- June 25th, 2021
- in Lifestyle
The café owners that we spoke with in Spanish Town, Nanny Cay, Trellis Bay, and Road Town all have one thing in common—a desire to create hospitable spaces where you feel relaxed enough to linger, to conduct business meetings, to pop in for a quick to-go coffee, or simply to enjoy the atmosphere.
They have a passion for café culture, and they want you to become a part of the buzzing social hub that they’ve created. Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo/Chez B Grind, Island Roots Café, Lady Sarah’s, and Mongoose Café all embrace the ethos of café culture, but each café has their own unique manifestation of what it means to them.
Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo/Chez B Grind
“Serum of steam rising from the cup what comfort to be known personally”
Naomi Shihab Nye from “My Uncle’s Favorite Coffee Shop”
Warning: if you walk into Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo/Chez B Grind, you may never want to leave.
“There are a lot of customers who we serve two or three meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says proprietor Rose Giacinto. “We want it to be a place where people linger.”
The homemade baked goods, local produce and seafood, gourmet coffee, and fresh cocktails are what keep customers coming back. The restaurant is an oasis in the middle of Spanish Town, with cheerful décor in which Caribbean flora such as bougainvillea vines and palm trees peep through bamboo walls.
I’d call their menu down-home fusion—a range of everything from sushi and entrée salads to Johnny cakes and mutton soup. Chefs Cecily, Rachel, Danny, Jerome, and Chris know their way around a kitchen and have created this unique menu.
For breakfast, try the Johnny cake with ham, egg, and cheese or pancakes with scrambled eggs and sausage. Pastry Chef Zhel makes all their baked goods on site: pastries, cookies, brownies, cakes, and breads (buy some in the morning before they sell out). Coffee and cakes can be enjoyed in the Chez B Grind, a laid-back lounge area with sofas, low tables, and Illy coffee drinks.
The lunch menu features individual dishes or family-style meals. Some highlights of the menu include a whole roasted chicken, a mahi-mahi burger, sushi platters, or an entire beef and spinach lasagne. They make fresh pizza dough every day for their selection of pizza toppings. Or if you’re looking for something lighter, Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo offer West Indian soups or fresh salads topped with fish or chicken.
For dinner, you are spoiled for choice. Rose says, “everybody can always find something” on the menu. Asian cuisine, Caribbean favorites, and American classics dominate the dinner selections.
Appetizers consist of coconut chicken tenders, freshly made fish fingers, quesadillas, and deep-fried pickles. The famous entrée salads—such as a Caesar or a chopped salad—are composed of lettuce grown in neighboring greenhouses and can be topped with fresh fish, chicken, or shrimp. You can order from a wide selection of sandwiches and wraps, including an Irma Burger with buffalo sauce, bacon, and blue cheese; a fish taco or pulled pork wrap; or a West Indian chicken burger—all served with fries. Asian specials consist of sesame-crusted seared tuna, shrimp and pork siomai, and a variety of sushi rolls.
On top of the regular menu, Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo offers daily specials based on seasonal produce and fresh catch. Chef Zhel’s desserts and homemade ice cream are available in the evenings. Front of the house staff Sharon, Jhanet, Rachel, and Roy are on a first-name basis with most of their customers, and they will do anything to make you feel at home. If there is something you want that isn’t on the menu, just ask them, and they’ll do their best to accommodate.
They are also famous for their sumptuous cocktails. Happy hour is from 4-6pm every day with cocktail specials and three beers for $10. The cocktails are made from local ingredients such as mango, mint, banana, key lime, and passionfruit. After Hurricane Irma, Rose and her crew moved the bar to the front of the restaurant, and it’s become such a popular watering hole that it’s never moved back.
Since Hurricane Irma, Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo have moved under one roof to combine menus and provide consistent service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rose and her staff provided meals for the workers clearing the Virgin Gorda roads immediately after the hurricane, and they’ve provided delivery service to people in quarantine. They continue to offer delivery service to families and couples staying in nearby villas. The inviting atmosphere, mouth-watering menu, fresh cocktails, divine desserts, and dedication to the community are only a few of the reasons why Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo is an institution on Virgin Gorda.
Island Roots Café
“Coffee connects us in so many ways—to our senses, to each other, and to the earth”
Tina Bryson from Island Roots Café appreciates fresh food and perfect espresso. Her love of food comes from two sources: her extensive travel all over the world and her mum’s cooking.
“I’ve grown up in an environment where food is the centre of everything,” she says while sipping on a cappuccino in the Main Street location. The menu at Island Roots has been curated based on “the same fresh ingredients that I would eat at home,” she says. Island Roots Café serves healthy light fare made from scratch. Even the salad dressings and breads are homemade, and she has started growing vegetables and herbs in the back garden of the Main Street location.
