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Paul's 2017/18 High 5 Awards

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:54 pm
by Paul Tallet
Further down this forum you will see my last High 5 Awards from my 2016/17 holiday.

I have added comments about Drinks and where to get the best of them.

This is an update on the old and some new ones. Unfortunately I was too busy enjoying my holiday to update all of last year’s.

Before I start, here are a few general comments about Sundays, Breakfasts, Lunches, Saturday Soup Day and Dinners:-

La Cantina is open on Sundays … I intended to visit this venue again because they do excellent pizzas and I was going to make it on the day of our flight home like last time but unfortunately they have changed their opening hours to 3pm.

Sundays … the day of our flight home and we could not find anywhere to have lunch. Even the Fishpot was closed. We thought we may as well try a Hotel and tried the Tropikist. We arrived at 3.02pm to be told they stop serving at 3pm and rules are rules … you are too late! But you are a Hotel (we are tourists with money) … Lunch is closed … mental note to put this on my list of potential Nursing Homes for when I get older.

We ended up trying Skewers near the Pigeon Pointless Junction … someone told me it was good … it didn’t look good and did not taste good. Whilst hacking through the fast food with a plastic fork, I wondered if I really would live long enough to reside in the Tropikist Nursing Home.

Dinner … I think I have mentioned somewhere before in this forum that Dinner in Tobago is a totally different proposition to Lunch. In some cases the dress code is stricter and in most cases you get the same as Lunch but you pay twice as much … all because it is Dinner … make sense?

Alternatively you can have Lunch at half price and stay home for dinner … does that make sense ?!?

Breakfast … the best Breakfasts are in the Hotels. Yes they are more expensive but there is no harm in treating yourself to a really nice breakfast once in a while. Also don’t worry if they give you a funny look, it’s probably because they don’t think you are old enough. At worst you could get turned away because the Hotel is empty … imagine that!

Away from Hotels you can buy Roti’s that I would describe as a dry pancake wrapped around a Chicken and Bone Curry of varying and unreliable strength … so chew with caution … don’t want any injuries do we !

Castara Breakfasts … Chenos was the only Breakfast venue in Castara. The Naturalist Beach Resort also does Breakfasts but this is strictly for guests and no outsiders.

There is a new one … Ria’s (which I will cover in a little more detail later in this post) is doing Breakfasts out of Shirma’s Restaurant … and she does full English what ho dear boy!

I never made it to Chenos to see if he had made any changes to counter his new rival but everytime I passed in the car he was still doing good business.

Saturday Soup Day … Only this year have I worked out that Saturday seems to be a national event for Soup. The reason for this is that I always stayed back in Castara for Shirma’s Saturday Soup and never noticed that Soups are available all around Tobago … so now I guess we have to work out who does the best Soup on Saturday … contributions are welcome readers.

Maybe a Saturday Soup Tour could be arranged, it would add some dimension to those sweaty bus tours that the resorts promote.

Also, while questioning why 2 different venues do BBQ’s on the same (Friday) night I learned that it was less to do with a lack of business nous and more to do with tradition ... just like Fish & Chips is a Friday tradition in the UK.

So lets look at the restaurants and eateries I visited, in no particular order …

Fishpot … 55555

Where? … near Grafton Beach
What? … Catch of the Day and much much more
Price? … TT$80+ for Main Dish (more expensive for dinner)
Location/Setting … Peaceful but not much of a view
Service … Excellent
B; L or D? … Lunch and Dinner

Raised from 4 high 5’s to 5 high 5’s.

This is just one venue where I know I will always enjoy my Lunch. They are very consistent and the range of fish they cook for the Catch of the Day is very diverse.

Over several visits there were Barracuda, Mahi Mahi, Red Snapper, Kingfish, Amber Cavalli and Cobia (yes Cobia … go look it up) and, for starters … Crab Cakes.

You go eat there and have the Catch of the Day … always good no matter what it is.

In fact, the Fishpot is so good that we found ourselves organising our days around lunchtime.

Clean toilets and handwashing facilities out back.

Disabled? … There are steps up to the restaurant and access to the toilets would be very difficult for wheelchair users.

Shirma’s / Rias … 555

Where … Castara
What? … BBQ Friday nights / Saturday Soup / Ria’s Breakfasts
Price? … Up to TT$50 … around TT$100 for Breakfast
Location/Setting … on main road … no views
Service … OK
B; L or D? … Breakfast (and see above)

Ria seems to rent the place for Breakfasts and this is served for most of the day (I cannot recall exact times). This is the only competition to Chenos.

