People Who Lunch

Kamalame Cay, on Andros Island in The Bahamas, is redefining lunch in the islands. Once a month the dreamy resort hosts an epicurean fantasy that is becoming one of the most sought-after seats in The Bahamas. About 30 guests make the pilgrimage from Nassau drawn together by a lunchtime experience that combines local fresh produce and seafood with perfectly paired cocktails, wines, champagnes and aperitifs by Young’s Fine Wines.

Kalamae Cay, a quiet, relaxed resort just off the coast of Andros, is less than 60 kilometres from Nassau, a quick hour-long boat ride on a calm day. Arrival is understated and quiet. No fanfare. No welcome cocktails. In fact, no one. It is the perfect way to arrive. Guests slowly disembark and find themselves in a grove of impossibly high coconut palms, on a sandy path surrounded by pristine silence. The walk to the main house takes a few minutes but it is like easing slowing into a relaxing bubble bath—by the time you enter the main reception area you are already moving on island time.

Our host, David Hew, greets us like family. All of us. He and his partner Michael King have perfected the art of making guests feel welcomed. The understated, but magnificently chic, reception area invites you to take off your shoes and relax. Guests at Kamalame set the pace and the staff intuitively knows exactly how to let that happen naturally. You are made to feel like you could sip cocktails all day, or nap in a hammock or dance in the sand…or all three. After a few minutes to wash the salt off our faces we join the rest of the guests on the front lawn. Some are on vacation at Kamalame, which hosts a maximum of 60 overnight guests at a time on the 96-acre resort, and others have flown by either seaplane or helicopter from Nassau. All are enjoying pomelo mules served by William and Laura Young of Young’s Fine Wines in Nassau.

Young’s and Kamalame Cay are about as perfect a pairing as you can imagine and they have been hosting this lunch together for more than a year. Guests mingle about the lawn. About half of them have been here for lunch before and a few of us are newbies. We learn the rules from the veterans: drink lots of water; try everything; if there is something you want, just ask. Hors d’oeuvres arrive: crispy fried conch gyoza with a citrus ponzu sauce and tender crab croquettes with a dill and cucumber raitia served with a spicy chilli sauce. More cocktails are poured, shoulders are relaxing, and toes are wiggling deeper into the sand.

I wander around the pool area and down to the beach discovering day beds strewn with pillows, and other beautiful areas designed for pure relaxation. Kamalame Cay has perfected “island therapy,’’ rejuvenating tired tourists and Nassauvians alike with a proven combination of warm island sunshine, exquisite cocktails, and culinary perfection.

The cool November sea breeze brings the sounds of cheerful laughter from the bar area. I get back just in time to be gently ushered to lunch by David and Michael. The single long rectangular table is set for 40, with simple white linens, a continuous gold seashell centerpiece and white paper parasols suspended overhead. It is signature Kamalame, impressive but not pretentious. And so inviting. Guests, already moving in a dreamy sun-soaked way, find their seats and meet their table mates, making relaxed small talk. The first course, a pomelo salad with crispy chicken skin, arrives in a half jelly coconut shell. It is a delightful, unexpected sweet, sour, salty combination of greens, juicy red grapefruit, peanuts, chillies and lime juice. The tender jelly coconut in the “bowl” has absorbed the delicate flavors and is well worth the extra time it takes to scoop it out of the shell.

Tender steamed mantou buns arrive next, served family style. And, to our delight, there are two versions—slow-roasted pork belly with hoisin, cucumber and green onions and pan-fried lionfish with Asian slaw and sriracha. Laura pours a chilled citrusy 2011 Pere et Fils Rully Chardonnay and talks about the relationship Young’s Fine Wines has built with the vineyard. Relationships are a recurring theme for this lunch. The person pouring the wine has been to the vineyard and those serving the food received the fresh catch or local produce hours ago, from someone they know at the Kamalame dock.

The second course arrives along with a light rain shower. Luckily, we are all provided parasols to keep the rain off of our tender Thai-style steamed grouper in a coconut red curry and kaffir lime sauce. The sweet fish pairs magnificently with the 12 Joseph Phelps Sauvignon. David comes round to see how we are all doing. It feels as if we have known him forever. Seated next to me is a regular at the luncheon. He met his wife at Kamalame 14 years ago. “Right over there!” as he points with a huge smile on his face, “At the millennium New Year’s party!” What a place to fall in love. His eyes light up when the char-grilled crawfish and Kamalame coconut grits and a chilli peanut sauce arrives. The Youngs have chosen a Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune du Chateau as a pairing wine. I remind myself to drink more water. Lunch is turning into a languid afternoon of fleeting clouds and easy conversation.

By the time dessert arrives, guava cobbler a la mode and Plantation pineapple rum; the rain has stopped and the music is getting louder. Guests join in an impromptu dance session on the patio, glasses of Lahore Freres Champagne “Les Empreintes” NV in hand. The sun is beginning to set, and we have a bumpy boat ride ahead, so, reluctantly we board our boat. Kisses are blown across the water. Although we have only been at Kamalame for six hours it feels like days.

If lunch at Kamalame Cay is not already on your bucket list add it— immediately. Lunches at Kamalame Cay happen about once a month, and cost $150. The cay is accessible only by private boat, the Kamalame Ferry, helicopter or seaplane. You can take a commercial flight to the closest airport, Andros Island Airport (ASD) from either Nassau, Miami of Ft Lauderdale. From the airport is it a 20-minute drive and a five- minute private ferry ride to Kamalame Cay. Stay overnight in one of Kamalame’s rooms, suites or villas. Better yet, stay for a few days. It is perfection.