For anyone that has been following my blog or Instagram (thank you!!) you are probably aware that earlier this year I went on holiday to the Caribbean, timed with the England cricket one day international series for my cricket mad boyfriend, Paul! As he wanted to watch all three games it meant our travels took us to Antigua and Barbados, so I got a great holiday out of ticking this off his bucket list!
Location – Maxwell Beach (Near St Lawrence Gap)
In Barbados we were also joined by two of our friends who decided to come out for the week so we opted for a resort this time rather than self catering but not all inclusive – and that resort was Bougainvillea Beach Resort located on the South Coast of the island.
The hotel was located next to Sandals but at the end of the beach so felt quiet and secluded from other resorts. The beach was impressive with white and pink sands and turquoise sea, which was too rough at times to swim in. The resort had a pool and a small pool bar that meant we could get ourselves rum punches and pina coladas through the day. There was a restaurant onsite but we didn’t actually eat there.
The rooms were lovely with a double bed, kitchen area which is always useful for those with dietary requirements, a lounge area and balcony overlooking the pool. We found the resort to be everything we needed and ideally located near Bliss Cafe, Oistens Fish Fry and St Lawrence Gaps restaurants and bars. The only issue we had was on the last day as we had a night flight we wanted to use the shower before our flight (after checking out) which is fine in most resorts, and was here too as they had one available – but that was the problem they only had one as they just used a hotel room so had to wait for other guests to finish first. This wasn’t a problem for us as we’d left plenty of time but the person in front of us was cutting it fine for their airport pick up as a result!
Searching online in Barbados for gluten free food came up with a few options, the most noteable being Bliss Cafe. I was so happy when I clicked on the map to find that this was in walking distance of Bougainvillea, which was by pure chance but an absolute saviour for eating breakfast with ease!
Location – Dover
Bliss Cafe was suitably named as for coeliacs it honestly was just that – Bliss! The cafe is family run but with the daughter, Safiyyah being gluten intolerant also working in the cafe they are very clued up about Coeliac and cross contamination controls. With friendly, welcoming service and fabulous food we ate here nearly every day walking down the beach to reach it every morning and this gave me a chance to try out quite a bit of the menu, from fluffy pancakes, an English breakfast that was a rescue remedy one of the mornings after too much local rum to the spectacular freakshakes. Bliss Cafe is a place that all coeliacs can safely go and indulge and as I was on holiday I didn’t even feel guilty about it!
I would happily have eaten at Bliss Cafe every day, however they were closed on Sundays! We also tried to eat there on the day of the cricket, arriving at their opening time of 7:30am so that I could get something safe to eat knowing there would be nothing at the ground. However the staff didn’t turn up until 8:00am, clearly operating on Caribbean time! For most I guess it wouldn’t be a problem as not sure how many turn up for breakfast that early but on that day it left me without enough time to eat (there was no way that Paul was missing the start of the cricket!!) and they lost several customers who looked like they were doing the same! The cafe is really busy for the size, almost a victim of its own success so the wait for food was quite long but it didn’t matter on most days, especially sitting outside in the sun with a homemade lemonade! It seems that it is not just coeliacs that love this cafe and all the gluten eaters that I took there everyday loved the food too. Customers seemed to be enjoying the food, as well as the great cups of tea and coffee that were hard to find on the island – so if you’re discerning about your beverage this seemed to be the place to go with many that we spoke to travelling a long way across the island for it! I personally just stuck to the freakshakes as how often are they gluten free?!
All the food was fab, I especially loved the pancakes (is there any Coeliac that isn’t happy when they can have safe pancakes for breakfast?!) , the freakshakes and some homemade muffins made by Safiyyah. Check out her beautiful Instagram #safs_kitchen for pictures of some of her bakes and the island of Barbados! So much love goes into her cooking and the cafe – their slogan “Made With Love” is very apt. I definitely recommend Bliss Cafe if you visit Barbados, coeliac or not!
Location – South of Bridgetown/North of Hastings
I had read online about Brown Sugar who do a gluten free buffet every Friday for lunch from 12-2:30 and I really wanted to go so dragged everyone there! (It is located near the Hilton if you are staying there or nearby)
When we turned up I thought I had got it wrong and was very worried that we had travelled all that way for nothing as the buffet was full of fried items and there were no gluten free signs anywhere. I asked the staff what was gluten free expecting to be told nothing when they confirmed that everything was indeed gluten free! I double checked and even asked again when I went to choose a dessert but yes in fact it all is gluten free! Happy days!
