Valentine’s Day and great food seem to go together, spending quality time over a terrific meal with the one you love. If you want to combine some of the Caribbean’s most stunning sunsets while partaking of world-class meals, Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands may not be a bad place to do it. And it’s a lot warmer than Boston.
The 230-acre Scrub Island, which opened in July 2010, the first luxury development in the BVI in more than 15 years to do so and the first member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in the Caribbean, is heating things up for the romantic holiday, by introducing special menus featuring popular aphrodisiacs, food and drink, that legend has it, are believed to increase romantic desires.
At the resort’s Caravela restaurant, a night of romance starts with champagne, followed by a six-course, prix fixe meal, crafted by local resident and award-winning chef, David Pugliese, who was recently named the resort’s executive chef. The offerings include wine, chocolate, strawberries and honey, as well is coriander, carrots, fennel and asparagus. Signature recipes include the roast duck, Berkshire pork belly and aniseed poached pear, all of it for $200 per couple, the menu exclusively available on Valentine’s Day.
The resort’s Ixora Spa, voted in the top 10 in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel + Life, is also getting into the romantic swing with special services throughout February, including a warm honey-drizzle sugar scrub, cherries-and-chocolate milk bath, and dark-chocolate facial mask. A full couple’s package is also available. The resort also has a special Valentine’s Day package from Feb. 8-14, at $2,160 for three nights.
Any time of year, the resort is a pretty romantic place. We visited back in the fall, decidedly off season, and had the place pretty much to ourselves, including access to three spectacular beaches.
North Beach seemed to be the most popular, a 1,000-foot stretch of stand on the north side of the island, private and accessible on foot through the hilly island or they’ll give you a lift in a golf cart. It’s a beautiful location, with wooden decks and lounge chairs lined up far enough apart amid beach vegetation to give you privacy, and here is also One Shoe Bar, named for the propensity of occasionally finding just one in a pair of shoes washed up on the beach. They have a pool here as well, a great place to chill with a powerful drink from the bar, the resident mixologist eager to create anything of your liquor liking.
Nearest the resort proper and its 52 guest rooms and multi-room villas, all facing the water, and 55-slip marina, is the pavilion beach, right below the Tierra Tierra restaurant, with swimming pools, one on a lower level, another higher. This is the place to set off from in kayak or with snorkels. The other sandy getaway is honeymoon beach, accessible only by kayak. They’ll drop you off if you’d prefer, with food and beverage of your choice. Pugliese is at the culinary helm on Scrub Island, a soft-spoken, affable Italian who moved to the BVI more than 20 years ago and ran the locally famous Brandywine Restaurant. He and his wife live in Wali Nikiti, an open-air house he designed on the far side of the island, which I visited a few years ago, an architectural wonder of open space, sun and constant breeze that is featured in February’s Coastal Living Magazine.
The food is superb, and themed, and on one Monday evening we enjoyed the Caravela’s Caribbean night, possibly the best Caribbean buffet I’ve ever had, and the most genuine, with things like curry goat, smooth and spicy and loaded with meat and bone; Jamaican jerk chicken, which was forehead-sweating hot; rice and beans, a staple; conch stew, silky tender; and sweet, soft fried plantains.
The service is swift and friendly, but not overdone. And it’s expensive, the buffet that time of year fetching $45 per person, but very much worth it. Caravela is fine-dining in atmosphere, an open space in a wide arc, with a huge bar in front, and glass walls fronting the ocean and those blazing sunsets. Inside the space is the Candle Room for private dining, with plush leather chairs and glass walls holding wine bottles, with a lighted, locked glass case of very expensive Remy Martin Louis XII.
We also ate at Tierra Tierra one night, taking the best seat by the open-air restaurant’s railing, with the sun setting as we ate, the sky ever changing from scorching reds to glimmering gold and then deep blue, before giving away to a star-dotted black. The food was exquisite, and local, seafood abounding on the menu. I had the red snapper, perfectly cooked and spicy hot, as I’d requested extra kick on mine and they came through in fiery fashion.
Though you likely won’t be spending too much time in your room, they are gorgeously appointed and a great place to relax. We had a one-bedroom suite, with marble countertops, Wolf gas-burner stove, over-and-under refrigerator, Cuisinart coffee maker and a Nespresso machine, kitchen counter with stools separating the cooking area from huge living space, with giant HD-TV, and French doors opening to a wide balcony and water views. The pocket doors in the living room open to a good-sized master bedroom, with soaking tub, glass shower with rain head, frosted-glass door to the water closet and his-and-her vanities.
The balcony is the draw, facing the water and Tortola in the distance, Saba Rock Island in closer view, and those phenomenal sunsets. It’s a perfect place to unwind, sip some wine from the resort’s onsite gourmet market and café, and rest up for dinner and drinks.
And it’s a place to forget about time. One night, when I asked a staffer for the time, he laughed and said, "Why do you need to know? When it’s light, it’s day. When it’s dark, it’s night."
He couldn’t have been more right.
Depending on time of year, rates start around $380 per night. For reservations and information, visit www.scrubisland.com or call 870-890-7444. Top three photos from Scrub Island, bottom two by Paul E. Kandarian