Auberge de Vielle Tour
Date of Review: May 1998
Fodors and virtually every reference guide mentioned the Auberge de Vielle Tour as one of the best restaurants on Guadeloupe as well as one of the top hotels. Built around the base of 18th century windmill, the main colonial style building runs parallel to the sea atop a ridge.
The side facing the sea is one long extremely wide patio which must offer tremendous views during the day. The beautiful dark wooden bar is inside next to the patio. The patio has large comfortable wicker furniture, perfect for enjoying a before or after dinner drink. I would recommed an early dinner at Vielle Tour if for no other reason than the possibility of watching the sun set from this patio. If you are coming from St. Francois, leave early; the ride to Gosier is not as short as you may think.
The hotel is run by Sofitel, a high-end European hotel chain. The hotel has high ceilings, dark wood throughout, and an understated elegence. There appear to be rooms in the main building (3 stories) as well as a row of larger rooms, possibly small suites, along the ridge slightly below the main building. Those rooms must have tremendous views as well.
The restaurant winds along the wall of the old windwill, then projects out slightly into a glass-walled garden atrium. It is air conditioned, a rarity for Guadeloupe. Service was efficient, but cold. A jazz band plays Wednesday through Saturday, a pianist played on the Sunday we were there.
The menu is varied, including classical French, creative caribbean, and creole. Main courses include lamb in honey and lime and the only pork dishes we saw on the island. Although our culinary French was sufficient to puzzle out the general thrust of a dish, we were often in the dark as to the details of the preparation, but always pleased with the results.
For an appetizer, we asked the waitress to put together a mixed platter of meats and cheeses. The prosciutto and salami were excellent as were the cheeses. As near as I could see, most of the items on the very large platter were not ingredients to any of the dishes on the menu. Like Cote Cour, I gathered that one could order anything he could imagine, and the kitchen would find a way to make it.
The wine list was among the most varied on the island, pleasantly listing the producers and vintages for each wine.However, the selections would probably be considered low-end for a restaurant of equivalent caliber and price in the U.S., with champagnes the only exception. We had an mid-range champagne (excellent) and two bottles of a very good Beaujolais.
After dinner, we adjourned to the patio for a cigar and a drink. The bar stayed open late, and had a few cognacs and armagnacs. I ordered the oldest rum from the fifteen or so the bar stocked. It was a fifteen year old, I believe, and was in a small oval dark brown bottle. I expected an intense dark sweet rum, such as Appleton's 12 year old. Instead, I was treated to a light refined and distinctly different rum. Evidently, the French distilleries on Guadeloupe do not make dark rum, and their aged rum is aged like cognac. My wife enjoyed it so much that she swiped my rum and gave me her armagnac. She still maintains that it was too good to be rum, even though I watched the bartender pour it from the bottle.
The food at Vielle Tour was very good, about equal in quality to Cote Cour and slightly behind Chateau de Feuilles. However, the atmosphere and surroundings at Vielle Tour are much nicer than either of those two restaurants. The atmosphere comes at a price; Vielle Tour was the most expensive restaurant we encountered. Given the atmosphere, food and the bar/patio, I give it a recommendation despite the pricing and somewhat impersonal service.