Of all the Caribbean islands, perhaps none is prouder of its
cooking than Trinidad and Tobago. For an exquisite dining
experience on any budget, these sister islands offer a scrumptious
selection of traditional delicacies. Although the country has some
of the preparations found on neighboring islands, Trinidad
celebrates its culinary heritage with home-grown dishes found
nowhere else in the region.
The national dish, pelau, gives new meaning to the term “melting
pot.” A stew of peas, rice and meat, simmered with coconut and
pepper, pelau is a staple of island cooking. It’s served at home,
taken to Maracas Bay for beach picnics, and prepared at some
restaurants in Trinidad’s bustling capital, Port of Spain,
including Veni Mangé, an establishment owned by television talk
show host Allyson Hennessy and her sister Roses Hezekiah.
“Of course every Trinidadian thinks they’re the best maker of
pelau,” said Hennessey. “But you could get 20 different people to
cook it and it would come out 20 different ways no two are
Other indigenous dishes commonly prepared in Trinidad’s kitchens
include oil down (pork or fish in reduced coconut milk); callaloo
soup, a hearty concoction made from dasheen leaves; and roti, a
pancake stuffed with stew or curry and sold by street vendors.
For down-home cooking, tell your clients to head to the
Breakfast Shed, a Port of Spain institution located next to the
cruise ship dock. Here, more than a dozen vendors under the same
tin roof offer similar, simple menus, all of them made fresh on the
premises, right down to the hot pepper condiments. Fish soup,
smoked herring and “fry bake” (bread) are breakfast standards,
while lunch offerings include stewed chicken, steamed fish and cow
heel soup. The ambience is raw, but appealing; the food,
Recently, Port of Spain is increasingly home to restaurants that
cater to an audience well beyond the typically cultured Trinidadian
foreign embassy workers, government officials and others who use
these places to entertain visitors (although fine-dining prices are
well below those of other islands).
Gerard Mouille of Brittany first came to Trinidad with his wife
in 1993 and loved it enough to move to the island, opening a
brasserie three years ago on Ariapita Avenue, the city’s restaurant
row. Today, A la Bastille is Trinidad’s leading French restaurant,
and Mouille seems invigorated by the challenges his venture
French cuisine also provides a platform for Khalid Mohammed’s
hot new restaurant, Battimamzelle. The Trinidad native trained at
the French Culinary Institute in New York, then worked in
restaurants there and in Florida for six years before returning
home to develop his “contemporary Caribbean” cuisine.
“It was hard to think of local food as posh, as something that
could be served in fine restaurants,” explained Mohammed. “But
anything I do I go about it with a French technique. I think we’re
in the budding stages of becoming a restaurant destination.”
|Dining: Port of Spain and Suburbs|
Coblentz Inn, Cascade
The name means dragonfly and, situated in an unassuming business
hotel, this is the current star of the island’s restaurant scene.
Port of Spain
Noted for its colorful local art, friendly welcome and a small but
vibrant selection of Trinidad favorites. Open for lunch
Monday-Friday, dinner on Wednesday and Friday only.
A la Bastille
Port of Spain
Classic French with island accents: the carpaccio is prepared with
local fish, then served with ginger, turmeric and a grapefruit
vinaigrette. On Saturdays, the restaurant becomes a creperie.
Inquire about live performances.
Docks, Port of Spain
An island tradition, popular with the working crowd that swarms in
for breakfast and lunch. The surroundings are Spartan but clean,
the prices blue-collar cheap.