Caribbean Luxury: CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa in Anguilla
by Melanie Reffes, Special for USA Today
CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa sits on 275 beachfront acres on Anguilla’s Rendezvous Bay, the longest beach on the small eel-shaped island across the sea from St. Martin. A cluster of buildings inspired by the bright whites and deep blues of the Greek island of Santorini, the cubist centerpiece with 91 suites and penthouses and seven beachfront and garden-view villas is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. And yes, it is owned by Brooklyn-born Lee Rizzuto, who named the resort after the kitchen appliance company that he also owns.
Splashed with red bougainvillea, the retreat has a nice sense of place — many of the staff are locals and the vegetables and herbs served in the restaurants are grown in the hydroponic garden; the first of its kind at a Caribbean resort. Flip-flop and Fendi-friendly, the resort offers an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course (the only one on the island), Venus Spa, cycling, tennis and more. The herb garden in the center of the resort is stocked with mint, basil and chives, and you’ll often find kitchen staff scissoring snippets of flavor for the recipes of the day at the AAA Four Diamond Le Bistro at Santorini, plus Italia and Tokyo Bay restaurants.
Wild blue yonder
Big enough that it never feels crowded, the two-mile beach called Rendezvous Bay is one of 33 beaches on the island and one of the calmest, with a gentle surf that invites even the squeamish of swimmers.
On a crescent fronting the Caribbean Sea on the southwestern coast, the beach hosts sunrise joggers, afternoon nappers and sunset watchers. At the end of the strip that fronts the resort, you’ll find Dune Preserve, the ramshackle beach bar owned by homegrown reggae hero Bankie Banx. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons are the best times to go for shows on the small stage and impromptu jam sessions on the sand. For those looking for something more active, water activity coordinators arrange kayaking, snorkeling, Hobie Cat sails and gratis yoga classes on the beach.
Reaching from the lobby to the Beach Bar, the infinity pool is Moorish-style with a long canal that flows to the ocean’s edge, with plenty of loungers on either side.
The resort is easy to navigate with beachfront and sea-view suites — some with two bedrooms — in the main building and in ten stark white buildings each named for a Greek island like Mykonos, Rhodes and Symi. Two supersized multi-bedroom penthouses with kitchens and sundecks are where Mr. and Ms. Don’t Usemyname stay, or the resort’s owner when he visits the island.
Suites are airy with high ceilings, colorful Mediterranean-inspired art and sliding glass doors that open to patios and balconies. Marble bathrooms are bigger than some apartments in Manhattan and if you’re in a suite with one or two bedrooms, the bathrooms have an adjacent solarium for au natural tanning and an outdoor shower just for the fun of it. Sweet extras include big screen TVs with U.S. channels and super-fast Wi-Fi. Mini-bars stock Carib and Corona beer, wine and mini bottles of liquors, plus snacks prepared by the resort. A bowl of cherry tomatoes from the hydroponic garden are the resort’s alternative to mints on the pillow. For an early morning coffee, an espresso maker comes with a variety of Nespresso brew pods. In-room dining delivers snacks, salads and late-night appetite crushers from 11 to 11. And for traditionalists, metal keys, not the credit card-type with the magnetic stripe, open the doors.
For gaggles of pals, big families or couples who like a lot of space, beachfront villas and garden-view villas, one with five bedrooms for those who come with nannies or grandparents, fit the bill. Each has its own entry courtyard, living and dining areas, kitchen and master suite with a solarium. Next to the hydroponic garden, the villa called The Oasis has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a ginormous backyard with a pool and all the privacy you can soak up in an afternoon.
For a small island, Anguilla packs a big culinary punch with more than 100 multi-starred restaurants. CuisinArt’s restaurants are led by executive chef Jasper Schneider. A Londoner who grew up in New York, Schneider arrived in Anguilla in 2013 after stints at The Palms in Turks and Caicos and the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas.
Kick-start the morning with the continental breakfast (included in room rates) at Café Mediterraneo that goes far beyond a humdrum basket of pastries. You’ll get treats like prosciutto and olive-stuffed bread and neon green pistachio cake, while an a la carte menu for waffles and omelettes better suits those who don’t favor buffets. Butter flown in four times a week on the Air France flight to St. Maarten invites an extra schmear or two on the variety of breads and muffins. Open from 7 a.m., breakfast poolside starts with a Feel the Burn smoothie made with carrots, ginger, apples and oranges or a Green Zing juiced with arugula, green pepper, celery, green apple, parsley and ginger. Also open for lunch, too-good-too-miss pizzas are baked in a wood oven.
