. Regardless, when we sit there and start bringing up our most memorable alone meals like at a small Portuguese wine making Quinta overlooking the Douro river, we are essentially in the midst of one of those meals. But when we start talking about some of our most memorable meals ever, perhaps we are in the middle of something more special than that. Describing the Hibernia experience requires me to dig into my emergency vocabulary vault and blow the dust of words like Umami, Mystical, Gorgeous, Divine, and Unicorns! At some point during the meal I thought the only thing missing from this experience is a unicorn or a beautiful little yellow bird. Moments later the latter shows up.
Hibernia is like one of those Thai temples I stumbled upon in my 20’s while drunk on the streets of Chinatown. Except with a setting that would require me to be clinically Manischewitzed to stumble upon one of those here. Pictures dont do this place justice, partly because its missing the sounds of silence, water, and wind chimes that work together like an orchestra. Perhaps a video would have been more fitting in this case. Mary-Pat who hails from Hibernia (ancient Greek for Ireland) & life partner Raoul have something special going on on the eastern end of the island. A 30 minute trek for most folks here feels like a pilgrimage, and to the rest that we met… “Hibernia who?” Its only one of the finest dining in the Caribbean
But none of this would have matter – the setting, the sounds, the serenity, if the food didn’t feature the same kind of wow factor. I’m not one that can be bought or lured into a cloudy judgment by things and friendly faces. So when I asked Mary-Pat for some recommendations, I got the best answer food obsessed individuals could possibly get. A puzzled look! The look of “This is not your average big menu tourist spot. If it wouldn’t be great, it wouldn’t be on the menu”. I saw that look at Jacala as well earlier that week. Here the menu consists of creative Asian inspired delicacies with a French mastery flair. “Fusion” is the most misunderstood F word in the culinary world. When its done right, it can be a beautiful thing.
You could not have written a better start to this script. One bite of that silky smooth homemade Foie Gras Terrine and its angels singing time. The accompanied red wine infused basil seeds was like a newly invented exotic fruit, the perfect compliment. A syringe gently sprinkling some sort of alcohol, like IV for alcoholics was the icing on this cake. There’s your Michelin Star right there. The trio of smoked fish was another revelation of sorts. And I’m just talking about the little salad in the middle of all that expertly prepared sea butter. It tasted like a crazy cross between smoked white fish salad and cream cheese. The lovely Mary-pat from Hibernia (sounds more mystical hence fitting) says its ginger infused cream cheese with horseradish, picking up some of the fishy smokiness. Holy smokes this dish was good.
After those apps, the basil coconut milk with rice noodles was more like familiar flavors in a time and place that made them brand new, if it makes any sense (makes perfect sense in my head). I eat a lot more Thai food than Mrs Z who enjoyed this tremendously. Though I failed to find anything wrong there other than the crayfish (did I mention the crayfish) in that broth getting a little mushy by the end. But that’s minor quibbling. Various fillets of fish in a perfectly spiced Thai style broth was another winner. Wonderfully lemongrassy and pleasantly spicy even on a hot Anguilla afternoon.
Rum raisin ice cream to a rum raisin freak like me was like eating it for the very first time. It’s the freshness and the rum stupid, that delivers an initial punch and makes you wonder what the fu#$ have I been eating all those years. Chocolate covered brandy infused prunes with chestnut ice cream was another solid finisher. (I was toying with the idea of bathroom joke here but I’m too much of a pro for this)
“This Raoul dude is a keeper” I whispered to Mary-Pat from Hibernia before leaving with the kind of satisfaction we very rarely experience. The kind that adds that much more fuel to travel addictions