Martinique is unique in contrast to the majority of the other Caribbean islands in that it has a wide variety of dining options. The Ti Gourmet Martinique (2000) lists 456 cafés and/or restaurants on the island – not including the various bars some of which serve food as well as alcohol. The 1998 brochure produced and published by the ARDTM counts up to 500 food-service related establishments (this corresponds to over 3,000 jobs). Restaurants in Martinique range from the exclusive high-end gourmet restaurants to the crêpes, accras, boudin, fruit juices, and coconut milk one can purchase from food merchants on the beach or at snack stands/restaurants in town.
The abundance of both Créole and French restaurants reflects the predominance not only of French tourists in Martinique but also of the island’s status as a French DOM. There has been a growing interest in the traditional dishes of the island, and therefore, a more recent profusion of the number of Créole restaurants. Many of the restaurants tailor their menus to cater to both Créole and French tastes.
In the 2000 edition of Délices de la Martinique (Delights of Martinique), the guide put together by the island’s restaurant union, the editorial given by the then Prefect and director of tourism, Philippe Boisadam, describes the contribution that ‘Martinique’s cuisine makes to the culinary arts.’ Olivier Besnard, the commercial director of the long-haul airline division of Air Liberté, wrote the preface to this same edition. He states that this Créole restaurant and recipe guide is ‘a tourist souvenir that you are welcome to take home with you.’ Francis Delage, a culinary consultant who assembled most of the recipes for this guide underlines the fact that the island’s restaurateurs are the gastronomic ambassadors of Martinique and that they in particular represent the ‘quality of the welcome,’ ‘the products’ and ‘the savoir-faire of Créole cuisine, which is truly part of France’s culinary heritage.’
The changes in tourist composition (behavior, interest) may very well account for the evolution in the culinary offerings in many of today’s restaurants. Restaurants in Martinique offer not only French and other International cuisines, but also the possibility of consuming the foods that the Other eats. In this case, the Other refers to the Martiniquans. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes reality regarding Martiniquan culinary practices through an ‘authentic’ Créole cuisine. An investigation of the new tourist, or “post-tourist” phenomenon (Poon 1999) venturing off the ‘eaten trail’ in search of something that is more authentic.
Restaurants, Créole cookbooks, public fairs and festivities, and the expensive dining rooms of foreign-owned luxury hotels where food is served, all present themselves as crucial staging grounds where ideas about Martiniquan cuisine, and therefore, identity, authenticity and place are continuously tested.
December 2008/2009 a website was launched Club Gastronomie & Prestige Look under the tab Partenaires to find the top restaurants in Martinique.
As in mainland France, water is safe to drink from the tap, and restaurants will happily serve this at no extra charge (l’eau du robinet).
Fresh fruit juices are also very popular on the island along with jus de canne which is a delicious sugar cane drink which is often sold in vans in lay-bys off the main roads. This juice does not stay fresh for long, so ask for it to be made fresh while you wait and drink it as quickly as possible with some ice cubes and a squeeze of lime. Try their sugar cane juice, it is quite refreshing. Don’t hesitate stopping on the side of the road to buy a drink off the locals who will make it in front of you.
Martinique is famous for its world class rums and the island today still hosts a large number of distilleries inviting tourist to explore its history. Production methods emphasize use of fresh juice from sugar cane to produce “rhum agricole”, rather than molasses widely used elsewhere.
Although rum is far more popular, the local beer in Martinique is Bière Lorraine.
Karaoke-Café, quartier Basse Gondeau 97232 Le Lamentin, 0596 50 07 71, bar/restaurant/nightclub, currently the trendiest place (but not the most typical). Live music, Karaoke, 80s, dance, techno, worldmusic. Entrance €20 with a drink.