A TASTE OF THE CARRIBEAN

Liz Coggins relives her trips to St Lucia when she visits the city’s most romantic and inspiration restaurant Roast+Conch.

A TASTE OF THE CARRIBEAN

I love the island of St Lucia! It’s one of my favourite islands as its so green and has a certain romance and charm about it that’s all its very own.

So it was hardly surprising that I was extremely excited by the prospect of visiting Roast +Conch – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Roast + Conch is a St Lucia experience brought back to these shores by the owners of the famous Hotel Chocolat’s famous Boucan restaurant in St Lucia.

I had visited the Boucan on one of my travel writing trips. It’s a restaurant half way up a hill in a rainforest built by the founders of Hotel Chocolat. The actual Boucan restaurant is in the grounds of a restored 250 year old cocoa plantation. The hottest restaurant in St Lucia they serve an Anglo-Saint Lucian cuisine of contemporary dishes influenced by the West Indies and Britain, and use roasted coca beans that add a subtle savour spice and garnish, just like they did in the centuries before chocolate was invented.

It was a blustery and rainy night when we visited Roast+Conch in Leeds but as soon as we walked through the door we could almost feel the Caribbean sun. The wooden floor, the welcoming staff and delicious cocktails like no other certainly gave us a feel good factor. There is a wonderful of cocktails from Praline Soother to Jamaican Mule but we opted for a Fresh Cocoa Martini – a classic I remember from the bar at the Boucan in St Lucia.

Downstairs at the Roast+Conch is a welcoming bar and a pleasant smaller area for more informal dining, breakfast, coffee or lunch. Downstairs is also the home to the chocolatier who creates the chocolates on sale in the tiny shop area or who will make chocolates to order. Isobel will also demonstrate the whole chocolate making process – its fascinating and makes an ideal pre-dinner entertainment and the little shop is also open for dinners who feel like some retail therapy after their meal.

After our journey into the world of chocolate and chocolate making it was time to venture upstairs to the restaurant. When we reached the top it was like discovering heaven. Who would ever image we were in the middle of the city. The wooden décor, sparkling crystal, and highly polished tables oozed romance in the candle-lit restaurant. The seating is arranged round the large windows in individual booth type settings with luxurious sinkable seating. The views onto Albion Street were almost surreal and the privacy of each booth gives is amazing. Just the place to swop girlie gossip, have a romantic meal or even pop the question.

This is the place to be pampered. Water was brought to the table immediately we sat down and some fresh coco nibs. Wine here comes in small bottles, perfect for those who want just a little more than a glass offers. After our coco nibs we decided to get into the serious matter of ordering. The staff are so discreet, friendly and helpful if you are rather in a quandary about what dish you want to order they will happily advise having all done their homework about the menu.

I chose the Plantation Pork as a starter. It was a hand chopped pork terrine with Saint Lucian rum chutney – doesn’t everything have rum in it on the island – served with walnut bread and shaved conichon. The terrine just melted in my mouth and was smooth with the chutney giving a mild flavour to dish.

My colleague opted for the Tuna Ceviche, tuna loin cooked in coconut milk, chilli and lime pickle served with coco-nib crisp bread – her verdict – a fusion of flavours giving the Tuna dish a real five star taste.

For main it had to be fish for me reminding me of the fish market in Soufriere on the island. My fish was poached in coconut, lime and ginger giving it an exciting taste. I ordered sweet potato ribbons and green beans with cocoa nib to accompany my fish and give it an authentic St Lucian twist. Perfection was the only way to describe my fish. It was moist, tender and full of flavour.

My colleague was more daring. She decided on the 4-hour Lamb Pepperpot. It looked rather like a stew but made with gentle warming spices and chopped vegetables. The gravy and beer stick bread fascinated me but its for dipping – twist the stick and dip away. The lamb was so tender it just glided off the fork and the gravy just so flavoursome she declared

We had to have a fair old wait before we were ready for dessert as portions are very substantial. But it was nice to look down on the lamp-lit street below – and people watch for a while.

When it came to choosing my dessert it had to be Magnificent Piton. These iconic sea mountains are the first thing you see when you fly into the island and the mountains overlook the Boucan restaurant. Delicately crafted the soft meringue peak was surrounded by chocolate soup, sliced banana and almonds – simply delicious.

Been a bit of a chocoholic my colleague chose the Ganache Tart with fresh cream and chocolate piped into a short crust pastry case served with hazel nut and praline ice cream. Very rich she admitted but a chocoholics dream.

Finishing our coffee it was time to descend the wooden stairs – our brief sojourn to St Lucia and the wonders of the Boucan’s cuisine had come to an end. It was time to say goodbye!

The Roast-Conch is situated at 55 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 5EL.

Telephone 0113 244 2421. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For details of special events including chocolate workshops, party chocolate tasting etc visit www.roastandconch.com events.

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