As with any buffet I wouldn’t say it’s the best food I’ll ever eat but it meant I got to try the local dishes I’d been watching everyone eat all week – macaroni pie, pepper pot, fried flying fish and fish cakes were all included. They also had some profiteroles that I had to eat despite being seriously full of macaroni pie before I even got to that point! I would recommend a visit for a taste of Baja although don’t expect fine dining as it is still after all a buffet and great for a lunch stop!
Location – Hastings
Safiyyah recommended her favourite restaurant for gluten free – Buzo’s. We decided to try it out after a day of sightseeing. The restaurant turned out to be fine dining Italian so we felt a bit casually dressed and I would advise booking as we arrived about 6pm but much later and I think it would have been a struggle to get a table.
The restaurant was light, airy and fancy! We were handed menus but there was no gluten free menu, just a mention that they have pasta that is gluten and egg free. This meant that I had to ask about starters rather than being able to use the menu as a guide which is always more hassle, but I ended up opting for the garlic and truffle cream polenta that was amazing. Such an unusual choice and not something that I normally go for but I enjoyed every mouthful and so beautifully presented too!
For the main course I selected pasta rather than asking lots of questions about other gluten free options! I choose the creamy spicy sausage spaghetti and it was so good!
As the food was excellent and there was a lot of choice for gluten free we opted for dessert too, there’s always some room somewhere for it to go!! There were lots of gluten free options and they also marked the nut free and egg free options on the dessert menu so was a lot easier to choose than the other courses too! I chose the chocolate soufflé with vanilla bean gelato and a raspberry reduction which was so yummy! I also eyed up Paul’s dessert of chocolate cake on a vanilla custard as that happened to be gluten free too – don’t you love it when that happens! (Paul on the other hand did not, he’s not used to sharing!)
Everyone absolutely loved the food at Buzo’s although it didn’t come cheap at about £65 a head for the three courses and drinks (the boys had more expensive meat dishes though rather than pasta as a main pushing the average price up) but it was so good we all felt it was worth it, even if we didn’t want to make a habit of spending that much!
Location – St Lawrence Gap
As we were staying at Bougainvillea we ate a couple of times on St Lawrence Gap for convenience. One of the nights we went to The Castaway as that seemed to be a popular choice and with the view it was for a great reason – so amazing to be able to sit and have dinner overlooking a white sandy beach and lots of fishing boats at sea. It’s obviously not the best picture I’ll ever take as it was dark but it’s captured it slightly to give you a teasing hint of how good the location was!
Sometimes you just want to eat and go with the flow and where is convenient rather than traipsing around looking for a gluten free recommendation! At first I thought I had lucked out as they advertised gluten free cassava crust pizzas!
However, it wasn’t to be as they had no cross contamination controls for cooking them! In the end I had one of my ‘go to’ meals for the holiday – fish, rice and vegetables, fortunately in the Caribbean this is still always pretty good, especially washed down with a glass of wine!
Location- St Lawrence Gap
By pure coincidence, Claire who I follow on instagram (check out her page #wanderglutenfree) was staying in the same hotel the same week as me. It’s such a small world sometimes, and really strange meeting someone in person that you only know through social media! Both our instragram accounts are London based so it was strange to be meeting so far from home, in a swimming pool!! However, she posted this restaurant on her Instagram that week and we decided to go with her recommendation and eat there too as her photo of the tikka paneer looked sizzling and amazing – and all the food was! I had a chicken korma (I know it’s not a proper curry to many of you, including my boyfriend who always scorns the decision but I love the taste of a korma!) and there was a lot of the Indian menu that was safe for coeliacs. There was a Thai menu too, but we didn’t ask about that after everyone had set their heart on curry.
This restaurant also had the pick of the locations with a stunning view of the sea. I recommend booking in advance to get the best sea front tables as they are worth it! We decided to make the most of the location and stay a bit longer for dessert, which was this cinnamon icecream that had a bit of a kick!
Location – Bridgetown
After the cricket we wanted to get some food quickly in Bridgetown having walked into the centre from the ground. We ended up at Waterfront Cafe, where they had no gluten free menu or options but did the grilled prawns and rice for me.
