A Chat with Chef Johan de Jager of Queen’s Gardens Restaurant on Saba Island in the Caribbean
Saba is not only an island. It’s also a rock, a beautiful rock just off of St. Maarten jutting out into the sky in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a small rock, too, where everyone knows everyone and the lodging and dining options are few. Lucky for visitors, some of them are also spectacular.
A 12-minute flight on a tiny Winair plane will get you to Saba, which is home to about 16,000 residents living throughout the island’s villages. The rock has come to be known as the “Unspoiled Queen.” It’s an apt appellation with its flowers and trees all around and its gorgeous rain forests filled with palms and exotic fruits. Divers come from all around to experience scuba spots known for the being some of the best in the world.
The crown jewel of the island is surely the Queen’s Gardens Resort. The property sits in Troy Hill, presiding 12,000 feet over the capital of Saba, called The Bottom, with sweeping views of the rainforest the mountains, and the sapphire blue seas. It’s a small luxury resort, featuring 12 lusciously elegant suites, each occupying its own floor, whose architecture is a gloriously representative of both the style and traditions of Saba.
The property boasts an intimate spa, a multi-lingual staff, an outdoor bar, and an inviting pool. Owner Claire Vebeke-Nuyens describes it as “an upscale, casually chic, and elegant hotel” Barefoot refinement at its best. Not surprisingly, they also offer an impressive restaurant by the same name as the resort.
It offers some truly unique dining features, as Vebeke-Nuyens explains, “The restaurant is set amid lush mountain gardens with an excellent view of the Saba capital and the Caribbean Sea.”
Guests looking for a truly unique and romantic experience can advantage of a private dinner in the gazebo located on the outside terrace. The restaurant offers a mix of Caribbean dishes and a fusion of east and west cuisine, with a French influence.
The restaurant boasts an extensive wine list and a la carte menu. And the views get only better perched from the ‘Birds Nest,’ a deck situated in a 100-year-old mango tree where guests can arrange a private dinner.”
Though not a large property, the resort still manages to have its own organic garden. “The hotel sits on very rich soil,” explains Vebeke-Nuyens. “We want to provide and fulfill the demands for the best organic products for our clients.” They also have an extensive wine collection, quite unusual for a restaurant on an island of this size. The reason why is simple. “I’m a wine lover,” Vebeke-Nuyens shares. “We have wines from all over the world, with the biggest selection being the French wines, but surely all new wine countries are represented as well. We work with three different wine suppliers in order to maintain a wide variety. The list keeps growing because our guests love the long list and that motivates us to keep expanding.