Sometimes…or maybe it’s most of the time in the islands you find the tastiest eats in the most down-to-earth surroundings. Sure, Zickie and I have dined at some memorably upscale establishments from Grenada to Key West, but give us a table close to the sand and fresh seafood that’s been cooked with love and care? Talk about happiness! So, Zickie, our daughter, and I were out exploring the truly lovely French island of Martinique in early summer. It was low season, and few tourists appeared on the exquisitely beautiful Caribbean beach in Grande Anse, a rustic fishing village. Grande Anse and its somewhat larger sister village, Petite Anse, lie in Les Anses d'Arlets, a beautiful region on the southwestern coast of the island.
(A beach restaurant or "lolo" in Grande Anse)
In Grande Anse, there’s one main street, and most of the joints fronting the sea were closed the day we strolled through. Then we happened upon some tables literally on the shore. Only one couple sat outside sharing a bottle of French rosé. (Sidebar: French wine in Martinique doesn’t cost much, at least not compared to the States. Another reason to love this place!)
(This place looked promising!)
The name? Bidjoul Restaurant. In Martinique they call these simple seaside spots “lolos,” and while the décor wouldn’t win international design awards, the cooking can be absolutely fantastic. We checked out the menu, and the list of Martinican seafood specialities stoked our hunger. “Yes,” Zickie and I said simultaneously. This was the spot! Although I wanted to be as close as possible to the graceful crescent of sand and brilliantly colored fishing boats, it was hot, as in full-force noontime tropical heat. So we chose to sit inside the little restaurant, where Antillean zouk played softly on the radio. I could still see plenty of Caribbean Sea from our upstairs perch.
(Sitting inside still gave us an awesome view of the Caribbean Sea.)
Narrowing down the selections was tough, but an ice cold Lorraine beer made the task a whole lot easier. Zickie decided on crayfish, while I ordered whole fried vivaneau (snapper). Our little one chose off the children’s menu: chicken with French fries. To start? Accras or fish fritters (which taste a bit like conch fritters you might have encountered in the Florida Keys or the Bahamas).
(A Lorraine beer, brewed in Martinique)
No other customers came in, so it was just ourselves, the waitress, and an unforgettable backdrop. We didn’t expect the food to appear super quickly, because that’s just not the way it’s done here. But that view kept us happy as we waited.
The accras came. We bit in expectantly. Yes, crunchy. Yes, you could taste the spices mixed in the batter, along with small morsels of cod. But they did not taste “fishy” in the least. Instead, they had a mild, savory flavor, just as accras should be. We sipped a little more on our drinks while watching birds wheel against the azure sky, and then, our waitress appeared with our meals.
(Zickie made a good selection!)
The crayfish looked so colorful and yummy in its spicy Creole sauce that Zickie immediately snapped a picture. My fish had been fried – without batter – to a crispy perfection. Our daughter started in on her chicken. Her verdict about lunch? Very good. (Which is extremely high praise coming from her!) Let me confess something: I had to steal a few of her fries. I loved the French fries on Martinique. They cook them in peanut oil, which gives the most mellow, delectable flavor. Utter heaven. Zickie loved his crayfish so much that he used small slices of French bread to soak up the last of the sauce. And I utterly enjoyed my snapper with its crunchy skin and succulent interior. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the most down-to-earth spots conjure up the most delicious meals.
(The exterior of Bidjoul, on Grande Anse's "main drag")
Why wasn’t the place packed with customers? Low season, I guess. Maybe in January it’s crowded. But that day in June we had the place practically to ourselves. And what a feast! Our delicious meal didn’t hurt the wallet, and left our bellies very happy. If you like to get off-the-beaten track, like Zickie and I do, Grande Anse in Les Anses d’Arlets will serve up a delightful slice of authentic Martinican island life. Be sure to stop by a lolo for lunch or dinner. And if you do, let us know what you ordered!
Bon appetit from the Island Runaways.