A Food-lovers Guide to Martinique Food and Drink

The Martinique food, drink and restaurant scene is undergoing a culinary revival. And now is the time to visit. When it comes to colours, this French Caribbean island is best known for its white beaches, aqua sea and Creole cottages in bold pastels. Now it’s going green, thanks to a fresh crop of grassroots-based culinary tourism initiatives.

A Martinique Food Movement

Fishing boats at Anses-D’Arlet beach in Martinique

“For us it’s a way of life, not a slogan,” says Patrick Duchel, the leader of the TakTak Network, an association of farmers, fishermen, chefs and agri-tourism operators who are trying to carve a living out of tourism and at the same time preserve their culture.

While eating locally is a movement that is well underway across North America, it’s a concept new to Martinique where agricultural production devoted to sugar cane, pineapple and banana exports means 80% of the food is imported.

Martinique Food Heritage

Located in the Lesser Antilles island chain of the Caribbean, Martinique’s cuisine is an inventive blend of French haute cuisine and Creole culinary traditions drawn from a mix of African, Indian and Caribbean influences.  TakTak believes that by building on such diversity, culinary tourism can boost the local economy in a way that sustains residents’ way of life instead of trampling it.

Lush views around every corner in Martinique

My culinary adventure begins in the north of the island. Here, the road criss-crosses past beaches of black volcanic sand, lush rainforest and deep canyons shadowed by cloud-shrouded Mount Pelee, the devastating volcano that erupted in 1902. Driving is a stomach-churning corkscrew ride around pitons, dramatic rock outcroppings that emerge like teeth out of the landscape.

Finally, we reach the TakTak headquarters, located in a restored stone cottage, where culinary workshops introduce visitors to cuisine inspired by the Creole garden. Outside, hummingbirds flit between tangles of dasheen (leafy cabbage), giraumon (squash) and yams.

Tour of Creole garden in Martinique

“Every home used to have a garden that produced enough to sustain a family throughout the year,” says Duchel. “Now everyone heads to the supermarket and we’re losing our traditional knowledge of how to grow and prepare food.”

Breakfast in Martinique

A pretty madras tablecloth

Breakfast is a colourful affair. A madras tablecloth of cinnamon, orange and yellow is topped by pitchers of guava juice and a platter of salty-sour hareng fume (smoked cod) surrounded by shaved cucumber, carrots and lettuce. A gratin of christophene(chayote) and baked ti-nain, a tiny banana, anchors the offerings.

Don’t Miss Le Carbet Beach Restaurant

True beach dining with Chef Guy Ferdinand

Next, we head to Le Carbet on the Caribbean Coast, to sample contemporary interpretations of local fare under the creative direction of artisan-restauranteur Guy Ferdinand. A keen supporter of sustainable local producers, Le Petibonum is a  restaurant close to his heart. His menu, inspired by the sea and the senses, includes a lusciously smooth avocado puree shrimp cocktail, grapefruit salad and a platter of shrimp, lobster and ouassou (fresh water crayfish) so dripping with juices that we’re forced to bathe in the sea and scrub our hands with sand to wash off.

Avocado puree shrimp cocktail

Avocado puree shrimp cocktail

“It’s inspiring to revive the flavours of the past and merge them with the techniques of today,” says Chef Ferdinand who relies on artisans such as Ziouka Glaces to supply him with unique offerings such as manioc ice-cream. The hand-drafted creation pays homage to the island’s slave ancestry who once relied on the root vegetable as a dietary staple.

Ilet Madame in Martinique

Ilet Madame in Martinique

Exploring Ilet Madame in Martinique

The commitment to preserving the past also extends to Ilet Madame, a protected island archipelago on the Atlantic Coast. Here we take a picnic excursion by boat and munch on Martinique’s version of tapas, accras de morue (crisp fritters made of cod) accompanied by ti-punch, a powerful aperitif made of aged Martinique rhum, cane syrup and lime juice. The calm waters are ideal for swimming and it’s possible to see starfish and other marine life in the clear waters.

Culture and History at La Savane des Esclaves

Gilbert Larose

Gilbert Larose is the host of this cultural and culinary tour

Further south in Trois-Ilets, at la Savane des Esclaves, Gilbert Larose has taken guerrilla gardening to a whole new level in his quest to preserve island history. Beginning by planting a few plants on an abandoned piece of land, he’s now added several huts, built using the same techniques slaves would have used in the early 1800’s. Now, he serves lunch, a hearty cabri (goat) stew topped with delicate skewers of dorado.

