At the foot of a cliff sits Cap Maison’s Naked Fisherman – one of Saint Lucia’s most stunning hotel restaurants
By Scott Manson
As cab rides to lunch go, this beats a rainy trip across London. We’re on the north coast of Saint Lucia, barrelling up the mountains in a taxi that’s seen better days, while our cheery driver acts as a tour guide. In truth, there’s no need for him to extol the virtues of this island, as it’s all right there in front of us. Our panoramic view takes in golden sand beaches fringing a sapphire sea, cute little fishing villages, fat avocados growing wild by the roadside and bright flowering plants – all set against a dramatic mountain backdrop.
Ours was a flying visit. Just a few hours on the island before our boat set sail again and we only had one ambition – to eat lunch at the Naked Fisherman, the beachside restaurant of the celebrated Cap Maison hotel. Its barbecues are talked of in hushed tones of reverence while its late-night parties are known as some of the best on the island. While we wouldn’t be there for DJs and dancing in the sand, we’d arrived early enough to enjoy the tranquil beach before the serious business of eating began.
In truth, Cap Maison feels nothing like a hotel when you arrive. Cute whitewashed villas (it’s predominantly a villa-based hotel) are surrounded by lush foliage, with meandering paths leading off to swimming pools, a restaurant and clifftop bar. Despite its near 100% occupancy, the feel is one of quiet serenity – the only sounds being birdsong and the rustle of wind through the trees.
92 steep steps took us down to the Naked Fisherman, a destination dining spot for those in the know on the island. Although part of the hotel, it’s open to everyone and situated on a pretty little beach – Smugglers’ Cove – that’s perfect for some pre-prandial snorkelling. If there’s a better way of working up an appetite than floating around a crystal clear sea filled with angel fish and parrot fish, then I’ve yet to find it.
The Naked Fisherman is named after a local for whom nude fishing was a thing apparently and, while exhibitionism was no longer a feature of this particular beach, the stripped-down simplicity of the restaurant and its menu – allowing great produce to shine through – continued the au natural theme.
It’s a small, intimate place with a daily menu of specials and plenty of fresh seafood. We snagged a great spot, sitting at the front of the raised wooden deck under a shady thatched roof although, in truth, when every table looks out over such a spectacular setting, even the fussiest diner would happily eat anywhere. Two perfect pina coladas arrived, alongside an ice bucket containing a chilled bottle of Whispering Angel. This was getting pretty close to heaven on earth.
The real evangelising came, though, when our food appeared. A beautiful sweet chili shrimp burrito kicked things off – its fresh, sharp flavours complimented by a crunch of greens, juicy shellfish and a lime aioli. It tasted like sunshine on a plate.
We noted the evening menu included some fabulous sounding creole barbecue options, such as beef short ribs and steak, and were slightly disappointed that they didn’t fire up the barbecue for lunch. However, when my day-boat catch of fresh dorado (AKA mahi-mahi) arrived – chunky and slightly caramelised where it had touched the grill bars – all thoughts of fire and meat left my mind. This was a magnificent piece of piscine pleasure, served alongside curried pumpkin, ripe plantain and zingy steamed vegetables. In other words, exactly what you want to eat while you hear waves crash and feel a warm summer breeze blow.
All too soon, our return back to the boat beckoned but we left in the knowledge that we’d just enjoyed one of the best lunches on the island. So, if you’re in Saint Lucia, go naked.