Food

Nibbling in Nassau

— From Panama to Nassau, the Bahamas with Table Talk Food Awards judge Oneal Johnson

Thursday, January 18, 2018



Many gravitate to Nassau for the Atlantis's larger-than-life allure. Or maybe it's the stretches of glittering coral reefs of over 700 small islands and cays sprinkled over one million square miles of crystal-clear turquoise water. For us Jamaicans, Nassau is a short distance, 516.8 nautical miles to be precise, with no visa requirements; it is open to anyone holding a valid passport. The average airline or private jet will get you there in about 1hr 16 mins, give or take a few.

Thousands of tourists invade the pastel-hued alleyways, a historical presence around every corner, and a culture which exudes Caribbean and European influences. With a relatively small population of 325,000 people, Nassau has a number of high-end resort restaurants and many outdoor casual eateries. Most of these restaurants, like Nobu (inside Atlantis), populate the hotels, and are readily accessible to patrons. Commuting to some of these places could be more costly than your meal, however, as cab fares on average tend to be higher than usual, so make sure to map out your travels.

Café Matisse, located behind Parliament Square and a few steps away from the country's legal and business centre in downtown Nassau, was an instant hit the moment I approached the entrance! This Italian restaurant, set in a home from the 1800s, beams with its charming courtyard reminiscent of an easy-going Italian paradise with its abundance of colourful walls adorned with artwork prints by none other than this Italian café's namesake: French artist Matisse. The menu changes regularly take full advantage of the abundance of freshly caught sea food available. Meal options include three- to five-course selections such as peppered lamb carpaccio, grilled shrimp wrapped in speck ham, Muscovy duck with roasted foie gras and of course, fresh conch which seems to be a welcome staple on the island. This dish is most popularly served raw in a spicy conch salad. Natives believe that conch is a natural aphrodisiac and often encourage couples to partake of the dish if they want to increase their fertility odds. I, however, started with their traditional bruschetta and stone crab claws, which were tender and succulent. For the entrée I had the curried snapper served with okra and a peg of lemon; such a savoury dish! Dessert was a delectable mango mousse. Hats off to the chef!

Nassau has many attractions and activities to allow you to work up a huge appetite. Enjoy a tour of the Atlantis's Paradise Island, Ardastra Gardens and Zoo, and Blue Lagoon Island. If you are a James Bond fan, you can visit the British Colonial Hilton which was used as a location in the film Thunderball, and for the adventurous, there is swimming with the sharks and pigs in the Exumas. Overall, it's a destination for a well-balanced vacation. As they say: “Nassau is the gritty, vivacious alter ego to the relaxed character of most of the Bahamas.”

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