For a tiny, rather historically overlooked island in the middle of the Atlantic, Bermuda has a surprisingly varied and delicious food scene. British, African, Portuguese, Caribbean, Filipino, and Native American cultures all contribute to the island’s culinary canon. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the specialties include catches from the sea, especially the local fish that group around the shores: rockfish (aka grouper), flaky white wahoo, and the spiny lobster shellfish people wait all year for. There’s no end to these seafood specialties. But Bermuda also has some great spices and flavorings that you might not have tried before, with an intriguing obsession for salty-sweet combinations.
Here are nine things you can’t leave the island without trying, plus where to find them.
1. Bermuda Rockfish
Rockfish — more commonly known as black grouper — is a shorefish that are prolific in the Atlantic waters around Bermuda. You’ll see it on the menu at almost any seafood restaurant; which is basically any restaurant in Bermuda. The best, or at least the most local, way to try it is pan-fried, either in a lemon butter sauce or served with toasted almonds. Or try a sauce made with grilled Bermuda bananas and a local rum, known as Gosling’s Black Seal Sauce (see below). The latter is how it’s prepared at Breeze’s Restaurant and it was a delightful first foray into Bermuda’s salty-sweet fixation.
2. Wahoo Fish Sandwich
Cafe Olé; Art Mel’s
Another popular way to eat fish is in a sandwich. In fact, the fish sandwich is something of an obsession on the island. But the particular Bermudian way of eating it is in between slices of toasted raisin bread. The bread choice sounded intriguing indeed and I polled locals about the best place to try it. It came down to two places: Cafe Olé near the Crystal Caves or Art Mel’s in a residential part of Hamilton. Both of these casual eateries place thick pieces of fried wahoo, mayo, and slaw between toasted raisin bread. Believe me, you’ll be flying back for this Bermy dish.
3. Dark N’ Stormy Cocktail
Harry’s At The Waterfront
Gosling rum is the single thing that Bermuda exports to the world. Goslings, a family business that goes back to the 1800s, makes several types of rum. But Black Seal is the company’s signature rum and it’s the tempest behind Bermuda’s favorite cocktail — the Dark n’ Stormy. The drink is similar to a Moscow mule, except with dark rum instead of vodka and garnished with a lime. You can try the drink at almost any bar, but Harry’s on the Waterfront is an especially pleasant place for a tipple and a local favorite.
Insider Tip: Stopping at Gosling’s flagship store for a bottle of rum is definitely on every shopper’s to-do list. Though, if you’re doing carry-on, you might want to wait and pick up a bottle duty-free. Also in town, you can even visit Gosling’s rum-making facility (upon appointment) to hear their fascinating history as well as the logistics of being the sole exporter in Bermuda.
4. Spiny Lobster
Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio
The local lobster known as “spiny lobster” is in season between September and March. Locals wait all year for it and practically cheer on the local fishermen who dive for the catch around the island’s shores.
Also known as rock lobster or Bermuda lobster, these crustaceans don’t have claws so most of the tender meat is found in the tail. It’ll be on many restaurant menus in season. Wahoo’s in Hamilton is the place I’d recommend. During lobster season, their menu features an array of dishes with the spiny specialty: They use it in chowders, salads, pasta dishes, and more. But best of all is their “special” — a half-spiny lobster filled with crabmeat stuffing.
5. Codfish Breakfast
If your trip overlaps with the weekend, you should do a Sunday codfish breakfast. Typically, the meal consists of thick-cut salted cod and boiled potatoes with either a butter sauce or a stewed tomato sauce. On the side is a hard-boiled egg, ripe banana, sliced avocado, and a side order of Johnny cakes. Many locals like to mash it all together, achieving the salty-sweet combo they can’t seem to get enough of. It’ll definitely fill you up and you’ll probably not want to do anything other than what locals do after a codfish breakfast — retire to the nearest beach lounger for the afternoon. While Bouchée is a French bistro, it has a fantastic version of this favorite Bermuda brunch ritual.
6. Bermuda Fish Chowder
Lobster Pot & Boat House Bar
Its history dates back to the 17th century and Colonial England’s presence on the island. Today, fish chowder is the national dish of Bermuda. You’ll find it on almost every menu, whether it’s a casual eatery or upscale restaurant.
The chowder differs from its New England counterpart in that it is made with tomato and fish base rather than cream. But it’s just as hearty! Chunks of tender white fish, tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables are slow-cooked with a splash of dark rum (usually Gosling’s Black Seal Rum). A few drops of a local Bermudian hot sauce (known as “sherry peppers sauce”) are then added to create its signature taste. This is the kind of dish that every family has a secret recipe for and there is an annual Bermuda fish chowder competition. Among the best restaurant options, though, is the Lobster Pot & Boat House Bar.
7. Loquat Jam (Or Liqueur)
The Pickled Onion
I often heard that nothing is grown on the island. (Not even onions? I wondered. It used to be an industry, I was told, but not so much anymore.) Absolutely everything is imported, I heard time and again. And yet many also raved about the loquat — a small, wild yellow fruit that locals forage for from late January until March, and turn into jam or liqueur.
I’m a jam connoisseur, so I tried to find a shop where I could buy a jar to take home, but no luck. I learned you have to know someone on the island who’s made it and get it from them. I didn’t have time to make that kind of friend. But I did see loquat jam on the menu at The Pickled Onion restaurant, served with what else but a fish sandwich.
The little fruit is also turned into a liqueur known as Bermuda Gold used in fruit sour cocktails. (Some locals make their own with the berries, sugar, and Gosling’s Light Rum.)
Insider Tip: It’s not actually true that nothing is grown on the island. Besides loquat, Chef Dawn Burrel offers a great wild edible tour @bdawildherbs. Participants forage edible and medicinal plants and then enjoy a plant-based meal using freshly picked ingredients.
8. Rum Swizzle
The Swizzle Inn Pub And Restaurant
Rum Swizzle is a punch with a punch that was invented in 1932 at the Swizzle Inn, one of the most iconic places in Bermuda. (The Swizzle Inn motto is “Swizzle Inn and Swagger Out.”) Today, it’s almost a mecca for visitors and returning Bermudians home to meet up with friends old and new over a drink. The walls are covered with vintage decals and many returning guests look for their old stickers in the way one might look for the initials once carved into a tree trunk. You can either while away the afternoon over lunch and a drink on the sunny patio or spend an evening in the atmospheric interior.
9. Bermuda Ice Cream
Bailey’s Bay Ice Cream Parlour
A perfect afternoon starts with lunch at Swizzle Inn and finishes at Bailey’s Bay Ice Cream Parlour — a pistachio and raspberry-colored ice cream shop across the street from the inn. Bailey’s has an array of great traditional flavors for their homemade ice creams and sorbet. But you really should try an island-specific flavor, such as Dark n’ Stormy or Bermuda Banana. Or get a double-scoop with both!