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St Martin's French half emerges as one of the Caribbean's top food destinations

The northern French half of the small island of St Martin in the Caribbean has become a hotspot for food lovers, thanks to its collection of gourmet French restaurants, quaint patisseries, and traditional beachside cafes and barbecues called "lolos" that serve delicious ribs and chicken with rice, beans, fried plantain, and cold beers, in locations overlooking the sparkling azure ocean.

St Martin's French half emerges as one of the Caribbean's top food destinations

The island of St Martin in the Caribbean might not be the biggest of nations in the regions, but it’s fast becoming a huge foodie destination thanks to its exquisite French cuisine created using fresh, local ingredients.

The southern half of the tropical island is Dutch (Sint Maarten), while the northern half is French (Saint Martin), and it is here where travellers will find an array of exquisite French restaurants and patisseries. With more than 400 restaurants on the tiny island, most of them are located in Marigot town on the west coast, and the northern village of Grand Case,

The beaches and waterfronts are dotted with “Lolos”, cafes and barbeque stands that serve freshly cooked ribs and chicken that can be eaten with rice, beans, fried plantain, macaroni salad, and refreshing cold beers – all costing less than $10. Popular dishes include salt fish, conch sausage, Johnny cakes, and code fritters.

Some of the best "lolos" can be found in Grand Case. Talk of the Town serves mouth-watering and affordable lobster, while Rosie’s in Marigot serves daily specials with vibrant reggae music. Holidaymakers with a sweet tooth can visit the island’s French boulangeries, and there are plenty of stands selling fresh tropical fruit shake and juices.

Upscale French brasseries might serve a la carte cuisine, but the customers are more likely to be wearing tropical shirts and casual shorts, than formal dresses and suits. There are over 67 restaurants in traditional Creole houses along the main boulevard in Grand Case, and the town boasts intimate eateries including Le Tastevin and L’Estaminet.

For tourists who are looking to soak up the sights and aromas, the main streets of Marigot come alive every Tuesday night with sizzling barbeques, food stands, and an energetic atmosphere. Orient Beach on the opposite side of St Martin is home to upscale restaurants, such as Kontaki, Kakao and Waikiki, where you can sit on beach chaises under umbrellas, or dine on decked areas overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

But, St Martin isn’t all about fresh seafood and French culinary delights, and all over the rest of the island there’s a variety of cuisine including Indonesian, Indian, Thai Japanese, Moroccan, Lebanese, Italian and Mexican.

St Martin is part of the Leeward Islands spanning 34 square miles. The Dutch side is home to duty-free shopping, casinos and a vibrant nightlife, while the French side boasts sophisticated restaurants, boutiques, nude beaches, and waterfronts lined with charming lolos and bars.

Holidaymakers can relax on dozens of white-sand beaches, or go snorkelling and scuba diving in the aquamarine sea down to colourful coral reefs and catch glimpses or darting fish and tropical marine species.

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