Sightseeing in Barbados
Harrison’s Cave was an underground adventure by tram as you looked at the cave system in awe, well worth a trip! (Sorry my iPhone didn’t capture it that well!)
Animal flower cave is a sea cave on the north of the island. Unfortunately when we went we couldn’t visit it as it was closed due to high waves which was really disappointing, but as we walked around the coastline we could see why that would be the case! The waves were rough but provided some dramatic and impressive views of the sea.
We got a taxi out to Mount Gay Rum and it wasn’t that expensive considering the driver waited for us whilst we did the tour to drive us onto our next destination. The staff were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly and we learnt a lot about rum and bought a couple of bottles to bring home. These were so much cheaper than Mount Gay rum over here sold in supermarkets so if you like it then definitely purchase some! Paul is hooked on his new drink of choice – Mount Gay XO rum with coconut water!
Oisten’s Fish Fry
The fish fry is basically a huge fish BBQ in the fishing town of Oistens and Friday night is party night! Be careful though as we did the rum tour on the Friday and Oistens in the evening and clearly consumed far too much rum for one day!! Loads of fun and can’t be missed! However, I did try and eat at the fish fry which did not go well, it was too busy and loud for any one to one service. I also tried to order plain fish and they put the marinade on anyway and they were clearly just too busy to help and with long queues there was no time to ask questions. If you want to go to eat the fish (and worth it from look of the food and the price) avoid doing so on the Friday and Saturday and go for a quieter day and hopefully you will have more success than I did – from Claire’s Instagram it looked like she had more luck than me. Paul ended up with two dinners though so certainly wasn’t complaining!
On the east coast of the island Batheseba is worth a trip, we walked along the coast taking in the magnificent scenery and were glad we took the time to go.
Snorkelling on holiday has to be done! After some research we found Calabaza website and booked the sunset cruise. This was for two reasons, firstly as doing anything that involves beautiful sunsets is always awesome and secondly I didn’t fancy doing the lunch time sailing trip if I wasn’t going to end up with much to eat!
The trip included a small group of us on a wonderful catamaran that went out snorkelling to see turtles and a ship wreck. We then sailed along watching the sun set, all the time being given drinks which included beer, rum punch and soft drinks and endless snacks. They made a real effort with gluten free options provided for me so I didn’t go hungry which I was extremely grateful and pleasantly surprised by.
The tour included everything and the guides even took loads of photos of you including underwater shots which they emailed to us on our return and captured some really special moments. I really can not thank the crew that looked after us enough, they were so friendly and attentive and that really made our day even more special!
Car hire – Express Rent a Car
We hired a car for the day which was really easy, picking it up from Express which was next door to Bliss Cafe so ideal! We had an early breakfast and collected the car and went off for the day Sightseeing. Car hire worked out quite expensive so we didn’t bother to have it for the rest of the time, choosing to get a taxi to Mount Gay and the cricket so we could all drink and everything else we needed we could walk to from the resort.
From my research these are the other places that I had on my list that could cater for gluten free. It is worth checking with the websites and emailing in advance to your holiday for opening times that can catch you out on holiday, the price range as often it is fine dining that can accommodate you easily but you may not want to pay that price tag and also to see if they are still operating and can still accommodate for you as places and management do change.
* Island Plates Curry (Speightstown)
* Wok Up Noodles (Recommended by Safiyyah)
Many thanks go to Safiyyah for her recommendations! The main websites and blogs that helped me with my research in advance were:
Barbados was a week filled with rum, cricket, sunshine and lots of eating at Bliss Cafe! We had a great week but I would advise taking some gluten free items with you if you don’t want to eat out all the time as food was expensive in general, let alone gluten free. Across Antigua and Barbados even when places didn’t really have a gluten free menu I always managed with a grilled fish and rice dish so never went hungry and I didn’t get glutened anywhere. Staying near Bliss Cafe made breakfast a lot easier for us or maybe try an all inclusive as Sandals in Antigua catered really well so assume that would be the same across the chain. We found it an expensive week particularly with the pound being poor against the dollar at the moment but we had a fabulous time!
If you decide to go to Barbados I hope this helps you find gluten free food and that you have an amazing holiday!