Sleeping and Dining on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Hotel Bellafonte

Bellafonte Hotel

The Bellafonte is an upscale boutique hotel with stunning ocean views and a pleasant lounging pier with steps down to the water. They are well set up for divers, offering 2 large sinks to wash up gear, a gear storage room and a relationship with VIP Diving offering on-site tanks if you sign up for VIP’s unlimited package.  Even though VIP was only a five minute drive away this proved to be a very nice convenience.

Hotel Bellafonte

The location, 2 minutes south of the airport, provides easy access to the southern dive sites on the island including the Salt Pier and the Hooker wreck dive. It’s about a 5 to 10 minute drive north into town where most of the restaurants are. Generally we would prefer to stay within walking distance to restaurants.

Bellafonte HotelBellafonte Hotel

We had a junior suite with a small living area and a very small balcony facing the sea, a well-equipped kitchenette and a quiet bedroom.

Bellafonte Hotel

The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom was small and ordinary with slow drains and basic amenities. There was a safe and hairdryer and the wifi worked well. I was disappointed in the lack of storage, i.e., no drawers for storing clothing, few hangers in the closet and no extra space in the bathroom.

During the first few days of our stay the mosquitos were a problem, especially at sunset and sunrise, meaning we could not have the doors to the balcony open to enjoy the sea air. There were no screens on the doors or windows. By the end of our week stay the number of mosquitos had greatly diminished, although I hesitate to say disappeared.

Staff is friendly and was very helpful in making dinner reservations and so forth.

It’s a nice set up for diving but in the future I would find a condo in town with better access to restaurants even though I would be giving up the lovely oceanfront.

Lunch

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

At 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon when all the other restaurants on the main sea front drag were dead quiet Julian’s small terrace was full. The friendly owner asked us to wait 5 minutes after which we were seated.

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

The simple menu is posted on a board and includes basic proteins in plain and sandwich form served with fries.

Julian’s Café and Restaurant

The menu special includes a soft drink and desert for a set price. We ordered the fish sandwich and the steak sandwich cooked medium rare. Both were well executed – the meat cooked perfectly, bread soft and served with a green garlic sauce. The fries were fresh hot and crispy. The owner, a Dominican Republic native proud of the Presidente brand beer he serves, is efficient and friendly as he works the room. Not surprisingly this is a top rated place on Tripadvisor.

Windsock

Windsock

Windsock, half beach club / half restaurant, sits on a rocky shore next to the Bellafonte Hotel. Their “beach” with lounge chairs is a welcome feature on this mostly beachless island.  A ladder down to the sea aids divers, snorkelers or those just wanting a swim. Sip coffee, have lunch or dinner, enjoy a beer at sunset, but don’t forget the mosquito repellent.

Windsock

For lunch we tried the two daily specials. The pasta barracuda was a simple preparation with tomato, garlic and shallot.

Windsock

The fish and chips made with barracuda was fresh hot and served with coleslaw and three sauces. The fish in both dishes was cooked well.

El Mundo

El Mundo

This open-air terrace in the middle of town with an eclectic menu and friendly service offers well prepared dishes. We ate here twice for lunch and tried the classic hamburger and the fish wraps with Mexican flavors.

Karels Beach Bar

Bonaire Sleeping and Dining (1 of 1)-2.jpg

I don’t know where the beach is but the open-air terrace dining room is right on the water. If you don’t like direct sun be careful in the afternoon as the terrace faces west.

Karels Beach Bar

We tried the tuna sandwich and the fish burger, both served on a soft bun with hamburger fixings – onion, pickle, tomato – and fries. Good deal at $10.

Dinner

Brass Boer

Brass Boer

From the owners of the Netherland’s 3 Michelin stared restaurant De Librije, this high quality restaurant has an elegant yet understated vibe. Located on the property of the upscale Defins Beach Resort the terrace dining area has generously spaced tables overlooking sunset views of the sea. The seating area with a small settee and a high coffee table feels like relaxing in your living room rather than sitting in a restaurant. And relaxed you must be as service runs at a glacial pace. It took 40 minutes to get a martini. They had to send for it from the bar across the resort – a 2 minute walk. It took 3 hours in total for 3 small plates and one shared plate.

The menu is divided into a longish list of small plates and a short list of large shared plates. The server suggested we order 4 to 5 small plates each if that’s all you were going to have and 3 small plates if you are combining it with a plate to share. This is more than enough food. Too much, in fact, for smaller appetites.

We ordered:

Brass Boer

“On the beach” – oyster, foie gras, oloroso sherry

Brass Boer

Mackerel, salted yogurt, black garlic, pickles

Brass Boer

Neck of lamb, ox heart cabbage, garlic, cucumber with curry yogurt

Brass Boer

Whole snapper simmered on the bone in baking paper then glazed with “unagi” pak-choi and coriander

The food is exquisite, beautifully presented and just may be worth the wait. Each small plate was brought out individually with about a 30 minute wait in between. Flavors and textures were carefully balanced and a delight on the palate. The most intriguing dish was the “on the beach”, a morsel of foie gras shaped and painted to look like an oyster shell set in a “sandy” beach with sea foam (oyster jus) around it.

The main event, the whole snapper in paper, was not as artfully presented but perfectly executed none-the-less, fresh and well cooked in a unagi sauce with a side of noodles in a coconut sauce.

On this particular evening it was fairly windy and judging by the permanent lean of the palm trees toward the ocean this is not an uncommon occurrence. With the wind, the mosquitos were not too much of a problem but we did see a few about. We had also applied Deet before heading to the restaurant.

