The oceanic rainforest climate envelops Boucan by Hotel Chocolat on the Rabot Estate, and yields the coveted trinitario bean that both the hotel and its restaurant employ.
Boucan is a 14 room hotel ensconced on 140 acres of the working Rabot Estate in Soufriere. Petit Piton acts as the pivot point around which the hotel is positioned. A central courtyard splays under the umbrella of an ancient Ponciana where 6 stand-alone lodges sit. Inset into the hillside, affording even fuller views of Saint Lucia’s geological landmarks and the sea from which they rise, are 8 luxe cottages.
The design at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat offers a casual homage to the architecture that characterised the islands’ cacao estates. ‘We were going for plantation chic’, explains Estates Director Phil Buckley. ‘We are an urban brand in a natural environment so everything is elemental.’ The buildings give a sense of the indoors and outdoors being blurred. From the hillside villas, the Bois Canot trees, adorned with the Banana Quit and Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, dip and sway beyond the verandah. Rooms are minimalist, reflecting Hotel Chocolat’s urban retail identity by the use of chocolates, beiges, whites and creams under heavy black beams. Everywhere there is attention to detail, from the pre-loaded playlists on the bedside iPod to the ergonomic value of the tea pots, the font on labels to the plating of the pork tenderloin on slate. Phil Buckley explains, ‘It’s not a hotel, it’s a lifestyle and an experience.’
This approach has been hugely successful for the UK-based company. Hotel Chocolat has over 60 stores and a growing global bean-producing presence. Saint Lucia’s Boucan Hotel and Restaurant in a very short span has garnered accolades from some of the industry’s most discerning adjudicators. Travel + Leisure included the resort in its 2012 ‘IT List’ and Conde Nast Traveller on its 2012 ‘Hot List’.
It is difficult to get fresher than the Boucan menu, which uses produce harvested on the estate, seafood and poultry brought in by nearby farmers and fisherman. The signature ingredient, cacao, grows but a foot from the restaurant. For those apprehensive about a chocolate menu, Head Chef Ron La Feuille explains, ‘People think it’s chocolate in every dish but it isn’t, it’s cacao.’ Chocolate is the refined product that has had sugar added so it is associated with dessert. However, cacao, the lightly processed bean, has been used as a savoury condiment for centuries. There are cacao nibs in the butter, a white chocolate in the herb greens and citrus salad, a cacao herb crust on the pork fillet. It is a palate-stimulating array.
A visit the Cocoajuvenate Spa, like Boucan Restaurant, puts the cacao bean to work. From your facial to your massage, the anti-oxidant, stimulating properties of cacao are used. Self-guided walks around the estate may also offer an opportunity to survey immense views, birdlife, and cocoa production.
A trip to Boucan by Hotel Chocolat is a full-immersion chocolate experience.
International: Jet Blue flies several times weekly from New York. Virgin Atlantic thrice weekly and British Airways daily from London.
Regional flights: Caribbean Airlines and LIAT fly to G. F. L. Charles daily
Boucan Hotel is located in Soufriere, a half hour drive from Hewanorra International Airport and an hour from George F.L Charles in Castries. Renting a car is a great way to get around once you are at Boucan.
Breakfast is included with accommodation. There are also several resort restaurants in the vicinity, and eateries in nearby Soufriere.
What to do:
• Sign up for the Tree to Bar Experience. Graft your own cacao plant with Nursery Supervisor Cuthbert Monroque and see firsthand the journey the bean takes to the chocolate bar. Make your own chocolate with Chef Ron. A New York Times ‘must do’.
• Have a cacao massage and exfoliation at Cocojuvenate Spa
• Take the shuttle to the beach and swim between the Pitons
• Take one of the many self-guided walks around the estate
What to expect:
Nights, particularly from November to February, can be cool. Bring something to throw on.