From the West to the South Coast and in between, Barbados is awash with top of the line, world-class dining experiences. Some of the world's top chefs can be found serving up delectable cuisine and transforming raw produce into edible works of art. Whatever the desire of your palate, there is a restaurant waiting to take you on a gastronomic journey to any region on earth. Heralded by some as the culinary capital of the world, Barbados' approach to food stands apart from the rest. It goes beyond a knife and fork experience and can be considered a form of cultural immersion.
Beyond the walls of the fine dining establishments and Zagat ratings, the island of Barbados has some hidden treasures. Local treasures that the Barbadian people are happy to share with you. Barbadian food spots, corners, and bars where the seasoning rubs and kitchen techniques have been handed down from generation to generation, creating a condition where the food is bursting with flavour and a 'more-ish' after taste. But where did this culinary destiny really begin?
Where It All Began!
The history and development of Barbados has direct and robust linkages to agriculture. For more than 300 years, the sugar industry was the booming sector first for the British Colonial powers and their planters and subsequently for the island itself, as it sought to remove the tethers of colonialism. Although the years of this sweet industry were profitable, removal of preferential trade agreements and the dwindling demand for the sugary crystals highlighted a certain gloomy future for the industry.
In addition to this, a steadily growing population meant the reduction of land for sugar & agriculture due to the increased demand for housing and other support infrastructure. Today, although sugar cane is still grown and exported, a national shift in objectives has occurred that focuses on diversifying the original agricultural portfolio to improve the island’s capacity and positively impact Barbadian food security. As such, significant efforts have been taken to create measures, policies and organisations - put in place to aid in this development.
From this developmental plan, a national consciousness has been birthed, from the domestic to commercial levels, Barbadian food security (our ability to grow food that can sustain the nation) is paramount. The mantra of eating what you grow has transcended into everyday living and across sectors in the ocean and on the land.
For example, being surrounded by the ocean not only has aesthetic advantages for the island, but it is also a primary source of food, and the fishing trade in Barbados is a booming sector. Many of the fishing vessels supply restaurants and hotels as there is a huge appetite for seafood. Conversely, animal husbandry, which has always been a part of Barbadian society has now developed into a thriving sector with local pork, beef, chicken and even Black Belly lamb, the major meats produced in Barbados, becoming popular commodities. Our meats are raised as naturally as possible, with many farms being organically certified or on their way to achieving this certification.
Bajan Farm To Table
The food import bill is of major importance to any nation. To a small developing country, however, it is a critical aspect of sustainable development. One area in Barbados where we can see a major effort being made is in the sustainable tourism sector, in particular the buying habits of restaurants. With so many eating establishments dotting the island, each chef is looking for any advantage over its competition. One way to achieve this is by using high quality, fresh ingredients. This supply of the freshest, best produce is the reward many restaurants and their chefs reap from the cultivation of fruitful relationships with local farmers and fishermen. Although there is still a need to import niche and speciality products as the local supply sometimes cannot meet the demand, priority and importance is given to homegrown produce. Many of the restaurants, fine dining, and popular local eateries, base their menus on seasonal fruits, vegetables, and the availability of local meats, especially fish.
One great example of an area that heavily utilises fresh resources is the Oistins Bay Gardens, located in Christ Church in one of the island's towns, Oistins. This area comprises several small cabana type shops, each serving up a unique variation of fresh fish bought from the market next door. Fridays are special in Oistins Bay Gardens, and you should pay a visit to experience Barbadian food, music, and culture at its best. So, when you see, 'catch of the day', it's fresh fish from the beautiful waters of Barbados.
Of course, the litany of fresh produce comes from somewhere. Yes, the island has many major supermarket chains, mini-marts and village shops that both locals and visitors frequent to get their foodstuff. However, if you are looking for fresh, straight from the outdoors fruits, vegetables or meats, then there are a few markets you can visit.
Cheapside Market: Located in the capital city of Bridgetown, there you will find a wide variety of fruits, vegetables & fresh meat. Scores of vendors are waiting to give you the best deal on the freshest produce. It is open throughout the week; however, Saturday is the best day to do your shopping.
Holders Farmers Market: On Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm, the grounds of the Holders Plantation Great House in St. James become the meeting place for a range of vendors. On offer is a selection of organic produce and their by-products. Drinks, food, health products, and craft are available for purchase. It is an ideal place to get your raw produce and preservatives.
Brighton Farmers Market: This is a lovely farmer's market where you will not only find a selection of fruits and vegetables but also be exposed to how the produce is transformed. From 6 am to 10 am every Saturday, the Brighton Plantation ground in St. George brings together locals and visitors who are eager to make their purchases. Novelty food items, clothing and craft, can also be found.
Eagle Hall Market: Just outside the city of Bridgetown in a community called Eagle Hall, there is a market that shares this name. The Eagle Hall market is one place to get your locally grown produce, especially on Sundays and bank holidays. A favourite stop for locals each having their go-to vendor to supply them with goods that they will transform into a lovely meal for the family.
Fish Markets: No journey would be complete without a trip to a fresh fish market, and they are dotted all around the island. From Skeete’s Bay & Martins Bay in the East to Oistins in the South or Speightstown & Six Men’s Fish Markets in the North, they all have an array of beautifully coloured, fresh fish on offer daily.
With so many fresh choices on offer, it's no wonder that our flavorful Barbadian food is so desirable to locals and visitors alike.