Antigua was my most recent fun in the sun vacation and might even be my new favourite island in the Caribbean. There are over 300 beaches in this tropical paradise, each one just as beautiful as the next. This small island with less than 100,000 people is home to some of the most breathtaking coral reefs in that part of the Caribbean.
In January 2020 I stayed at the Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa. It is a small resort in the St. John’s area and situated on Deep Bay Beach. I could easily make this entire post about the beauty of Antigua but my true purpose is to talk about gluten free dining at this luxurious resort.
The Royalton Antigua has 4 à la carte restaurants, 3 of which are unlimited. Most resorts you only get to have 3 à la carte meals, but here you can enjoy as many as you would like. They also have a buffet, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a specialty coffee and ice cream shop, and a pub.
When I travel I always email the hotel ahead of time. I explain that I am celiac and require a strict gluten free diet. I ask who I should meet with upon arrival to discuss my dining options. Because this resort had recently opened I was more vigilant than ever to make sure they could accommodate my needs.
Upon arrival, I met with the Food & Beverage Manager. We discussed which restaurants would be best at accommodating my dietary needs. He was very eager to help me have a great dining experience during my stay. Once again, as a new resort, they did have some kinks to work out, but I was able to help them understand what was expected of chefs and staff during my stay.
Buffets can be challenging for people with celiac disease because of cross-contamination. You have to get to know the right chefs and make sure they have a good understanding of what gluten free means. While I was there I met many fine chefs, more than capable of meeting my dietary needs. For breakfast and lunch, the buffet was the only choice as all of the restaurants were only open for dinner. Breakfast was easy because I ate omelets and fresh fruit every day. Lunch and dinner were a little more tricky, but I knew how to get around it. I knew which chef’s to speak to. I would find one, tell them what I wanted to eat and they would have it made fresh for me in the kitchen. One day I was craving french fries, but their fryers often share other items. The chef said no problem. He went to the kitchen, put fresh oil in a pot, and made me a plate of fries. It took some time for the oil to heat up and I felt a little bad that he had to do that, but the fries were excellent.
Dining à la carte. There were 2 restaurants capable of meeting my needs. The steak house and the Italian restaurant. The steak house was my favourite because, well, I love steak. The head chef in that restaurant was probably the most educated of all of the chefs when it came to gluten free cuisine. He came directly to my table and took my order. He said I could have whatever I wanted and he would adapt it so it was gluten free. What a gem he was. The steak was high quality and cooked to perfection. The french onion soup was delicious. My only sadness was desert. The only desert in the entire resort I could eat was crème brûlée. It was good but has never been my favourite so I only had it a couple of times.
The Italian restaurant had gluten free pasta. When they took my order they asked what kind of sauce I would like and what I wanted in it. The mushroom risotto was to die for. I think it was my favourite dish. Yes, there were hiccups here and there because they were new, but they tried very hard to make sure I could eat whatever I wanted.
The specialty coffee and ice cream shop. When I first met with the Food & Beverage Manager, one of the things I asked was that all of the staff in restaurants, bars, etc. would show me the container of an ingredient so I could read the label. I have to say they were all very good about it. Whether I was at the coffee shop or the bar if I asked to see an ingredient label they would go to the back and bring one out for me.
All in all my dining experience was excellent. I highly recommend you travel to Antigua and stay at this resort. Just make sure you let them know ahead you are coming and set up that meeting with the F&B Manager.