This week sees the opening of the 8th annual edition of the Barbados Food & Rum Festival. Hosted by the jewel island of the Caribbean, which is also known as the archipelago’s culinary capital, this year’s festival focuses on the heritage and culture of the island’s two epicurean mainstays. Despite being only 14 miles wide between rugged Atlantic ocean and turquoise Caribbean sea, and 21 miles long, Barbados has a strong reputation for feel good food and drink, which is constantly on the rise.
The Barbados Food & Rum festival is this year hosting a roster of world-class chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten who introduced fine French cuisine to New York, Canadian-Caribbean celebrity chef Chris de la Rosa, gold medal winner at the Caribbean taste awards Damien Leach, and Candid Magazine favourite; Tom Aikens, from London. As the youngest ever British chef to be awarded two Michelin Stars (he was just 26 at the time), Aikens brings an education that combines the best of Anglo-Franco cuisine, with a healthy passion for boldness both in and out of the kitchen, all to the proverbial table. Here he is perfectly placed to now make his mark on Bajan cuisine.
Each of the famous chefs, working alongside a team of local culinary talents, will be taking guests on a ‘gourmet safari’ in of three restaurant settings throughout the duration of the festival, blending local flavours with their own signature twists. The fusion represents a coming together of tastes and cultures from around the world, as part of a dedicated festival helping to bolster Barbados’s colourful and celebratory reputation.
The island has a proud pedigree of cooking, boasting restaurants known around the globe including The Cliff, The Crane and Champers. Meanwhile, the local cuisine blends African, Indian, Creole and British influences – highlight Bajan's unique heritage. It uses the freshest sun-ripened ingredients to make powerful and exotic flavours. The national dish of Cou-Cou (fried flying fish in gravy) can be eaten anywhere on the island from Zagat rated restaurants to roadside stalls.
The festival is also hosting several award winning mixologists from around the island – including a cocktail master from Sandy Lane Hotel, the island’s most prestigious resort and hotel of choice for the most famous Barbadian in the world; Rihanna. As Barbados is home to four rum distilleries; Cockspur, Foursquare, St. Nicholas Abbey and the most famous of all, Mount Gay Rum, there will be no shortage of local liquor to work with.
As the birthplace of rum, Barbados’s history is intrinsically tied to the spirit. The sugar cane plantations, which used to cover almost the entirety of the island, provided the molasses necessary for local brewers to make the sweet drink. Its consumption remains a national past time, with local rum shops out numbering churches on the island.
A highlight of each year's festival is the rum punch (islander’s drink of choice) party, held in a Concorde hangar that still houses the plane which used to fly supersonically between London and Bridgetown, the island’s capital, in just three and a half hours.
Continuing the luxury theme, there will be a food and rum-pairing and canapés event on the fringes of a Barbadian polo field complete with ponies and chukkas in full swing. On the Sunday night the island’s Hilton resort will play host to a closing party, with a theme of ‘feet in the sand’, and, of course, rum.
The Barbados Food & Rum festival is a highlight of the calendar year for locals, ex-pats and gastro-tourists alike, who all come out to drink and dine together, exploring the rich heritage of Bajan flavours and the vibrant atmosphere that goes hand in hand with Bajan drinking and dining. Just one more reason to visit.
Barbados Food & Rum Festival runs this year from the 16 – 19 November 2017
Go to Visit Barbados for more information on the island. British Airways flies from Gatwick to Barbados daily during the summer and 12 times a week during the winter. Return flights start from £571. Visit the Crane Hotel website here.