In 1987, after a chance delayed flight back from Grenada to the UK, British businessman Leo Garbutt found himself at The Calabash Hotel. There he felt what he described as “an aura of infectious happiness”, which, despite being a hospitality novice, led him to purchase the property with his Grenadian wife Lilian that very same year.
On my first morning, as I make my way across the soft sugary sand for a jet-lag-induced 6:30 am swim, I see exactly what Garbutt meant. Not only is Calabash’s setting on the southernmost point of Grenada undeniably picturesque, there’s something very easygoing about being here – a sort of unfussy but assured luxury that allows you to truly relax.
Now under the direction of the Garbutt’s three dynamic daughters, Adele (the eldest, who was born the same year the couple purchased the hotel), Beth and youngest Bobbie, the Relais & Châteaux hotel’s popularity shows no sign of wavering. There’s an air of ambition amongst the sisters. This year alone has seen a redesign of suites, an innovative new dining venue and the arrival of new eco-conscious spa treatments as the boutique resort continues to cooly climb ever nearer the top of the Caribbean’s ‘best hotel’ lists.
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Part of the allure of Calabash is its size. With just 30 elegant suites and four villas, staff know guests by name and there are thoughtful touches everywhere. A jar of homemade cookies and a bottle of Grenadian fruit punch (minus the rum for me) was waiting in my room when I checked in. The edible treats continue to come throughout my stay, with small but perfectly formed pre-dinner canapes delivered every evening.
My abode is in one of Calabash’s freshly transformed Pool Suites. A chic and modern space adorned in light hues, it features a separate lounge decked with a Nespresso machine and generously stocked minibar (they know the way to my heart). The roomy marble bathroom features a walk-in shower and Elemis amenities. The front terrace overlooks swaying palms and a large green, before grass gives way to sand and sea. However, it is the secluded back terrace with a plunge pool and beautiful standalone soaking tub where I spend most of my time.
The resort’s 2,000 sq ft Penthouse takes it up a notch again. An elegant fusion of neutral-toned marbles, local Carriacou stone and towering vaulted ceilings exude a sense of luxury and calm.
Calabash’s four villas sit outside the resort on the peninsula and range from two to five bedrooms. They provide the best of both worlds with exceptional privacy, high-spec kitchens and private infinity pools, whilst still offering direct beach access and use of all of the hotel’s five-star amenities.
Like most Relais & Châteaux hotels, the culinary offering is stellar. “As much as we can, we will use [produce] from around Grenada,” food and beverage director Beth tells me over dinner at Calabash’s Rhodes fine dining restaurant. The island is renowned for its fertile agricultural land, particularly its spice production, giving rise to its nickname ‘The Spice Isle’. Much of the fruits, vegetables and spices used in the hotel’s kitchens come from the Garbutt’s own 100-acre organic-certified farm, which has been in Lillian’s family for generations.
The first overseas outpost by the late British celebrity chefGary Rhodes, the award-winning restaurant is now overseen by Mexican executive chef Ramces Castillo, a strong advocate of farm-to-fork dining and keen forager.
A la carte dining at Rhodes is a real treat as meticulously presented dishes showcasing Grenadian flavors make their way to our table. Heeding Beth’s advice, I choose from the restaurant’s signature dishes. I opt to start with the beetroot tartare, a tropical-vegan take on the French classic in a spiced sea-moss coconut broth, marinated seaweed, pickled radish – topped with a mango ‘yolk’. It is divine.
For the second course, the beef tenderloin with cassava gnocchi and the duck with a cocoa nib and cashew crust are both tempting. However, I’m won over by the sound of the sustainable local hand-caught crab served with confit tomatoes and handmade linguine – given a ‘spice isle’ twist with a lemongrass foam. I am vindicated with my first bite. I just about manage a slice of light as a cloud basil cake for dessert accompanied by a pineapple glaze and ginger ice cream.
If fine dining doesn’t suit you every evening, head to the ‘grill’ section of the menu where you’ll find more laid-back classics and sides such as ribeye with truffle fries.
In addition to Rhodes, Calabash’s relaxed Beach Club eatery is open two nights a week for dinner. Positioned on the edge of the bay, this is where breakfast – ranging from flakey pastries and eggs benedict to Grenadian saltfish souse – is served alongside fresh juice every morning.
Izakaya is the hotel’s newest dining destination, a sleek Japanese-Latin fusion spot overlooking the resort’s infinity pool. Designed for sharing, two to three dishes per person are recommended. Favorites were the crispy rice cakes topped with spicy tuna and the fiery shrimp tempura rolls.
The spa is petite and sits alongside the pool. I’m booked in for one of Calabash’s new ‘zero mile’ spa treatments that utilizes herbs, flowers, oils and elixirs produced by artisans from around Grenada. A tension-relieving lemongrass deep tissue massage is just what I need to feel revitalized after my transatlantic flight.
Also available are Elemis facials, local cocoa-infused treatments, as well as the spa’s pampering signature Caribbean Glow body treatment.
Lesser trodden than its larger neighbors, Grenada’s volcanic landscape remains fairly untouched with lush peaks, rainforests and waterfalls to its interior, giving way to dozens of pristine white sand beaches on the coast. The most famous is nearby Grand Anse beach. The two-mile stretch is a must-visit whilst on the island.
The hotel’s ‘Cocoa & Spice Connoisseur’ package, invites guests on a tree-to-table voyage to learn how cocoa and spices are grown and harvested, and about their socio-political significance to the island’s history. It starts with a tour of a family-run organic cocoa estate and a visit to a hand-built chocolate factory and nutmeg processing station. It culminates in a private tasting dinner on the beach, with an expertly crafted menu of creative cocoa and spice pairings.
For our stay at Calabash, Elite Traveler flew Virgin Atlantic. Return Upper Class flights from London Heathrow to Grenada St.George’s from $2,700 approx.
Rooms from $801 per night, calabashhotel.com
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