The Main Street Island Roots Café is open Monday to Friday 7:30am-3pm and Saturdays 8am- 2pm. The weekday menu includes a variety of panini, sandwiches, and wraps with fillings such as roasted red peppers and eggplant, jerk chicken, spicy tuna, Bombay grilled veggies, and Asian BBQ pork tenderloin.
Fresh salads include Greek chicken, Mediterranean quinoa, protein lentil, and roasted beet. Also offered are freshly prepared soups, which change daily, and weekly specials with such offerings as vegan jerk sweet potato and black beans with basmati rice and chicken bulgogi bowl. Many of the salads are garnished with fresh cilantro, parsley, mint, lettuce, and arugula from the café’s garden. The Saturday brunch menu includes the main menu plus specials such as a full English breakfast, omelettes, and ackee and saltfish.
While the café has become a destination for the Road Town lunch crowd, the main draw at all three locations—Main Street, Nanny Cay, and Nook—is the coffee. Tina did extensive training in Canada for barista-style coffee making.
“The supplier of the beans who I use is very finicky about who they sell their beans to. It’s one thing to have a great product, but if it’s not being executed correctly, it reflects poorly on their brand.”
She learned how to make the perfect espresso and passes that knowledge on to her staff. In addition to coffee, all Island Roots locations offer an extensive range of tea, iced drinks, chai, matcha, and smoothies. They also sell coffee beans from the same roasters that Island Roots use, which you can buy whole or have ground on site.
Sailors, residents, and tourists who are visiting Nanny Cay love to escape to the air-conditioned sanctuary of Island Roots Café, where they can also find travel mugs, coffee accessories, and sailing gear. For the upcoming season, they will be moving locations closer to the hotel and condos and will be offering frozen meals for charter boats or busy families.
The Nook bookstore branch of Island Roots, across from the Road Town ferry parking lot, affirms how perfectly Tina understands coffee culture—books and coffee go hand in hand. The café at Nook opened in December and offers delicious drinks, grab-and-go items such as wraps, salads, sandwiches, as well as French pastries, cakes, and breads. All three locations offer a divinely relaxed atmosphere that allow you to focus on enjoying the flavors before you.
“A simple, noble monument that remains”
Richard Georges from “48 Main Street”
The original Lady Sarah’s was a bath and body shop in another location in the nineties that sold high-end products. It then evolved into a café that closed in 2002, but proprietor Portia Harrigan never forgot the warmth and joy she experienced from running the café. So, in 2018, six months after Hurricane Irma, Lady Sarah’s reopened as a bistro in Road Town at 48 Main Street. Portia wanted to reinvigorate Lady Sarah’s and make a contribution to the overall recovery of the islands. She is indebted to her loyal customers who have kept the bistro going.
Visiting Lady Sarah’s is like visiting a favorite relative who always wants to fill you up on tea and cakes. The vibrant and welcoming décor showcases local artists, alongside vintage musical instruments and antiques that link back to the original owners of the building, Cil and Elaine Georges, from when this spot was their home. The lush garden features hibiscus plants, birds of paradise, and potted palm trees dotted amongst the tables, and a bench made from the front of a vintage car.
The colourful atmosphere inside and out, reflects the freshness of the ingredients of Lady Sarah’s food. Many of the café’s produce—tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, and star fruit—come from Lady Sarah’s Farm in the Windy Hill. The fresh juices are made from local fruit.
“If I see people selling on the side of the street, I stop and buy what I think might make a great juice. This morning, I bought some tamarind,” Portia says. Other days, it might be basil or lavender.
“This is the season for local fruits, so you’ll be seeing a lot of local fruits from the end of April into August. Soursop, mango, papaya.”
Virgin Islands Organics supplies Lady Sarah’s with 90% of the herbs used in their dishes.
Breakfast and lunch are served during the week by Lady Sarah’s warm and welcoming staff, a few of whom are students at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. Breakfast dishes include the LSF breakfast bowl with eggs, avocado, roasted tomatoes, sweet potato hash, and spinach; a farmhouse omelette with tomato, onion, peppers, cheddar, and greens; and smashed avocado on toast. For lunch, you can start off with some Salt Island fish cakes, mini quesadilla, or a soup.
The salad choices include a chickpea salad bowl and a quinoa salad of the day. The main events for lunch are the decadent wraps and sandwiches that all come with homemade fries. If you’re craving a burger, you can choose from a cheeseburger, jerk burger, black bean burger, lamb burger, or turkey burger. If you’re in the mood for a wrap, Lady Sarah’s offers a salmon wrap or Calypso chicken wrap. Then there’s a grilled cheese sandwich like you’ve never experienced before—the great meltdown—a mixture of aged cheddar and mozzarella with caramelized onions and house made sundried tomato pesto. To die for.
