Saint Lucia is a microscopic island in the Caribbean, with a population that just creeps over 180,000. Similarly small is Melbourne's Saint Lucia, a new restaurant and bar taking on Caribbean cuisine on Chapel Street.
The culinary lovechild of husband and wife duo Charlie Ranken and Stephanie Harris, Saint Lucia is out to make a name for itself with its tropical cocktail of tasty and heart-warming food. Save for a few small bars, Caribbean food is unrepresented in Melbourne, but the Windsor restaurant's menu — which is also influenced by the flavours of Cuba and Louisiana — does good on making up for the city's shortcomings.
A few extremely exotic-sounding menu items — think plantain, jambalaya, piquillo — may leave diners a little apprehensive, but, really, the mystery is all part of the experience. The plantain, which looks like a giant banana but actually tastes like a potato, is thinly sliced before being fried and served with paprika salt and chipotle mayo ($7). Think of them like gourmet potato chips with double the crunch. Follow them up with a serving of cigars — in this case, the light batons of filo pastry are filled with chorizo and goats' cheese ($9 for two).
Jambalaya is the Caribbean equivalent to a Spanish paella. The restaurant alters exactly what goes in it weekly, but trust it will remain a comforting concoction of rice, meats and seafood ($18). If you seek even more seafood, the jerk pan-fried salmon garnished with pineapple ($18) is a top choice. To accompany your food is a lengthy list of rums, tequilas and cocktails. A sneaky Argentinian red wine is also available, alongside a mix of Australian and European bottles.
The long skinny restaurant is made up of eclectic homewares and knick-knacks the couple has gathered during their extensive travels. Vases, books, mirrors — you name it. We'll call it organised chaos. The space is also highlighted with a beautiful feature wall painted with a mesmerising drop-like pattern by Harris herself.
All this makes Saint Lucia the perfect location for a relaxed mid-week lunch or dinner. Plus, it morphs into a vibrant bar as the night progresses.