“In the old days we’d cook communally and talk about our troubles together,” he says “Now, we’ve lost that part of our culture.”

Remote island off the coast of Martinique

The future holds even more challenges. According to the University of Hamburg in Germany, islands in the Caribbean are expected to be severely impacted by global warming due to rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms. Mountainous islands such as Martinique, where 80% of the population lives on the coast, will be particularly affected.  Many believe that the traditions of the past can help islanders deal with an uncertain future.

Stay at a Martinique Gîtes de France

Welcome to my Gite

The next day, I wind up my culinary tour at a Gîtes de France, one of the island’s  vacation rental homes. More than a room for the night, these accommodations which range from quaint Creole cottages to luxurious villas are opportunities to sample Martinician rural life and often, cuisine.

Dine steps from the beach in Martinique

At one home/restaurant combo just steps from the fishing boats at Grand Anse, I’m offered crab-stuffed rock lobster, plantain and boudin noir, a sausage made of fresh pig’s blood, French bread and spices wrapped in intestine.

Boudin is part of the beach dining experience in Martinique

Despite my reticence, I pick up my fork.  When it comes to authentic local culture and Martinique food, there’s no better way to dive in.

Martinique: A Food Lover's Guide

Martinique Food, Drink and Restaurant Travel Planner

Getting Around: You’ll need to rent a car to explore this mountainous island fully. Brush up on your French language skills as well. Even a few of the basics will help you navigate your way award this French-speaking island.

Le Petibonum Restaurant in Le Carbet : www.babaorum.net

Gîtes de France: www.gitesmartinique.com

Neisson Rhum Agricole: When in Martinique, be sure to visit an agricole rhum producer such as Neisson or another along the rum trail. Unlike other countries where rum is produced from molasses, Martinique’s rum is produced from sugar cane juice. This means it preserves the subtle nuances of the terroir where the sugar cane is grown, much like fine wine reflects the growing conditions of the grapes.

La Savane des Esclaves: www.lasavanedesesclaves.fr

Martinique Tourist Office: www.lamartinique.ca Phone: 514-844-8566


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Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 11 comments
  • Sand in My Suitcase

    It’s been years since we visited Martinique, but we recall loving the food and French island flavour. Maybe it’s time for a return trip? Thanks for the great read…

  • Lesley Peterson

    What a colorful, flavorful destination! I’d love to try the cod fritters, a grapefruit salad and the manioc ice cream. Kudos to to all, everywhere, who work to keep traditional agriculture – and recipes – alive.

  • Irene

    I’ve never been to Martinique. Going “gite” and local seems like the way to visit!

  • Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it

    Your beautiful photos and story is drawing me to this paradise. I couldn’t help but feel the sadness of the islander that explained how people aren’t self-reliant much anymore.

  • Michelle

    Martinique looks like such a beautiful island and the food looks amazing. What more can you ask for. Thanks for the information on getting there. I love your photos of the mountains and the locals!

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    What what I see here, Martinique reminds me of St. Lucia. I’m sire I would like it, as I LOVE St. Lucia!

  • Nancy Thompson

    Beautiful photos! What an interesting and tasty way to explore a culture – through food. It’s the glue that binds us all together.
    Wonderful information on a stunning destination. I need to visit for sure. Thank you

  • The GypsyNesters

    Your photos have us retro-drooling for rock lobster! We’ve never been to Martinique, but lived in the Caribbean for a decade. It always blows us away how different the cuisine is from island to island. So glad you were able to experience the dishes “first hand” and thank you for sharing!

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    I’ve been wanting to visit Martinique for a long time. It’s beauty is what has attracted me, but I am pleased to discover that the food is an equal draw. Can’t wait!

  • Susan

    Oooh! Jealous! I write about food, too, and your adventure on Martinique looks delicious!

  • alison @GreenWithRenvy

    I am so glad to see this movement in Martinique Michele. Islands in particular really need to focus on becoming more sustainable. We were recently in St. Martin and saw the same thing starting to happen at the restaurants. Looks like you had some mighty tasty food!

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