Dinner at the AAA Four Diamond Le Bistro at Santorini serves farm, sea and land signatures like crayfish with burnt lemon and lamb chops bathed in a black garlic jus. For the heartiest appetites, an eight-course Chef’s Table Food & Wine Experience — $195 (all prices U.S. dollars) per person — is served in the private dining room that comfortably seats 16.
Overlooking the golf course, go to Italia for a minty green frozen white rum mojito and a bowl of cheesy green pesto pasta. Chef Biagio does mains like Grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs and a toasty panini stuffed with prosciutto, smoked mozzarella and arugula. Stay for the tiramisu and linger awhile with a strong espresso.
Tokyo Bay is the island’s first sushi restaurant. In the same round building as the spa, sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki come with 360-degree views of the sea and the mountains of St. Martin. Try the rainbow-colored rolls and lobster and mushroom dumplings with a bottle of Gold Gekkeikan Sake.
A lobster dinner — that’s just one lobster and nothing else — at any one of Anguilla’s restaurants can run as high as $65. This makes the Saturday night all-you-can-eat Lobster Barbecue a relative deal at $95. Set up on the patio in front of Le Bistro at Santorini, the buffet is a bonanza of salads, slow-cooked brisket , jerk chicken , lamb tacos, pasta, grilled fish, barbecue ribs and those Anguillan spiny lobsters warm from the charcoal grill with butter, lemon, herbs and capers. Piquant sauces (habanero mango is a standout) complement just about everything. Not for the faint-of-appetite, the dessert bar is as pretty as it is tasty with tarts and tortes, cakes and puddings. Try the cake lollipops.
A cooking class with Chef Schneider includes lunch, a glass of wine and all the tips you can glean in an hour. Specialty classes include Pizza & Cookies for kids and their grown-up parents and Mind of a Pastry Chef for those with lofty dreams that include baking a fabulous chocolate cake from scratch. At Tokyo Bay, Japanese Cooking Class is a Sushi 101.
Start at the Lobby Bar for a shot of the house-made gingery rum, artsy cocktail or a French Chablis or oaky Chardonnay from California. Open until 1 a.m. for sips and snacks, the adjacent humidor stocks an international selection of cigars. Rum tastings at the bar are popular at $45 per person. With 3,600 bottles, the cellar is stocked with vintage wines from around the world. Wine classes Mondays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. are a great lead-in to dinner. At the water’s edge, The Beach Bar stays open until 6 p.m. for fruity frozen drinks and light bites.
Built to withstand winds up to 110 mph, the 18,000 square-foot glass-enclosed hydroponic greenhouse is the first of its kind at a Caribbean resort, and getting vegetables and herbs to grow without having to water them is a big plus in a dry climate like Anguilla’s. A cornucopia of vine crops like gleaming eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes thrive in the garden, raised beds grow buttery lettuce and piquant peppers and plant towers are home to bok choy and herbs. Tours offered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays is time well spent and educational for the kids.
The Greg Norman-designed par-72 golf 7,063-yard course greets players with views of the sea and St. Martin. Players, putters and photo-takers start at the tee box of the first hole with its fairway that descends to a two-tiered green precariously on the edge of a saltwater lagoon. Challenging with green-hilled vistas from all 18 holes, fan favorites are the second and tenth holes that rest along the Anguilla Channel.
The Venus Spa keeps the resort’s relaxing theme in a chalk-white dome-shaped building that looks more like a space ship than a spa. Treatment rooms include couple suites with outdoor showers and Men’s Club Room for guy-only facials and traditional barber-style hot towel shaves. H20 treatments are popular, like a scrub and a soak in the salt water Healing Waters Pool with built-in seats and hydrotherapy jets. Other treatments include the Cucumber and Aloe Wrap, which uses cukes from the hydroponic garden, and the fragrant all-over Anguillan Coconut Pineapple Scrub.
More resort information: cuisinartresort.com
Small planes and private jets land at the Clayton J. Lloyd Airport, although many fly into the bigger Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten and hop a fast boat or slower ferry from Simpson Bay in St. Maarten or from Marigot in St. Martin. The resort offers a meet-and-greet service at the airport in St. Maarten, escorting guests to the ferry dock across the street. After a scenic 20-minute sail to Anguilla’s Blowing Point Ferry Terminal, guests are met by a resort greeter for the short car ride to the resort. Guests preferring to make their own way to Anguilla can book a GB Express ferry or take the cheaper public ferry from the French side of the dual-nation island. For a splurge, private boats from St. Maarten to Anguilla go for $400 one-way for up to four people traveling together.
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