JAZZ AT CATHERINETuesday 29th December 2009
Tonight I went to Catherine's Cafe in English Harbor, Antigua and Barbuda where I hoped to catch the Wednesday evening jazz. Catherine's is run by a couple from Brittany in France who took over the restaurant in 2006. The couple, Guillaume and Claudine, were brought to Antigua by an interesting story. Guillaume was working in a job in the food processing industry that entailed a lot of hectic business travel when they decided they wanted to change the way they lived. Being avid sailors they took the opportunity to set sail for one year. They wanted to buy a business but didn't want to jump into any decision or to lose sight of their goal of changing the way they lived. They decided to take one year for vacation and another year to decide what they were going to do.
They sailed the Atlantic for one year and while staying in the Caribbean during that trip they discovered Antigua by mistake. "When you are French you know nothing about Antigua. You know only Guadeloupe." Guillaume told me. But since they were home schooling the kids and since Antigua was a convenient stop they ended up on island for a couple weeks to get more learning materials, and perform other administrative tasks related to the kids education. During their time in Antigua they stayed at the Anchorage Hotel in English Harbor and ended up having two or three meals at Catherines. They loved it. Talking with the previous owner they understood that she was ready to sell the place and that was when they first considered the idea of living in Antigua. But it didn't happen just yet.
"We went back to France. We tried other things but we were dreaming about it. Finally, still thinking about it we gave her a call. Catherine was so warm". That warmth and the pleasure of their initial experiences eating there must have had an impact. Eventually they finalized the deal. "It was the right decision". Guillaume told me. "It was not easy to take the decision".
The move across the Atlantic to buy a substantial business in a country where a different language was spoken showed admirable vision and confidence. But that is only one of the most inspiring parts of the story of the current owners of Catherines. This husband and wife, who met when they were just eighteen, still manage to run the restaurant like a well oiled machine while maintaining poise and friendliness. Watching them operate so efficiently together in running the busy kitchen ... the poise and friendliness appears to come with an ease that one would assume only years of history and years of comfortable friendship can provide.
The jazz itself was really enjoyable. It was a kind of fusion between jazz and the Caribbean influences of the musicians ... the kind of fusion that you might only hear in Antigua (where a couple of the muscicians were from). It didn't hurt as well that while listening to the music I sipped a six year old Caribbean rum called Domain De Severin Rhum Vieux de la Guadeloupe.
Though I didn't eat at Catherine's (I had already eaten earlier) I did venture into the kitchen where the architecture of the building's colonial stone structure had been elegantly transformed into an absolutely gorgeous restaurant interior. I watched the chefs at work. The preparation and the presentation of the food were both impressive and accomplished.
Outside on the courtyard where the music was playing many of the patrons were enjoying a comfortable and elegant meal. On this island where one often doesn't know what one is going to get the biggest complement that I can pay to this restaurant is to convey that all the patrons looked so incredibly content. So was I. The atmosphere, the music, and the owners themselves were all simply outstanding. Catherine's was certainly one of the great unexpected experiences I've had in Antigua.
Written by Andy E. Williams. Check out Andy's photos in the Photo Gallery.
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