There are a wide range of breakfasts, including an English Breakfast which Chenos did not do but I never got the chance to check Chenos out this year to see if he had made any changes and it would be unfair to speculate, however Chenos’ coffee is much better than Rias, of that I am certain.

Shirma’s Friday night BBQ’s offer a choice of Chicken, Fish and are accompanied with rice, noodles and veg (including callaloo).

On Saturday it is soup day and this has not changed since last year.

Average toilets.

Disabled? … the premises are on a steep slope and has several levels and access to toilets is impossible with a wheelchair.

Riverside Café … 555

Where … Castara
What? … BBQ Friday nights / Saturday Soup / Roti
Price? … Up to TT$50
Location/Setting … on main road (next to Marguerites) … no views
Service … OK
B; L or D? … All day Roti (and as above)

Riverside is open all week except Sundays.

The Roti’s are available daily until the mid afternoon and are very tasty, but as with all Roti’s watch out for the sharp bones. You are also asked how hot you would like your Roti.

Since Duck has departed Castara under a cloud of fresh controversy, this is the only place I am aware of that serves food at lunch time in Castara, apart from Ria’s breakfasts.

According to legend, this business was set up while Shirma’s closed for a while due to ill health, although you rarely see Shirma anyway on BBQ night which seems odd.

However, Riverside continued after Shirma re-opened for business and I would say that the Riverside offers a little more variety such as a choice of chips or rice with the BBQ … they also start serving earlier around sunset whereas Shirma’s starts around 7.30 to 8.00 pm.

It’s always good to see competition in Castara, however even Castara is suffering (to a lesser degree that the rest of Tobago) from a fall in tourism and I hope there is enough business for the Riverside and Shirma’s to share.

No toilets.

Disabled? … Level but there is a kerb on side of the road … wheelchair users could remain on the road and shout their order! They do take-aways and can also deliver.

Vaness … 5555

Where … Bloody Bay
What? … Lobster, Seafood, a range of meats Tobago style
Price? … Depends
Location/Setting … Northside Road, stunning views over the Rainforest canopy.
A Birdwatcher’s delight.
Service … OK
B; L or D? … Lunch and Dinner

I have known Vaness for years, maybe back 18 years when she was running the adjacent Sunshine Restaurant that is now run by her daughter.

Vaness now focuses more on her cooking which she is very good at, however the range of drinks are a little restricted so don’t expect cocktails. I would see no problem in checking out the Sunshine next door if there is a particular drink you need or, alternatively, if passing the Glasgow Bar in Parlatuvier on your way, pick up what you want from there.

Last year it was the Lobster … this year it was huge Prawns.


Very clean Toilets and handwashing facilities. Probably the cleanest in Tobago.

Disabled? … Level throughout although I think there is a small threshold at the entrance … toilets are spacious and suitable for wheelchair access if you can negotiate the heavy doors.

Suckhole … 5555

Where … Charlotteville
What? … It changes day by day
Price? … TT$80+
Location/Setting … On beach … views of Man O War Bay
Service … Slow but good
B; L or D? … Lunch until the food runs out

What can I say … the same as last year.

The chef buys everything fresh and starts cooking at midday. Expect to wait a long time for your food but it is worth the wait.

The size of the portions can be off-putting to nibblers but it is now the norm to take about half of your meal home.

This year we could only stomach one visit and we chose Kingfish (about 5 fillets!) and a rack of Pork Ribs verging on the whole side of a pig.

Always delicious and always presented well … it’s just not possible to clear your plate.

TT$1 per visit to use adjacent Charlotteville beach facilities if you need the toilet so make the most of your visit! Toilets are OK.

Disabled? … the dining area is cramped and the furniture is heavy so little flexibility but there are sheltered areas outside where you can dine. Access is easy for wheelchair users apart from the main dining area.

Luvinias … 555

Where … Buccoo
What? … Variety
Price? … TT$80+
Location/Setting … Overlooking Buccoo Jetty
Service … Good
B; L or D? … All (not sure about Breakfast)

This is my first time here and I made a point of visiting this venue based on some positive myTobago and trip Adviser reviews.

The Restaurant is attached to a Guesthouse which is why I think Breakfast could be an option. The view is nice with a panoramic view of Buccoo Bay and you can watch the fishermen bringing in their catch. Very relaxing.

