Hard to find if you don’t know where to look. My husband was convinced that somewhere around that bridge in Sandy Ground there had to be more than just houses. The place would have been perfect for a cafe – he said. And he was right. That is how he found Le Canal, an unpretentious cafe-restaurant with two entrances: one from a side street and the other from the canal, for those guests who come by boat.
Pascal, one of the owners, gives us a warm welcome. He is a wiry, tanned man, probably in his forties, with round protruding ears and a frisky look. He calls us ‘mes amis‘ and it works: we feel immediately at ease. We sit at the last table, by the water, next to the sea-side entrance. From here we can enjoy the boats passing by, or waiting for the bridge to open, and fishermen angling in the evening.
There are not many people, but it is obvious only because the cafe is quite spacious. At the bar a couple of men are drinking pastis, a typical French anise-flavored drink that took over the absinthe market when this became illegal. Next to us, a bunch of loud and tanned, middle-aged guys. It is four o’clock but they seem to have just finished drinking coffee and a vanilla rum after the usual lunch. No one seems to mind Stromboli walking freely around. On the contrary, they all seem amused when he starts barking at what might seem very scary creatures from above a well: lobsters.
Derrick orders a beer and bums a cigarette. I drink mint sirup and enjoy a few drags. For several sweet moments we imagine to be in one of these fishermen’s cafes in the province of France, namely a cute, rough and terrifically familiar place. We promise ourselves to come back for checking out the food too.
We lived up to the promise. Twice.
FOR LUNCH with my friend Marjan. We both ordered Crevettes à la Provençale, a fancy French name for lots of properly cooked shrimps with a nice buttery and herbal sauce paired with rice and salad. In other words, a very simple meal, unpretentious, yet tasty, in perfect harmony with the place and for a very good price.
FOR DINNER with Derrick. Great familiar atmosphere as usual, yet the place looked suddenly more romantic. We sat at what by now we consider ‘our spot’. I chatted with Pascal in my best French before ordering. I got half a lobster wonderfully scented with cognac. Alas, it was overcooked according to my liking, but nothing that would put me off. This place manages to give me such a happy mood that I suddenly start believing in second chances. Derrick ordered Lambi Creole and we both concurred that was the way to enjoy conch, a shell-fish typical of the island, that would finally change the mind of the many people who are still not convinced by its taste. Once again a great quality/price ratio.
In conclusion, Le Canal is not where you go when you want to show off your gourmet taste, nor a place where to fill your stomach with barbecue meat. Le Canal is the place that was missing in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. A place with a soul where you will enjoy being a regular customer, and feel like if the island is a little more yours.
Restaurant Le Canal, Rue Round Hill, Marigot (Sandy Ground), Saint Martin.