“A little restaurant on a little island” is how Julie Lightbourn describes her restaurant, called Sip Sip (Bahamian slang for “gossip”), which she opened on the Bahamas’ Harbour Island in 2002. The menu is simple, and native Bahamian Lightbourn lives upstairs with her husband and only opens her restaurant at lunchtime, and closes it down during the off-season. The menu changes daily according to what ingredients Lightbourn is brought by her network of local farmers and fishermen, but a handful of items are always available: spicy conch chili, traditional boil fish with johnnycakes (Sundays only), curried chicken salad, homemade ice cream, a burger, a grilled hot dog, and usually a lobster quesadilla. A variety of tropical cocktails and rum punches round it out. The low-key restaurant has been packed since it first opened, and it made enough of an impact that the folks at the legendary Paradise Island destination Atlantis took notice: A second location of Sip Sip has opened on the newly-renovated beachfront deck and poolside at The Cove, Atlantis’ luxury resort.
Sip Sip’s “barefoot Bahamian” vibe has made it one of Harbour Island’s most popular restaurants, and its low-key atmosphere, great cocktails, and commitment to using fresh, local Bahamian ingredients in its simple and honest fare made it the perfect choice for Atlantis, which has been working hard in recent years to incorporate as much authentic Bahamian food and culture into its offerings as possible. The Paradise Island resort goes all-out in its celebration of Junkanoo (a boisterous street parade and carnival held every Boxing Day); all employees’ nametags include which island they’re from; and the resort has brought in other popular local restaurants, including McKenzie’s Fresh Fish and Conch and Frankie Gone Bananas, to bolster their authentic Bahamian culinary offerings.
At The Cove, which opened in 2007 as a luxurious 600-room all-suite “white-sand sanctuary,” a recently-completed renovation of the pool area has changed up the color scheme and spiffed up the private cabanas, and Sip Sip is now providing all the food and drink for guests on the beachfront patio, in cabanas, or lounging by the pool, year round. The menu will be similar to the original location’s, with new local purveyors providing some of the ingredients (it’s a three-hour ferry ride from Harbour Island to Paradise Island, after all), plenty of daily specials, and everything cooked to order.
Up next for The Cove? In February, José Andrés will be opening a second location of his popular Caribbean restaurant Fish, which will focus on fresh seafood from local waters.