A simple beach shack like this is probably the last place you’d expect to enjoy a 5-course gourmet meal, but that’s exactly what I got when I visited Le Petibonum during my most recent visit to Martinique last month.
I’ve been to Martinique many times in the past few years and had heard of Le Petibonum before, but to say that it exceeded my expectations would be a large understatement. In all my travels, I have never been anywhere that better combines the rustic allure of Caribbean beach shacks with world class cuisine.
Le Petibonum is the brainchild of local chef Guy Ferdinand, who fancies himself as more of an artist than anything else. When you see and taste his dishes, you quickly realize why. Just look at the starter dish from my 5-course lunch below. It’s so beautiful, I wasn’t sure if I should eat it, or hang it on a wall. I ate it, of course, and yeah, it tasted even better than it looks!
One of the great things about Le Petibonum is that you can always be sure that the food is fresh. That’s because Guy is a strong supporter of the local farmers and fishermen in Martinique. The succulent freshwater crawfish I enjoyed as part of the 3rd course are farmed in the rainforest hills above Le Carbet in an area called Morne Vert. The tuna, also in the 3rd course, were caught by a local fisherman in the town of Bellefontaine just a few miles to the south.
As you can probably tell, I loved the 3rd course. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it would have to be #4, a simply amazing take on the national dish of Martinique, Colombo. Usually served over rice on a plate, Guy’s chicken Colombo was presented in a vacuum sealed bale jar with breadfruit subbing for the rice. I seriously wished that jar was bottomless.
Like a lot of great chefs, Guy is also a bit of a character. He has a wild, mad scientist look that fits with his inventive, contemporary interpretation on local cuisine. He also sports a very distinctive trademark “uniform” – traditional chef’s coat up top, cut-off jeans below – that’s in keeping with the dichotomy that is his gourmet beach shack. It also explains his nickname: Chef Hot Pants.
Whether you’re in hot pants, a bikini or a business suit, it all works here. The vibe is very laid back – light waves caress the shore as soothing bossa nova-themed melodies by Nicola Conte fill the air. All the while cooling mist is sprayed periodically from above, keeping the sun’s heat at bay; just awesome.
Le Petibonum is located directly on the beach in the village of Le Carbet in northern Martinique. It’s well-known and easy to find; just ask for Chef Hot Pants and you can’t go wrong.