• Change
Based on 12160 reviews on Trustpilot

Paradise on a plate

The fabulous food of Anguilla has Harry Denning’s tastebuds tingling - and its beaches are tempting too

The clue is in the name.

Moored alongside the sun-scarred pier, amid a smattering of yachts nodding at anchor, the Happiness ferry boat is waiting.

Untie the mooring ropes, Skipper. Point the bow to the horizon. Destination: Sandy Island - where you'll find perhaps the most beautiful remote restaurant in the world. Happiness indeed.

Sandy Island (again, the clue's in the name) is a tiny spit of white powder a few miles off the coast of Anguilla.

Unfamiliar with Anguilla? Partly, that's because it's not the easiest of Caribbean islands to reach, involving a transfer through Antigua.

But unlike nearby St Barts, Anguilla's 33 pristine beaches aren't stalked by paparazzi, even though this is where Justin Bieber spent a Christmas, Jay-Z wooed Beyonce, Robert De Niro comes to eat Italian beachside, Paul McCartney is a regular and where Leonardo DiCaprio and his posse came cruising aboard Steven Spielberg's superyacht.

And where did Leo choose to drop anchor for a spot of lunch and snorkelling? Sandy Island.

Little more than a tin shack and a few sun loungers spread out along a few hundred feet of shifting shoreline, it manages to serve up the most deliciously simple seafood imaginable.

Carrie Bogar inspects the day's catch for her restaurant Veya

We opt for the lobster, Sandy Island style - super-sized, flashed over the grill and licked with a lightly curried coconut sauce. Exquisite.

Here is an island where the great food is a reason to visit in itself. At 16 miles long and three miles wide, Anguilla has more than 100 restaurants, many among the best in the Caribbean. My tip: hire a car and work your way round as many as you can.

Our base for the week is Meads Bay, a crescent of golden perfection that plays host to two of the island's most stylish hotels. At one end is what was until recently The Viceroy, and now under the Four Seasons banner - and still a benchmark for slick service.

After a day spent exploring the island on a pair of hotel bikes, we head to the spectacular bar where a chilled reggae soundtrack is the backdrop for a chance encounter with the island's young British Attorney General and its recently appointed police chief, formerly a chief superintendent from Sussex. 

'So how do you land plum postings like this?' I ask, over a passion fruit and chilli margarita. Their life, they claim, is not quite the mixture of idyll and intrigue of TV's Death In Paradise, but as the sun dissolves into the ocean, it must beat a post-work pint in the Dog & Duck.

At the other end of Meads Bay lies the Malliouhana, an intimate 44-bedroom hotel perched on its own headland. If the Viceroy/Four Seasons is a symphony in muted Armani greys and neutrals, then the Malliouhana is a celebration of colour, with Hermes orange and Tiffany pale blue to the fore.

For those of a nautical bent, there's a treat in store. The Tradition is one of the last seaworthy wooden trading sloops that were once the juggernauts of these waters, shipping rum, tobacco and spices between the islands, not always with full regard to the customs office, but don't tell the Attorney General.

Laurie Gumbs at the helm of The Tradition, one of the last wooden trading stoops

Now restored and taken on by local bar owner and master yachtsman Laurie Gumbs, she takes day trippers to hidden coves and islands. With neither winches nor windlasses to help haul the canvas up, this is big-boat sailing in the raw. 'Wanna take the helm?' offers Laurie, passing me a tiller the size of a fallen oak.

Tucking it under my armpit, we yaw against the wind as the surf froths at the gunwales and the rest of our passengers look on with alarm at their novice helmsman. Scurvy lot.

Next morning, we drive to the far north of Anguilla where we find a winding track to remote Junks Hole. Here, local legend and grandfather Nat Richardson serves up grilled crayfish and johnny cakes, a sort of savoury doughnut with a slather of hot pepper sauce made to a secret family recipe.

Judging by the nuclear reaction it provokes after one bite, I'm guessing it includes a generous dollop of enriched uranium.

We buy a bottle to take home, and as the winter chill descends in Britain, it comes out every now and then to bring back those warming Anguillan memories — a reminder that this is an island that packs a whole heap of good taste into a very small package.


First published in the Mail Online - March 2017

More articles below...

For more inspiration, read what travel writers have to say...

Sailing the high seas

Cruising the Windward islands proved just the ticket for Helen Atkinson Wood

Authentic Cuba

John Hutchinson visits before the island nation changes forever

Stunned by St Lucia

Marina Fogle is dazzled by this corner of the Caribbean

Sun, sea and salsa!

The perfect partners for Bruno Tonioli

St Kitts and Nevis

Wendy Driver puts her best foot forward on a hiking trip

Chilling in Grenada

Samantha Lewis discovers the perfect island to relax

Bliss in the BVIs

Vincent Graff discovers he can do without room keys and TVs

For sun and stars

Follow Wendy Gomersall to the beautiful Bahamas

Spicy Grenada

Renowned chef Rosemary Shrager discovers paradise on a plate

Cuba's new revolution

One of the most fascinating holiday destinations, as Richard Eden discovered

Caribbean cocktail

Grenada packs a punch, as Tamara Hinson discovers

Happy hour

Stephen Macdonald samples deadly cocktails in Jamaica

Art beneath the waves

Rob Crossan discovers sublime beauty in this stunning underwater sculpture gallery

Past Perfect

Tristan Davies finds himself in a luxurious time capsule

Bountiful Bequia

Nick Redman reports from the little Caribbean island of Bequia

Plantation houses

Discover the Caribbean's historic hotels

St Lucian sounds

Nigel Tisdall is dancing to a different beat in St Lucia


Piers Morgan's favourite Caribbean hotel is better than ever

Barbados or Bequia

Hunter Davies has to decide which of two idyllic islands comes out on top

Besotted with Barbados

Sam Tonkin loves everything about this Caribbean idyll

Rock and Royalty

Nigel Tisdall tells you how you can join the St Barths' jet-set

Bowled over by Bequia

Jonathan Agnew unearths a secret Windies gem

Caribbean heaven

Mark Palmer revels in two luxury resorts in the Dominican Republic

Gourmet gala

Jason Arnold delights in the culinary treats of Antigua and St Lucia

Best of Barbados

Fred Mawer's top tips to enjoy this fabulous Caribbean island

In love with St Lucia

Josh Cuthbert, of boy band Union J, knew there was only one place he wanted to celebrate his engagement

Bountiful Barbados

Jack Davidson discovers the island’s greatest treasure

Get fit in paradise

Toni Jones signed up for sun, sea, sand and floating yoga

Serene St Lucia

Ben Bailey finds paradise on gorgeous St Lucia

Batting for Antigua

The Caribbean just bowls you over says Mark Palmer

Islands of treasure

There's so much more to the Cayman Islands than offshore banking says Sian Boyle

Not quite what you're looking for?
We can easily customise an offer to suit your exact requirements