We had a Bolognaise with Dumplings and a Chicken Salad with a side dish of Garlic Mushrooms and it was very nice, particularly the Salad.

The Toilets are poor and the handwashing facilities are in the dining area.

Disabled? … apart from getting up the steps the whole venue is flat and spacious. Once in, wheelchairs users would have little problems.

Waves … 55

Where … Grafton Beach
What? … Mainly Burgers / Salads / Snacks
Price? … TT$80+
Location/Setting … On beach … great views
Service … Excellent staff but an unpleasant manager
B; L or D? … Lunch and Dinner

Waves has a great location and offers very comfortable dining.

Service can vary here depending who is on what shift but this year I had an issue with the Manager.

Firstly I was not allowed to park on the road outside the venue even though it was a public way with no parking signs or restrictions … I happily moved the car but this Manager would not let it stop there and seemed determined to make my stay as miserable as possible … she failed.

She refused to give me the wi-fi code, told the waitress not to give me the wi-fi code and was incredibly rude … not one of my catching smiles would placate her. So in cases like this I generally aim for the darkest corner if I can find rather than let someone go to great lengths to spoil my day … boy, this lady was on a mission.

Our waitress was excellent and even slipped me the wi-fi code when she visited our table which was as far away from the manager as possible.

The wi-fi didn’t work … it had probably and maliciously been switched off until I hit the road again.

To this day I still can’t work out if I had upset the Manager in some way and I kind of felt lucky that we were allowed on the premises.

Nowt as strange as folk as they say.

Anyway, as always the food was average but a lot better than previous visits and the cocktails are probably this venue’s big strength.

The toilets are clean with handwashing facilities.

Disabled? Just a step here and there. Wheelchairs generally OK if avoiding the steps and, of course, if the Manager likes you!!

Birdwatchers … 5555

Where … Speyside
What? … Lobster is their speciality
Price? … TT$200 upwards for lobster … TT$80+ for anything else
Location/Setting … Near beach on Main Road … views limited
Service … They try
B; L or D? … Lunch and Dinner

After watching a couple erotically engorging themselves with Lobster last year I made a point of making a return with my personal Lobster expert and adviser who had last year designated Vaness as the best Lobster chef in the world.

We paid TT$300 for a medium sized lobster.

It came dressed and prepared so there was no need to carry out any surgery and it was delicious. My expert eventually declared that this is, indeed, better than Vaness and should now be recognised as the best lobster restaurant in Tobago, if not, the world.

All other food is good but this venue is highly recommended and worthy of any travel or inconvenience if you want to have a funky lobster.

Toilets are in an outbuilding and adequate.

Disabled? … No problems here. Wheelchair users can use ramps with a gentle slope to access the venue.

Skewers … 5

Where … Crown Point
What? … Middle Eastern / Kebab
Price? … Poor value
Location/Setting … Busy Road / Poor
Service … Non-existent … just place your order
B; L or D? … Same swill all day and open on Sundays

One of my friends liked this place so my opinion is just my opinion.

It was awful. This is a take-out … there is very little seating for eat-ins and if there are any queues I guess it would be bedlam. The venue is tiny and the food is utter crap.

No Toilets … I was directed to toilets around the back which were closed.

Disabled? … Forget it. Even if you can get in with a wheelchair you won’t go far.

Boat Trips … 5555

I usually use 4 Boat Operators:-

Zolani – Franks Tours operating out of the Blue Waters Inn in Speyside

Brian – Ali-Ba-Ba Tours in Castara

Taffy – a fisherman based in Charlotteville

Jennings – Glass-bottom Boats in Crown Point

Unfortunately, due to issues such as weather, sea-conditions or timings we did not go out with Zolani or Jennings this year so don’t worry chaps … we will be looking out for you next year.

So, Brian and Taffy.

Brian normally take trips southwards from Castara down to Bucco and uses No Man’s Land to cook BBQ for his guests. His wife, Stephanie, makes excellent cake and Brian and his assistant cook up really nice BBQ’s of chicken and fish and a good spread of vegetables and salad.

Brian also makes a very nice (and sweet) Rum Punch and has learned from his experience with me over the years that the distribution of the Rum Punch is best restricted to Lunch and the Nylon Pool if he does not want it to run out!

Taffy is not a regular boat operator, being a fisherman is his main vocation and, of course, his boat is not as well equipped … though having said that, he does not need to take us far away from Charlotteville.

