Above: Deshaies, Guadeloupe (all photos by CJ)
By Alexander Britell
DESHAIES — Just before noon on a recent trip to Guadeloupe’s Island of Basse-Terre, I saw a rooster walking into a church.
At first glance, it seemed the most exciting thing to happen all day — he was clearly heading to confession for failing to wake up on time. This is a sleepy town.
Or at least that’s what I thought. But soon I discovered that Deshaies may look like a quiet, unassuming fishing village, but there’s something rather exciting happening here. And it begins and ends with the food.
You see, if you squint, this unassuming street in lush, untouched Basse-Terre looks a bit like Grand Case, the culinary Mecca in St Martin.
But when you open your eyes, it’s something else: smaller, more rugged, quieter. (You also may recognize it as the site of the BBC show “Death in Paradise,” which films here as the fictional island of “Saint-Marie.”)
The one thing it has in common with its northern cousin is this: world-class fare, the kind of Lyon-meets-the Caribbean Sea cuisine that only the French Caribbean can produce — sometimes by local chefs, some by expat gastronomic artists from the Metropole (mainland France).
It begins at La Savane, the African-themed eatery with spectacular marlin, and then continues; you can come here for a week and have a different culinary adventure every night.
That’s where you’ll begin to see the marvelous attention to detail on this single boulevard — the way the plantains are laid just so; the squash mash is hued exquisitely; the marlin prepared in every way possible — smoked, tartare, steak…
Then, you can go for a seaside creole feast at Le Coin des Pecheurs (go for the conch).
Above: magret de canard at L’Amer
And finally there’s L’Amer, the main drag’s most hopping lunch spot (with terrific magret de canard and sublime cappucino for after the meal).
Above: one of Deshaies’ tiny alleyways
While the food is generally focused on Creole seafood, you’ll find a range of fares; but what all these restaurants have in common is a privileged perch right on the harbour of Deshaies.
And while these are our favourites, there are enough eateries to satiate you for a two-week stay, whether in a hillside villa or at the Langley resort nearby.
To top everything off, head to Tendacayou, in the hills above Deshaies, for a culinary tour de force that pairs Michelin-style execution with rainforest funkiness.
After a few days of these long, leisurely meals fit for true bon vivants, you’ll understand why the rooster was late to work.
Deshaies isn’t big — and it may never be Grand Case — but it just may have to be your next culinary stop in the Caribbean.