La Varangue

(St. Francois)

Date of Review: May 1998

La Varangue is the restaurant in La Cocoteraie. To the best of my knowledge, you do not need to be a guest of La Cocoteraie to dine there. Fodors and others consider La Cocoteraie the finest hotel on the island, although Le Hamak and Auberge de Vielle Tour have their backers. Affiliated with the Meridien, La Cocoteraie is a small all-suite property in St. Francois near the marina. Most of the staff speak some English, many speak excellent English.

There will be a point on your visit to Guadeloupe when you have had one colombo too many, and wish to be pampered at a fine restaurant that retains a Caribbean flavor while serving high quality meats and other dishes. At that point, run (don't walk) to La Varangue.

La Varangue is surrounded on two sides by La Cocoteraie's stupendous pool and bounded on a third by a beach. It would be impossible to dine at La Varangue and not have a water view. A bridge over the Cocoteraie's pool also connects to La Varangue. During the evenings, a jazz guitarist plays on the bridge, illuminated by the pool in the backround.

The cuisine at La Varangue is slightly more international-caribbean than the other restaurants on Guadeloupe which tend towards Creole or Classical French. Examples include large hunks of tender veal in a pineapple sauce, chicken crusted in coconut, lamb (not goat), filet mignon (imported - not domestic), and a variety of fresh seafood dishes. The accras were the best at any place we dined and were complimentary at the poolside bar.

The wine list at La Varangue was the best which we saw on the island. It would be considered a good French list anywhere in the U.S. In addition to the typical familiar high-end French names (e.g. Lafite, Mouton), a good selection of excellent mid-range red wines such as Pichon-Lalande and Calon Segur were available at prices more reasonable than which I have seen in the U.S. Champagnes included the usual suspects, plus several other excellent selections, such asVeuve Grande Dame and my favorite, Laurent-Perrier Rose. We had two bottles of the Calon Segur, and it was excellent.

The manager of La Varangue was the former owner manager of La Plantation in Gosier. We talked at length with him as to what the restaurants and economy in Guadeloupe were like prior to the world crash in sugar prices. He almost apologized for having the best wine list on the island, telling of years when his lists at La Plantation featured Petrus and d'Yquem. While I regret the closing of La Plantation, the event is surely La Cocoteraie's gain.

Like the better restaurants on Guadeloupe, the menu is a suggestion, not a requirement. After days of goat and rooster, I craved veal in demi glace with roasted potatoes Although the dish I yearned for was not on the menu, it was found in the kitchen, and it was fantastic. All six of us raved about our respective meals.

La Varangue is pricey, but no much more so than the other top restaurants in Guadeloupe. Its cuisine is not classical French like Chateau de Fuielles and Cote Cour, but is excellent in a Caribbean style. By all means, find the time to have dinner here one night. You will find that the St. Francois casino and several night spots are a short walk away at the marina. I strongly recommend La Varangue.