Taffy cooks only Fish and he will do this on any beach he can access, making the BBQ from scratch. The fish is marinaded on the spot and wrapped in silver foil and (kind of) baked over the BBQ … it is absolutely delicious.

Please note that I cannot recommend Taffy’s boat trips because he has no Insurance and is mainly a fisherman and his boat is not very suitable for organised tours. I have employed Taffy to get me to the proverbial ‘off-piste’ snorkelling sites over the years where few other boat tour operators will go.

So if you use Taffy, it is at your own risk and best suited for 4 persons maximum over short distances (i.e.; within Man O War Bay).

Otherwise, Taffy is always happy leave out the boat trip and do beach BBQ’s.

Drinks and Mixers

If it is cocktails you are after, any Hotel can do them but I can list a few of the best from my experience:-

Bagos Bar – Shirley Cooke makes them from scratch and Bagos Bar is in a nice setting overlooking Cable Bay and right next door to Coco Reef (and a lot cheaper than Coco Reef!).

Waves Bar – Grafton Beach, offer a menu of cocktails. Beware of the Manager.

Blue Waters Inn … great cocktails at a great location in Batteau Bay.

If you like wine, the red is dodgy simply because it is difficult to store red wine at the correct temperature in Tobago. The Fishpot and la Tartaruga are probably the best and most of the Hotels should be able to store Red Wine correctly.

It is also risky buying red wine, it is normally quite expensive and the expensive wines are normally the ones that have been exported in the correct packing and not perished on their journey to Tobago. Buy cheap red wine at your peril.

White and Rose Wine are easier as they are normally served chilled. My advice to self caterers that like red wine is to use the fridge as well ... I know some of you will faint at this suggestion but, other than burying your wine or storing it underwater in a river, it will spoil in normal Tobago temperatures.

Spirits … obviously Rum is very easy to find but away from the main resorts the mixers are limited such as tonic water (for Gin) and any low fat mixers such as diet coke can be hard to find. Lemons, Limes and Pineapple is easy from any Supermarket.

If you are self catering you can get almost anything you need from a wholesaler called Almondez (or Almondoz) next to the Penny Savers in Scarborough.

This is always my first stop on arrival and I get a whole holiday loads worth. You need to order by the crate (i.e.; 12 bottles of Carib).

Also buy your water there … you can get 8 litre bottles with a tap on top … this is very useful for mixing Rum Punches for day trips … prise the tap off and pour all your ingredients in, snap the tap back on and shove it in the freezer overnight (if it fits!). Using Puncheon Rum is both cheaper and harder to freeze due to it’s alcohol (75%) content so it defrosts quite quickly by the time you reach your beach destination and is so refreshing … yum yum.

So if you park at Almondez, the contraband can be delivered by fork-lift truck and loaded into the back of your car and off you go to enjoy your holiday with booze at discounted prices … Please make sure that your front wheels are touching the road after delivery!

Please also note that the contraband comes in crates so put your empties back in the crates and return them at the end of your holiday or your host will benefit from a small financial reward for returning them for you.

Beware of the roadside fruit stalls … I would like to support them but I don’t anymore since one tried to charge me TT$700 for a Pineapple and some Bananas from behind the counter that were in more distress than the fruits on display … this was the Fruit Stall outside Penny Savers on Buccoo Road with the Pharmacist at the front.

This particular fruit stall should be avoided and I find it quite insulting that they think I would be so stupid to hand over my cash for that.

If there are any fruit stall vendors reading this then please go to this fruit stall and sort them out before they ruin the integrity of your business.

Beer … easy. It’s everywhere.

I hope all these hints and tips are helpful to readers and particularly those that self cater on their Tobago Holidays.


Re: Paul's 2017/18 High 5 Awards

Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:56 pm
by Ben D
Nice one, Paul, thanks for the info.

Re: Paul's 2017/18 High 5 Awards

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:57 pm
by NIN49
Loved the passionate article. Thank you Paul.

Re: Paul's 2017/18 High 5 Awards

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:28 am
by Roger D.
Hey Sir Paul! Long time. Heading to Tobago in August for my 50th! your post as always are a must read! Hope all is well

Re: Paul's 2017/18 High 5 Awards

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:41 pm
by Paul Tallet
All is well Roger but I will be posting an update to last year's High 5 Awards.

Enjoy your holiday … I wish I was as young as you :mrgreen: