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November 28 - December 3, 2000
It was just last February, Lenny blew us from our long anticipated visit to Anguilla and Cap Juluca so it was with great anticipation that we had the opportunity to change some plans from a routine stay on St. Thomas to a 5-nite stay at CuisinArt. Altho the most complicated part of the trip was changing those airline tickets, AA was more than cooperative and the task was accomplished including AA booking us from Anguilla to our original destination, St. Thomas via Liat at the conclusion of our stay!
We arrived safe and sound flying from EWR thru SJU and onto Anguilla. I did notice that there were a few unhappy passengers who seem to have been seperated from their luggage on arrival in AXA but ours made it safe and sound. We were warmly greeted at the airport and wisked to the awaiting taxi. It was a treat seeing all those places that I had been hearing about on the €˜puter and it was very comfy being able to ask questions and have some knowledge despite this being our first trip to Anguilla. The driver continually apologized for the "dusty" arrival as we were diverted from the main road due to road construction.
Arriving at the hotel with the driver amazed we wanted the windows down and the a/c off the warm, friendly greeting, the customary welcome drink during check in and a short tour of the resort before going to our junior suite were all as warm and friendly as expected. I usually forgo all the "pleasantries" of arrival choosing to head directly to the beach, but I just drank in the wonderful surrounds! CuisinArt is lovely ... no question about it! Rising from the land just like the villas on the Greek isles, it is a wonderful site. As you drive down the approach road, it sits there before you with the backdrop of St. Martin and as you pull into the resort not only the very unusual sight of a greenhouse in the Caribb but a wonderfully manicured property with hundreds and hundreds of flowers in beautiful gardens welcoming you! Each villa, designed and named after a Greek village, contains 6 junior suites, 1 luxury junior suite and 1 one-bedroom suite with a private sunning area. Three stories high, beach front with balconies all taking in a wonderful sea view, stunningly white with the sea in the background as contrast, and a warm reception was exactly what I expected and received.
Escorted to the room, after a quick "tour" of the facility, (after all, I wanted to get to the beach), it was with a sinking heart that I read that the property was managed by RockResorts. After our disasterous experience with the "new" RockResorts at Jumby Bay, I was concerned! Fortunately, overall, I was pleasantly surprised that CuisinArt had a wee bit more of its act together than did Jumby when we were there. It should be noted that RockResorts no longer manages Jumby but Elegant Resorts out of Ja has it now and it gets all the old raves ... not sure that it up to Banfi's level yet .. but hearing that it is wonderful!!
Definately the strong point at CuisinArt is the STAFF. Genuinely warm, friendly and certainly eager to please describes the wonderful crew working there! But then, that described most of the people - and all of the Islanders - that we met on Anguilla.
It was lovely! Escorted to our room, our first chore was to open those wonderful doors and let the breezes in and TURN OFF THE A/C!! (Something that we had to do each and everytime staff visited the room when we weren't there!!) Again I just stood on the balcony and marveled at the beach, the surrounds, the view of St. Martin ... I was really finally on Anguilla!
A wonderfully large room, very pretty and decorated with the blue and yellow theme that transends anything and everything at CuisinArt. But, why would one have a window in the side of the room and not have it open and then cover it with heavy drapery. I am resolved that I am not of the "new" school of architecture that enjoys beauty but not necessarily function! The bath was marble everywhere, the Roman tub abutted a glass-block wall and there were no windows nor ventilation there so if the a/c was off, it did get a bit stuffy!
I also felt that the rooms were very spartan with not a lounge chair and only a very uncomfortable futon to sit on. And, surprisingly there is no light appropriate for reading. That was resolved by the staff happily procuring a clip-on-lite and having it put on the tall floor lamp! I cannot believe that in the one year that CuisinArt has been open, no one else reads a book at nite. But then, they do put the channel surfer on the bed at turn down time! Not what I do! The bottles of water were replaced when needed (both still and sparkling provided) and the bar was "stocked" after completing a choice list! They really should update the pricelist in the rooms as it did lead to some confusion at checkout! The air conditioning - I don't go to the Caribb to be cold ... and guessing the islanders never quite figured that out! The resort certainly was not built to take advantage of the breezes - or at least the breezes when we were there. We were glad to not have gotten one of the center or middle rooms, as someone had recommended, as we at least had a glorious two-sided view from the balcony. The solid wall that was the remaining side was not something that I would want on both sides to block any air!!
Concerned about the lack of coffee pot, after all this is CuisinArt - the makers of every kitchen gizmo known to mankind!, we were reassured that staff is available from 6:30 am for coffee service and that the complimentary breakfast tag need only be hung on the door. Each morning, my dh would go down to the small kitchen and ask that a pot of coffee be brought up from the small tended kitchette in each villa at 6:30 - gotta have that early morn caffeine. Not sure why he did not request that it be done so he didn't have that early morn trek but it did give me a few minutes to savor the early sun as it rose above the horizon. But no sunrises right out of the water nor sunsets here due to land blocking the "view," but a beautiful Rendezvous Bay - abeit it was a bit windy some days on the beach but never so uncomfortable that one had to leave! I did not do the early morn prebreakfast swim that I pride myself in due to the "chilly" weather! But it was great luxurating and having breakfast brought promptly at 7:15am and served with such warmth and friendliness.
The Beach Staff were wonderful! Bottled water, sorbet in the afternoon and those cooling towels. I requested my heated since it was chilly and passed on the towels! I was disappointed with the roughness of the water at CuisinArt but later learned, when arriving on STT, that most of the Caribb was having the same wind and "choppy conditions" (and stronger than the "normal" Christmas winds there) so it was not necessarily a characteristic of the CuisinArt Beach at all times. The last few days the water was calm and the wind had settled a bit but it never blew hard enuf to not put up the umbrellas for those seeking shade. The water remained cool the entire
time not only at CuisinArt but island wide and with those great beaches, it was amazing not too see more people in the water and swimming anywhere on the island!
Our arrival nite we planned to dine at CuisinArt. After all, after a day of travel, it was easier and would give us a chance to get our bearings. Alas!
It was buffet night so I dragged out all the information and had to choose restaurants before we were barely settled in! We spoke with the desk and found that Oliver's was nearby and they arranged a taxi for us. Thankfully! If I were driving down that unimproved road to Oliver's, surely I would have turned €˜round figuring I was lost forever! Little did I realize this was only an introduction to driving on Anguilla.
Our first day was spent deciding whether to take the ferry to St. Barth's on Thursday (one "yea" and one "nay") but finding that we would leave at 8:30 and return at 4:30, we decided lunch at Carl Gustof would wait until another time. Beaching it was just the relaxation that we needed. Again beach staff accommodating with water, sorbet in the afternoon and I passed on the "cooling towels" as I wanted one that was warmed. Yes, the Christmas winds were there early! We lunched at the Hydroponic Caf?© and the view was awesome. A lovely small casual spot at the top of the Spa was perfect - altho the wind really kicked up there! We opted to order off the menu rather than the "buffet" and had lovely sandwiches and a waiter who even took back my flowered tea and replaced it with Lipton. Why can't hotels/resorts/restaurants have wonderful tea and they insist that everyone loves these herbal things that are reminiscent of Kool-Aid (and I hated that!). I would love to have a good tea steeped and served as it deserves to be! That's why I carry my own and my own tea ball but it should be available! CuisinArt staff was very accomodating when requesting to replace the "flower tea" but they only had Lipton as an option!!
Now, it gets a bit hazy here which day we did what but the majority of our time was spent luxuriating on that wonderful beach, renting a car to "tour" and explore and anticipating or discussing the dinner choices!
Dinner choices were difficult since I had read so much and had so many recommendations. After all, we only had 4 more places to choose and there were so many. Our second night was dinner at CuisinArt. Rather disappointing but again the lovely staff more than compensated for the lack of "oh wows!" The rather disappointing bouillabaisse was certainly lackluster and missed the bouquet of smells and tastes characteristic of that wonderful dish. In fact, I was wondering if it was the same recipe that they used at Jumby Bay - and I found it just as unappetizing there. My dh went for the vegetarian platter which for an inflated $45, brought you a lovely presentation of an assortment of treats that might have been better suited as an appetizer samplings. The "souffle," my absolute favorite dessert, was to be prepared in only 20 minutes so I did not expect the quality of a "real" souffle and indeed it was a nice warm chocolate pudding consistency and not the wonderful souffle that I thought that they would have mastered! But knowing that it could be done in 20-minutes since I asked, I really didn't expect much! And I wasn't too disappointed. I prefer dining beachfront or on the water but since the wind can be a factor at Rendezvous, CuisinArt has their restaurants in the more protected central courtyard of the hotel. It certainly made an interesting view as the darkness fell and the silhouettes behind those glass blocks that face the dining room could have make for an alternate entertainment!! I sure left the bathroom lights off after that!!
I did the "cooking class" at CuisinArt and passed on the "tastings" .. salt cod patties did not inspire ... especially since the chef poached the salt cod to "remove" the intense salt rather than soaking it for several days!! One bite was all it took to tell me that my dinner would not be spoiled by another! But the zabaglione was fabulous - but it always is no matter where one has it! The "strawberry spritzer" made with fruit from the hydroponic gardens was pretty but again I just looked! The spa services were wonderful but one needed to book appointments early as they became busy toward the end of our stay! Never was the beach busy even when it was evident that the hotel was becoming busier. The tour of the hydroponic gardens was interesting ... but having an uncle who experimented with that for years, it was really inspiring to see it on such a grand scale! And a taste of the freshly picked cherry tomato!! It tasted just like the ol' fashioned ones you used to get in Jersey in the summer before everyone started riping them in boxes!! It was great!
CuisinArt was lovely but needs some fine tuning, definitely! It missed the mark in several areas. The spartanly decorated rooms, the not-so-wonderful dining at Santorini and one thing that will not change is the number of families with small children and babies that seemed to flock there when we were there. Not a problem other than the screamer who was in the villa next to ours and thankfully we were leaving the day after they checked in. The pastries served for breakfast on the balcony needed some definite work also .. I really expected some absolutely mouthwatering melt-down pastries and that did not happen at CuisinArt!!
Did Anguilla measure up to my expectations? Definitely! Did the dining? Some did; some didn't. Dining is not inexpensive and I am very particular about food prep and presentation (to say the least) and several of the "trendy"spots were just that! I loved the French butters and some of the preps but I expected some wonderful decadent chocolate treats but didn't find them! I definitely can't wait to return to Anguilla and hopefully will find it just as lovely, just as lonely and just as pristine. But, I would definitely stay at Cap Juluca ... it is just breath taking. Malliouhana is a lovely property also as it sits on a bluff overlooking Mead's Bay but I prefer the beachfront accommodations. Those views from the Jacuzzi suites are incredible -- actually from all the suites!! And the dining at both was sooo enticing. After seeing Malliouhana's menu, I was so tempted to switch but we had heard so much about Blanchard's. And I truly wish we had! There are sooo many other restaurants to try - Koal Keel, Cove Castles, Ludeck's, Overlook, just too many to name. Just too many choices and not enough nights.
I am sure it won't be long until we are back on Anguilla and staying for more than just an "appetizer" as that is exactly what the short stay felt like. Now I am all ready for the entree and I can hardly wait!!
(Review originally submitted on April 21, 2001)