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Calypso Cafe

My friends and I left behind the lunchtime commotion of Tortola’s banking district as we paraded into the cool and shady Calypso Cafe, tucked away in Village Cay. After we selected a large table by the entrance, the first thing I noticed was the lunch buffet set up along the back wall.

I’m American. Americans love buffets. I pointlessly perused the lunch menu, briefly paused at the pumpkin soup, all the while knowing I was going to order the buffet. I was seriously baffled when others ordered off the menu. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who was ready to pile up a plate (or two or three) of Calypso’s fresh offerings—my co-worker Françoise Frank chose the buffet as well.

All photos by Traci O'Dea.

While everyone waited for their meals, I strolled up to the buffet and made myself a large plate of salad for my first course. The garden salad was crisp and fresh, as was the fruit salad, but the highlight of my first plate of food was the homemade three-bean salad—chickpeas, pigeon peas and kidney beans tossed in a tangy vinaigrette with red onion, green pepper, shaved carrots and spices. I savoured every bite and even mixed it in with the other salads to give them a bit more zest.

Once everyone else’s lunches arrived, Frankie and I dished out our main courses. Buffet offerings included mutton stew, grilled chicken, baked fish, steamed vegetables, scalloped potatoes, and rice and peas. Frankie loaded up her plate with the mutton, rice and peas, scalloped potatoes and garden salad. I chose the vegetables, rice and peas, potatoes, and a fresh-baked roll then added a little bit more of the bean salad from the salad bar. It was that good.

The conch burger.

Back at the table, Sasha Joyce from Deloitte munched on her massive chicken Caesar salad and remarked on the originality of our friend James Fairburn’s conch burger. “I don’t think I’ve seen that on a menu anywhere before,” the Tortola-born Sasha said. James, a junior solicitor at Martin-Kenny, happily snacked on his meal and pronounced that “everywhere on island should have curly fries.” James’s co-worker Charlie Brigden’s chicken wrap was overflowing with grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. I think they each had as much food on their plates as my first two courses combined. Calypso Cafe definitely believes in big portions.

I polished off my second plate of food then went back to the line of chafing dishes and platters for another helping of the creamy, cheesy, crusty, perfectly peppered potatoes and a third helping of the bean salad. While I was up there, I noticed the pumpkin soup for the first time, and I was pleased that I hadn’t ordered it from the menu. The very helpful manager noted my attempt to juggle the bowl and bread and plate and offered to bring the soup to the table for me. When I returned to the table, I noted that Frankie had barely gotten halfway through her first plate, but she assured me that everything was delicious, especially the tender mutton.

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The pumpkin soup was decadent with equal portions of pumpkin and cream, but it somehow wasn’t heavy or too rich. I dipped my roll into it and savoured each bite while my friends finished their meals. “I’m stuffed, and I’ve only eaten half my sandwich,” Charlie said. Somehow, even after finishing up my soup, roll and plate of potatoes and beans, I wasn’t stuffed.

The cheesecake plate from the buffet.

Most meals, I claim never to have room for dessert. Clearly, this is a lie. Because my buffet lunch was way more food than what I typically consume at lunch or dinner time, but I was able to manage a small slice of cheesecake and a cube of carrot cake. I think it’s something about the buffet mentality. When I come to a buffet, I fully commit. Just like I would commit to a five-course meal. I like that. A buffet is just another way of saying five-course meal. I wasn’t the only one who liked the cheesecake—it was quickly disappearing from the dessert table, and the moist and spongy carrot cake, flavoured with raisins and allspice, provided the perfect ending to my five-course meal.  

Calypso Cafe (494.1234) is open Sunday through Friday, 8am to 10pm and on Saturdays from 4pm to 10pm.

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