This is definitely a restaurant worth experiencing and not priced that much more than some of the other up-scale restaurants in town. I would suggest asking for quicker pacing if 30 minutes between courses is too slow for you.

Patagonia

I was hesitant to try this seemingly misplaced restaurant in downtown Kralendijk, but after looking at the menu and being assured that there would be fish choices for Don we got a table – inside because of the recent mosquito issues we’ve been having.

Although there isn’t much of the décor that suggests Patagonia or even Argentina for that matter it’s still a quaint chalet-like interior with a high wooden peaked ceiling and wood floors to match.

The menu has a good selection of meat options as you would expect from an Argentinian restaurant as well as several fish options.

Restaurant Patagonia

We started with ceviche served on a bed of shredded lettuce with some other vegies. It’s more of the true marinated-in-citrus type than the raw ceviche dishes we’ve tried lately in Chile.

Restaurant Patagonia

Don’s seafood pasta was a generous portion with large shrimp. Although tasty it was a tad overcooked.

Restaurant Patagonia

My half rack of lamb served with a choice of potato and a choice of sauce was tender and perfectly cooked the medium rare I had ordered.

The dining room was quiet when we arrived at 7:00 on a Tuesday evening, but after 8:00 all the outdoor tables were taken or saved for diners with reservations. I imagine the mosquitos abate after dark.

At Sea

At 7:30 on a Wednesday evening this downtown, up-scale restaurant was half full and stayed that way for the rest of the evening. (We’ve learned to start dinner after dark when the mosquitoes have calmed down.) Their pleasant outdoor terrace is surrounded by a flowering vine and soft lighting graces the generously spaced dark wood table tops.

The menu has a choice of regular starters and mains, a surprise tasting menu offer with 3, 4, 5, or 6 courses, and a 3 course set menu. We opted for the 4 course tasting menu – 2 starters, a main and desert. The pacing started quite slow, something like at Brass Boer. They first serve a snack of cassava chips, olives, and biscuit with sauce followed by an amuse bouche – this evening a pumpkin soup with coconut flakes – and bread before the first starter which arrived an hour into the meal. Just when we thought this meal would take forever they asked us how long we wanted to wait between courses and the pacing was sped up to our liking.

4 Course Tasting Menu

At Sea Restaurant

Steak tartar with Asian flavors – “refried beans” pickled carrot, powdered veal jus, sesame cracker. The powdered veal jus was too salty for my tastes.

At Sea Restaurant

Smoked blue marlin, fennel 3 ways – cream, salad with seeds and a too salty relish – and orange gel.

At Sea Restaurant

Barracuda with onion 3 ways – cream, relish, and onion ring – peas and another fava type bean, shrimp, and a too sagey stuffing type morsel.

At Sea Restaurant

Desert – artfully presented flavorful dollops of blueberry, citrus, licorice, meringue and vanilla ice cream.

Over all the courses were beautifully presented but they tended to overreach with flavor combinations that were too complicated and did not marry well. Too ambitious for a less skilled chef. The best starter, the smoked marlin, was also the simplest.

Service was friendly and efficient.

This meal was nearly as expensive as Brass Boer. If you are going to splurge go there if you can handle the ultra-slow pacing.

It Rains Fishes

Their covered open air-terrace overlooking the harbor is brightly lit with well-spaced tables and an upscale yet casual atmosphere. The menu includes simple fish and meat dishes as well as more elaborate and inventive dishes.

The amuse bouche was a dorade sashimi with wasabi served in a shot glass.

It Rains Fishes

For a starter we tried the tuna sashimi served at room temperature with a horseradish mayo, ginger, seaweed salad and sesame cracker. Very fresh fish.

It Rains Fishes

The catch of the day was a choice of red snapper or barracuda with a choice of salad, vegies or French fries.

It Rains Fishes

The salad was nicely done and included pickled bits, nuts, vegies and mixed greens. Don ordered the bouillabaisse as a main – a bowl of rich broth (too salty for my tastes) with bits of shrimp and fish. Although we were warned by the server, it was really too small for a main unless you are not very hungry.

Friendly and efficient service.

Italy in the World

Italy in the World

This small friendly place is highly rated on TripAdvisor. The building houses a small Italian grocery and deli of imported products with a cozy 5 table dining room attached. The dining room is more of a tasting room with floor to ceiling shelves of wine bottles. Service is authentically Italian and welcoming.

The simple menu includes mostly starters and fresh homemade pastas, most priced just under $30, served in a deep bowl and generous enough for a main.

Italy in the World

We started with the carpaccio, a classic combo of parmesan cheese, arugula and an excellent quality beef and

Italy in the World

the smoked blue marlin with capers, diced tomato and lettuce – nicely seasoned and lighter on flavor than that served at At Sea on a previous evening.

Italy in the World

For pasta we tried the mushroom tagliatelle. Although great pasta the dish was short on mushroom flavor. The sauce was not really a tomato sauce per say but rather a mushroom sauce with a dash of tomato paste.

Italy in the World

The lobster and truffle tagliatelle special had lots of lobster and balanced flavors except for the truffles which were lost in the mix. Priced at $48.

The recommended wine – we were looking for a light red – a Rosso Bruno by Fruscalzo Venizie was excellent.

Italy in the World

Excellent classic tiramisu for dessert.

It was a lovely, fun evening. We were the first to arrive at 7:30 on a Friday evening with a reservation. Only 2 out of the other 4 tables were occupied when we left at 9:00.

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