Friday nights, Lady Sarah’s is open from 5pm- 9pm for a specially designed tapas and pizza menu. Saturdays at Lady Sarah’s brings one of the most tempting brunch menus on the island—many of the breakfast and lunch treats are on offer as well as French toast, chicken and waffles, grilled salmon with organic greens, and the big breakfast platter.
In addition to the regularly scheduled meals and menus, Lady Sarah’s offers delectable daily specials such as curried chicken, jerk-marinated salmon, and fried fish sandwich. Also, Lady Sarah’s hosts events like a brunch festival, a seafood market, live music from popular artists, and open mic nights.
Lady Sarah’s lures you in with a welcoming environment and keeps you coming back with the fresh food and homemade juices.
“Then what’s up next a milky sun As western planes burst through the mist”
Jennie M. Wheatley from “A Glorious Awesome Puzzle”
Rochelle Lawrence at Mongoose Café is serious about coffee.
“I have always aspired to open a coffee shop,” she says. “While attending university, coffee shops were my best friend. It’s the environment, the ambiance, the experience.”
She promises world-class customer service with every order and offers, with every cup of BRew, a complimentary buttery cookie pairing to go with the roast. The tagline for Mongoose Café is “an experience is BRewing”.
In addition to creating a boutique atmosphere, Rochelle also wants to serve the best coffee around.
“We don’t have the space to have a light, medium, and a dark roast,” she says, “so it took a lot of tasting to find the perfect blend. It should be rich, nutty, a little chocolatey.”
She experimented with several different beans to find exactly the right flavours. Also, to keep up with customers’ preferences and dietary requirements, Mongoose Café can make you a latté or flat white with every different type of milk available—oat milk, soy milk, skim milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and full cream.
The signature specials of Mongoose Café are the frozen frappés. These refreshing iced coffee drinks give you an extra kick with inventive flavors such as the Biscoff® frappé, thin mint frappé, coconut tart frappé, and strawberry cheesecake frappé. All come with or without homemade whipped cream.
Other cold drinks at Mongoose Café include cold brew coffee, iced tea, fresh passionfruit juice, iced matcha, milkshakes, smoothies, Italian sodas, and other new weekly creations. Local bush tea can be served hot or iced and the ingredients come from the premises where they grow herbs such as lemongrass, mint, and basil. Mongoose Café makes their chai from scratch.
Rochelle says, “I think that if we’re giving the best customer service, we should also be giving the best ingredients.”
As if the drinks weren’t enough to tempt your tastebuds, Mongoose Café creates divine delights from the kitchen. Homemade vegetable quiche, cinnamon rolls, scones, marble chocolate brownies, vegan pumpkin bread, turkey and avocado sandwiches, vegan cookies, muffins, donuts, egg salad, patties, pastries, bacon and egg subs, lemon pound cakes, and other freshly made treats can be found at the café served on compostable plates.
The café is 97.2% eco-friendly and focuses on using biodegradable products, including straws made from bamboo or hay. They also recycle their coffee grounds for skin care products or donate them to local farmers to keep pests away from their gardens.
“I like to add a local aspect in the coffee shop that is essential to the BVI,” Rochelle says and mentions the inclusion of local specialities such as patties, bush tea, and tarts on the menu. “I think it’s important to incorporate our culture. Combining a passion for the coffee with a passion for the BVI.”
The Mongoose Café is the only structure of the old Loose Mongoose that was left after Hurricane Irma. The stunning location in Trellis Bay is a perfect place to relax while listening to the sea lap at the edge of the sand and palm trees rustle in the wind. The café can be accessed by land or sea and is a five-minute walk to the airport.
Mongoose Café is open seven days a week, 6am-1pm on weekdays and 6am-6pm on weekend and holidays. Ms. Lawrence asks, “Why would a coffee shop close on a holiday? I need coffee on a holiday.”
She envisions the café becoming more of a gathering spot and hopes to host more in-house experiences like tea parties, tea and yoga sessions, meatless Mondays, and café bingo.
We are lucky to have all of these venues that have created their own vision of the ideal café Bath & Turtle/Chez Bamboo/Chez B Grind, Island Roots Café, Lady Sarah’s, and Mongoose Café have each curated a unique atmosphere in which to serve their drinks and food menus of fresh, homemade ingredients. The only question that remains is how many cafés can you visit in a day?