By Alexander Britell
THERE’S A popular restaurant in the onetime library of a very old Dominican abbey in the Dutch city of Zwolle.
It’s called “The Library,” and it’s won a Michelin star every year since 1993 — now boasting three of them — one of fewer than 200 such restaurants on the planet to do so.
“De Librije,” the the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Jonnie & Thérèse Boer, has become one of the world’s destination restaurants, with a firm place in the culinary pantheon.
But it’s not their only restaurant.
At the end of 2017, the Boers opened another eatery, “Brass Boer,” on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, a place long celebrated more for its remarkable diving than its cuisine.
But the Boers, who had been visiting the island for years, seemed to understand Bonaire.
There was something here. They just knew.
And they weren’t alone, either.
In recent years, tiny Bonaire has quietly developed an enviable culinary scene, filled with an impressive mix of high-end eateries, waterfront fare and gourmet food trucks — along with a robust offering of authentic local food.
It’s a gastronomic renaissance that has been fueled by a group of adventurous chefs who were drawn here, aware of the potential in what was already one of the Caribbean’s most sophisticated — but equally laid back — places to visit.
Bonaire’s first craft brewery turned into another outstanding eatery, Chef Jeroen van der Kroft’s combination craft brewery and restaurant, the al fresco La Cantina that typifies the best of Bonaire eateries: unruffled charm, carefree cool and world-class food.
And the movement has only strengthened, in the manner of the best culinary destinations — high-end food, wonderful service and pervasive thoughtfulness have made its way from the Michelin to the mom-and-pop, begging travelers to explore beyond just a few popular seats.
You can stop by Donkey Beach for a bite at Cactus Blue, the Caribbean’s only food truck specializing in lionfish burgers, or the beloved Kite City, now at its home in the heart of Kralendijk.
Or you can simply stroll the streets of the capital with an espresso and some gelato, or go have a dinner of Kuminda Krioyo at El Mundo.
And you can venture out to the island’s oldest town, Rincon, and visit Jovanka Clarenda and her Posada Para Mira, as authentic a spot as you’ll find in Bonaire, chowing down on fish balls or iguana stew (yes, iguana) — before stopping off for a sip at the nearby Cadushy Distillery, a family-owned company specializing in infused spirits and liqueurs.
Whether you’re on the water at Sebastian’s or having a romantic night at La Balandra, Bonaire passes the most difficult test for any budding gastronomic destination: it’s really, really hard to find a bad meal.
THAT’S CERTAINLY the sentiment just past noon at the Delfins Beach Resort, the newest and sleekest place to stay in Bonaire, where the beachfront food truck is already putting out burgers and Dutch treats like bitterballen.
There’s a palpable sense of cool in the air, cooler than the steak tartare and and the bottle of Polar beer.
It’s just a few meters here from Table 14, the thatched-roof overwater seating where the Brass Boer offers its five-course tastings and wine pairings, already the most sought-after dining location in Bonaire.
By night, the water at Table 14 glows with submarine lights, and you can see the tarpon and the barracuda approach, drawn in.
It’s almost like they know something.
For more Bonaire eateries, visit Tourism Bonaire.