Review: Restaurant Le Gaiac, Hotel Toiny, St Barthélemy
I would always ask my friends to lay down and star gaze with me. They would be particularly perplexed when moments later they’d find themselves lying still staring at a white ceiling with me. “You do realise we’re indoors?” they’d ask me. “Yes, thank you. But you can still imagine them. It’s very therapeutic” I would answer, and we would lay there and answer life’s big questions as best we could, indoors, in starless London city. Then, this summer, I found myself permanently staring upward. I would walk with my head at a 70 degree angle to my body, as my face was glued to the sky. We were in St. Barth’s, and the starry sky was inescapable. It was so stunning, we never wanted dusk to come and would wait for night to dawn. The next most romantic thing to stargazing, is dining beneath them. This was the opportunity which was afforded to us at Hotel Le Toiny, where we were able to dine at Restaurant Le Gaiac.
The restaurant is set outdoors on the premises and is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants not only in St Barth’s, home to superstars galore, but in the Caribbean. To put this into context, there are at least 7,000 islands in the Caribbean, whilst there are 28 nations. It is difficult enough to be recognised as a leader in national cuisine; let alone within 28 nations. That aside, I was there to experience the more subtle gems which St Barth’s had to offer. Not a fan of dining in hotels, I wanted to see how this restaurant could allow me to isolate myself from the plush, green surroundings and hearsay of the island, and judge for myself its offering.
Le Gaiac, under instruction of Executive Chef Fabio follows the motto of: simple yet elegant cuisine. It has a ‘coastal chic’ aesthetic, which to my un-Caribbean-trained-eye roughly translated into: the perfect background for taking selfless against the Caribbean sea. In fact, it is much more than that. It is the boating paradise you dream up when watching Di Caprio both on film and off. It is the Caribbean love affair you fantasise when you watch “My Father The Hero” growing up. It is an undiscovered, less ostentatious ‘St Tropez’ as many islanders describe it. I imagined all these settings, as I teetered over the edge of the restaurant’s platform, translating into photographic imagery of myself, on a thin ledge, with only the vast sea behind me.
Stunning setting aside, the cuisine itself develops your experience so much more. I have such a penetrable soft spot for ceviche in all it’s forms that you’d think I would be partial to any dish which presents itself as such. Wrong. I am as harsh a critic as ever there was one of the stuff; and Le Gaiacs layered cylindrical Ceviche dish is one to add to my lime-cooked-seafood-worth-flying-for plates. The show-stopping dish is of course the truffled spaghetti which is cooked before you within a round of raclette: yes, you read right, they place the pasta within a round of cheese, and set it upon an open fire, to be cooked before you. The result: as tantalising as the culinary display is. Rich, warm and tantalising; this dish will set you back proportionally to your visit to the island, but likewise will prove to be well worth it.
As we waited for our taxi that evening to take us back to our hotel, a few mile’s away from Le Toiny’s idyllic bay, and hotel, we looked across from the table settings and my dining partner and I gave each other a knowing glance. Across the setting of the dinner tables, are what can be best described as ‘star beds.’ What can be best likened to the couches which the Romans would recline unto after dining; were beautiful white bed-like couches which Le Gaiac has lain out for it’s diners for apres-dining digestifs. And as we climbed onto the beautiful white beds, at the tip of the outdoor setting, over looking the now extremely darkened view of the seabed ahead of us, we could only but look upwards. And lo and behold, as we lay there the most star-lit sky awaited us. And tell me, what otherworldly experiences await us, if not laying in good company, and counting the stars above you? It is the most ancient of practices, and you will find it preserved at Hotel Le Toiny’s Restaurant Le Gaiac, St Barthelemy.