There are now more than 50 restaurants to choose from in the Turks and Caicos, but a “must visit” for many is the ever-popular Coco Bistro. Island Life visited this perennial Turks and Caicos restaurant to seek out the recipe of its success.
Behind the tangerine-colored, blue-shuttered building of Coco Bistro, beyond the back deck where guests dine amid towering palm trees, there is a garden.
In this garden grows two types of citrus trees – key lime and kaffir lime. There’s also papaya. Basil. Lemongrass. And pimento – the main ingredient in jerk sauce.
“People often substitute allspice, but it’s not quite the same,” says Stuart Gray, owner and head chef of Coco Bistro.
So when Stuart says his restaurant’s food is fresh, he means it. He doesn’t just use locally grown food products; he grows them in his own backyard. Anything Stuart and his staff can make on their own, they will. Pasta, sorbet, mango chutney – it’s all made from scratch in the kitchen. Conch and lobster are served fresh from local waters. No meat is ever frozen. And perhaps it’s that commitment to freshness that’s helped the restaurant flourish since Stuart took over in 2006. Out of 98 restaurants on TripAdvisor, Coco Bistro tops the list at No. 1.
It’s easy to categorize Coco Bistro into the realm of fine dining. The food is not only fresh, but also flavourful and unique. (Who would think to serve scallops on a bed of coconut hummus? Who knew coconut hummus was a thing?) And as if the food wasn’t enough to lure you in, the atmosphere is quintessential carefree Caribbean. Diners look up from their candle-lit tables to a canopy of palm fronds. But Stuart doesn’t want to confine his restaurant to a category.
“We get labeled ‘fine dining,’ and I don’t want to be labeled ‘fine dining,’” he says. “We’re trying to get the whole spectrum of diners rather than focusing on one.”
Steven Murray, Coco Bistro’s general manager and co-owner, says he prefers the restaurant create a class all its own.
“You want to be different than what people have at home,” Steven says.
Their shared goal to make Coco Bistro a unique dining experience has made Kristi Vestal, owner of After 5 Island Concierge, a restaurant regular since Stuart took over eight years ago. In that time, she’s sampled everything on the menu, her favorite being the ahi tuna sashimi appetizer.
“It’s pretty much the combination of everything you want to get out of a restaurant,” Kristi says. “It’s one of those spots you go to and know it’s going to be a good experience.”
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