About a week before arriving on the island of Bermuda, I made reservations at two restaurants I wanted to try during our stay. One was the Hog Penny Restaurant and Pub serving authentic British Pub and comfort foods at a reasonable price. The second dining establishment was the Ocean Club at the hotel we were staying at. I had planned the Ocean Club dinner to be our “honeymoon anniversary dinner” celebration. Again, I used the app, Open Table to make the reservations – more on this later in the post.
Right away, things did not go exactly as planned but might have actually turned out better than we anticipated. We arrived in the late afternoon and after taking our arranged transportation to the hotel, we quickly decided to change into beach clothes and head down to the hotel beach where we knew to be a grill called the Cabana which served light food and drinks to be enjoyed right on the beach. Unfortunately, we arrived at 6:05 p.m. and this establishment closes at 6 p.m. nightly. One of the waiters directed us to the Ocean Club but we were hesitant as my husband was in swim trunks and a t-shirt and I in a tie-dye cover-up type dress. (Note the previous post comments on dress code.) We definitely did not meet the requirements. However, the hostess graciously sat us for dinner. We were given a table on the veranda overlooking the ocean and beach. It was a gorgeous setting. Next, we met our waiter. He was from Nepal! Yes, as in, where Mount Everest is – so far from home! We were able to learn a little about his life there, and his life in Bermuda, as well as his family, from which he was separated for nine months of the year to enable him to earn a living in Bermuda. We spoke of Sherpas and mountains, oceans, family, and bravery. It was a wonderful experience and we had not yet even eaten! Our dinner consisted of Bermuda Rock Fish, Asparagus with Lemon and Himalayan Salt, and Mussels. It was some of the best fish my husband and I ever tasted! We lingered over coffee and tea following our meal to watch the sun disappear over the roof of the hotel beyond the beach. We still had Ocean Club reservations for Saturday night and were looking forward to returning.
The following day was spent at the pool and beach. For dinner, we headed into Hamilton by ferry in the late afternoon. The Southampton Princess Hotel provides a complimentary ferry from its dock to the ferry terminal in downtown Hamilton. We took advantage of this service at least half of the days were on the island. The City of Hamilton has been having Harbor Nights on Wednesdays for quite a few years now, but they are new to us, as they did not offer this form of entertainment in 2007. I had read about this event in my pre-trip research and planned a dinner at one of the restaurants near the harbor in Hamilton. We ate at the Hog Penny Restaurant and Pub, just barely a half a block in from Front Street which was sectioned off for the weekly parade of Gombey dancers and craft vendors. The Hog Penny did not disappoint! The close quartered, classic British Pub atmosphere reminded of the scene in the movie “Maid of Honor” when the female lead goes into the Scottish Pub to receive hearty congratulations on her pending nuptials from perfect strangers! Dark and crowded, we were ushered to our table as soon as an older couple from one of the visiting cruise ships vacated it. But, in passing through such close quarters, you immediately felt like you were part of the pub family, striking up jovial conversations on the way to our intimate corner table. Despite the crowd, our waiter was brisk and efficient, as well as pleasant – but, there was no time for chit-chat with him as he could be seen hopping from table to table. Next to us sat a couple we had ridden on the ferry with into Hamilton. My husband confirmed that she was having the Shepherds Pie, which looked incredible. I had Fish Chowder which is a Bermuda staple and an arugula salad. Our meal was outstanding! The Fish Chowder was really peppery with large chunks of fish and a tomato base. When it arrived our waiter ran back to the table to give me a shake of sherry and Goslings Bermuda Black Rum to top the soup off. Yummy! We completed this dinner by indulging in a locally brewed beer and a hard cider imported from South Africa, both delicious and thirst quenching.
This seems to be a good time to bring up drinking water while on the island of Bermuda. Water is a precious resource. There is no freshwater source on this island. Consequently, the Bermuda residents collect the rainwater that flows off their specially designed, white washed roofs into cisterns on their property. A home owner is required to collect a certain percentage of rainwater. Forgetting that not all countries serve treated tap water, we were served “still” water (from a sealed bottle) at our first dinner. While delicious, we have always found this unnecessary on Bermuda and from there after, opted for iced tap water. It is usually not offered as an option – just still or sparkling, which comes from a bottle and you pay for it. The iced tap water tasted fine and neither one of us has ever gotten dysentery from a stay on Bermuda. Having been to the Netherlands last fall, I realized the bottled water served with meals when in a restaurant is a European tradition that has been continued on this former British colony.
Thursday night was a night without pre-made reservations. This was the only day on our trip that it rained. We had learned that Bermuda was in a very slight drought, and the rain was slow, but steady all day on Thursday. It was nice to see the island receive the rain it was needing. We stayed close to the hotel, thankful that we had not departed on the ferry to St. Georges or the Dockyard. Swimming in the hotel pool during a quiet rainfall was a wonderfully relaxing activity, as it turned out. Around seven we ended up wandering down to another one of the restaurants at the hotel (there are ten) to see if we could be seated. As luck would have it, another couple did not show up for their reservations and we were seated in their place at the Newport Gastropub. This restaurant is decorated in a nautical theme and was just as busy as any other eating establishment we had visited. While our meal was fine, it was not exceptional. Our waitress was very sweet but obviously overwhelmed by a couple of other large parties that had come in around the same time as we did. Although our table was cleared, we seemed to have to wait an extraordinarily long time to receive our dinner bill. It was 9:30 p.m. by the time we left, and we agreed, it was too late to be just returning from dinner. This was the only place we ate on this trip that we do not feel that we would return to eat again if given a future chance. Again, not terrible, just not great.
Coincidently, our feelings about this restaurant was pretty similar to the other comments we read when doing our pre-trip dinner research. We always take comments with a grain of salt, since you do not know what the expectations are of those who are writing, but in this case, slower service and a “just okay meal” seemed to be among the prevailing comments.
Saturday, we spent the day in St. George – another historic town on the opposite end of the island from the Dockyard. Instead of taking ferries (three would be required) we opted for the complimentary ferry from the hotel and a bus ride from Hamilton. The buses on Bermuda are reliable modes of transportation, used by residents and visitors, alike. We have used this mode of transportation on all three of our Bermuda vacations, but this time used tokens instead of passes. It still worked fine. We had a large breakfast before heading out, and lots of water to drink on a very hot and humid day. So, our lunch ended up being delayed until mid-afternoon (after a short time on the beach at Tobacco Bay) when we could catch the bus back to the Swizzle Inn – a famous spot on the island that serves the unofficial drink of Bermuda – the Rum Swizzle. After a 1/2 pitcher (2 drinks each), chicken barbecue nachos which were to die for, and the glad realizations we were still riding the bus back to the hotel, we were content. However, Saturday night was the night we were to return to the Ocean Club for our “fancy” dinner, celebrating our anniversary.
To make a long story short, we cancelled our open table reservation but were unable to make another reservation at the same place for the following night. Instead, with the concierge’s help we made reservations for the Italian restaurant associated with our hotel, but found on the nearby golf course. The restaurant’s name was Bacci. Our waiter here was from Romania – Stephan. I had a seafood skewer consisting of swordfish, scallop, and shrimp, while my husband had their homemade pasta bolognese. They allowed us to split a caesar salad that came out pre-divided on two separate plates from their kitchen. We both had cocktails. And then, we ended up having dessert as well. I will save the dessert story for another time, as it is humorous, but suffice it to say, it was the best dessert either of us had ever had – at home or abroad!
When I asked my husband what the favor part of our trip was he unabashedly said, “the food!” We did eat well! All meals were served ala cart – which is great because you are not served food you do not want, but also not so great to have to pay more for the food you do. And, while the seafood on Bermuda was outstanding and fresher than anything we can get at home in “middle America”, we found ourselves desiring some leafy greens and salads, which started to be satisfied by our lunch selections. We made requisite trip or two to the grocery store, as well. This is something I would recommend any overseas traveller do, as you really get a flavor of the local people and what they are eating. It also makes you appreciate the luxury of choice, affordability, efficiency, flow, and cleanliness we have in our grocery stores at home.
Eating in a foreign country, even one as similar as Bermuda, is a learning experience. We are all humans and all need sustenance. Allow yourself the chance to explore another culture by eating local food and observing local eating customs, as much as possible when travelling overseas. You will be glad you did.