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Oistins Fish Market and Food Stalls Slideshow

Oistins Fish Market and Food Stalls Slideshow


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Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Barbados and the Oistins fish fry with Joel Garner

Opening a guide to summer in the Caribbean, Simon Briggs joins the cricketer Joel Garner at a Barbados institution – the Friday fish fry in Oistins.

There are certain elements common to any West Indian beach party: the gritty tickle of sand creeping into your espadrilles, the sharp tang of swordfish cooking on the barbecue, the frantic buzz of the calypso beats.

So far, so clichéd. But then you look up and see a line of dignified elders, waltzing along the waterfront to the unlikely strains of Kenny Rogers. For any connoisseur of Caribbean nightlife, the setting would be instantly recognisable: it is Friday night at Oistins, Barbados.

The men are smartly turned out in jazz-era suits and spats the ladies – who are of a certain age – wear floral dresses and bonnets, as if they have wandered out of some patois adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

They are all part of the most eclectic night out on this or any other island – a night that invariably begins with a heaped plate of seafood, and takes in a supporting cast of T-shirted tourists, body-popping street-dancers and white-gloved Michael Jackson impersonators, moonwalking through the crowd. All human life is here, not to mention a variety of marine creatures, sizzling enticingly on the grill.

It is often said that Caribbean cuisine is a melting pot, mixing influences from Europe, Africa and America. This is certainly true of the food at Oistins and the social scene, too.

The village sits at the southern end of this teardrop-shaped island, a couple of miles along from the British backpackers' hang-out of Rockley and the popular bars of St Lawrence Gap. Until quite recently, it was best known as a giant fish market, a place where Bajans came to buy their shark or barracuda or "dolphin" (actually dorado), then caught the bus home.

At some point, somebody spotted a business opportunity. Why not open a roadside stall and serve up a few fried fillets on site, maybe with a beer or two to wash them down? The idea took off there are now 30 or so eateries and the beachfront attracts thousands of diners, drinkers and dancers every Friday night.

To find out how Oistins has reinvented itself over the years, I arrange a dinner date with Joel Garner, one of the greatest cricketers Barbados ever produced. Garner was born in the neighbouring village of Enterprise and was a regular at the Friday-night fish fry from the outset.

"You can find me here every week," he says, as we share a plate of marlin and Spanish rice. "There's a stall here called Granny's that used to be run by Evelyn Walcott – she was our dinner lady at school and she turned 90 last year. I still keep in touch with Miss Walcott, because even if you didn't have any lunch money she would still give you lunch."

When Garner comes to Oistins, he can still see the ghost of the village as it once was. "You had the police station, the market, the dry-goods store, the pawnshop and the Salvation Army," he explains, pointing along the road at each memory in turn. "Not forgetting Granny's, of course. It's very different now. They've knocked down all the original buildings and extended the beach. But I still love it because there is always something going on."

The bulldozers arrived ahead of one of the island's big set pieces, the cricket World Cup of 2007. It could have been a tragedy, but to the Bajans' credit, they know how to modernise with style. Just as the Kensington Oval – Garner's old stamping ground – was reinvented without losing any of its character or soul, so the beachfront next to the fish market has been transformed into a giant pleasure ground known as the Bay Garden.

There is nothing half-hearted about the new Oistins. The food is only the starting point for a moonlit beach party, shared by revellers of every age and extraction. Grannies don't just do the cooking here: they pull on their dancing shoes and go tripping along the sand outside Lexie's Bar.

Just beyond the next palm tree, you will find a gang of B-boys break dancing on the Bay Garden stage. And then there are the tourists: some browsing the souvenir stalls, others crossing the road to bellow out My Sharona at a karaoke bar.

The one constant is the creole cuisine: fried fish with chips or rice, plus hearty side-orders such as breadfruit, cou cou (a leafy mush made from cornmeal and okra) and macaroni pie. Most of the cooking takes place in the open air, in giant pans that have clearly seen plenty of service.

Within a few minutes of your order being taken, a hefty chunk of tuna or swordfish arrives, garnished with the fiery yellow pepper sauce that the locals use like ketchup. And all for 20 Bajan dollars (£6.50) – the sort of sum you would spend on a tiny bottle of water at the fancy "Platinum Coast" restaurants on the west side of the island.

I would recommend arriving at about 8pm, just in time to see the flying fish become frying fish. That gives you a chance to digest all those heavy carbohydrates, while dangling your toes in the surf from one of the trestle tables placed along the water's edge. If you want some intellectual stimulation, try challenging a local at dominoes, a game that the Bajans approach with the sort of glassy-eyed focus more often found in professional chess.

Garner is a fiend for dominoes. The game brings out his competitive instinct in the same way that a quivering tail-ender used to at the far end of the pitch. Despite his track record as a destroyer of English cricket teams, he is still held in high regard by the quarter of a million tourists who buzz in from Gatwick airport every year. As he cuts through the Oistins throng, towering over the revellers like a human lighthouse, he is regularly approached for a handshake or an autograph and responds with typically Bajan grace.

"I love England," says. "I had a home there when I was playing county cricket and I still go back to Somerset to see my friends from those days. But my real home is in Enterprise. And it's fantastic having Oistins on my doorstep. If you're looking for somewhere to go on Friday night, this is the place to be."

Getting there

British Airways (0844 4930787 www.ba.com) offers return fares from London Gatwick to Barbados from £569.90 including taxes, fees and charges. For further information on the island, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (www.visitbarbados.org) For a list of tour operators selling holidays to this and other Caribbean islands, contact the Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.caribbeantravel.com)

Hotels

Almond Casuarina Beach Resort

Popular with English cricketers from Graham Gooch to Robin Smith, the Almond Casuarina faces south onto the quiet, transparent waters of Maxwell Beach it's walking distance from the buzzing nightlife of St Lawrence Gap and a five-minute drive from Oistins. The 280-room hotel is arranged around two large swimming pools and has a thoroughly laid-back ambience.

Guests can use all the facilities of the two other Almond hotels on the west coast of Barbados: the Beach Village and the Beach Club & Spa. With free shuttle buses, it's a handy way to get an overview of the island.

Seven nights all-inclusive cost from £999 per person in September, including flights from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges (620 3600 www.almondresorts.com)

To the east of the airport is Crane Bay, with its rugged cliffs and pink sand. This is the south-eastern side of the island, so the waves and currents are strong.


Watch the video: Pats Place @ Oistins Fish Fry, Barbados 01-2020 (June 2022).


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