Barrier Beach House, The Dining Experience

Nobody travels to the South Pacific for its culinary excellence.  Reasons for traveling to places like Vanuatu are more likely to be because of its climate, the scenery, the culture, the laid-back pace, and the welcoming and friendly people.

Dinner starts at 7pm.

Dinner starts at 7pm.

I believe the dining experiences in places like Fiji and Vanuatu are improving but just at an ‘Island Time’ pace so in very slow increments.

A wee bit like the Opera House

A wee bit like the Opera House

Dining options on Santo are limited and after visiting a few different restaurants and restaurants within resorts, we preferred to dine at the Barrier Beach House not only because of the convenience but also because the meals presented are consistently reliable and good family cooking.

Freshly baked bread cooling

Freshly baked bread cooling

We found dining at the Beach House to be more like being a guest in someone’s home rather than a restaurant experience.

Tropical fruit platter

Tropical fruit platter

Shendel, one of the managers of Barrier Beach House is a home cook who has trained two of her staff, Sylvia and Flavia to cook for guests.  Being native to Vanuatu, these women are not cooking dishes they grew up eating so you have that issue where they’re not cooking with instinct but rather following a recipe and creating something that to them, is quite foreign.

Breakfast breads

Breakfast breads

Included in your tariff is a continental breakfast.  This is fairly basic and is the same every day.  It includes orange juice, three types of cereal, a platter of tropical fruits, and freshly baked bread and banana bread.

Lunch on the verandah

Lunch on the verandah

For an additional charge of $10.00 you can have eggs any way you like with bacon.  I ordered poached eggs and bacon most days and the eggs were always perfectly cooked with soft runny yolks.

Half a BLT baguette

Half a BLT baguette

The bread certainly isn’t Celia’s sourdough nor anyone’s type of sourdough but it is bread that’s made on the premises.  I wasn’t actually a fan of the recipe and found the bread to be more like a gluten-free loaf with a cakey crumb and the kind of bread that goes soggy as soon as a poached egg is placed on it.  It didn’t have a lot of flavour and I’m not sure that any salt was added to the mixture.  I really think it would benefit from a pinch (or two) of salt.  I don’t think salt is an ingredient normally used by the people of Vanuatu.

A good spot for lunch

A good spot for lunch

If you would like lunch it is available and there is a reasonable selection of items that are moderately priced.  If you’re heading out for the day, the staff at the Beach House are more than happy to pack up a picnic for you to take on your journey.  We used that option several times.

Outdoor dining

Outdoor dining

On the lunch menu there are things like frittata with salad, hamburgers with chips, beer battered fish and chips, caesar salad, and toasted sandwiches and baguettes with your choice of a range of fillings.  The baguettes are very generous in size and we often had them cut in half and shared them with a bowl of chips.  Prices for lunch ranged between 1000 vt ($12.00) and 1800 vt ($20.00).

BBQ night - green salad

BBQ night – green salad

The dinner menu is a set menu where there is just once choice available.  If you intend to dine at the Beach House that evening you need to let the staff know before midday.  All main courses cost 2500 vt ($30.00) or 3300 vt ($38.00) with dessert included.  Even though children are served the same meal and the same sized meal, there is a reduced price for children.

The buffet

The buffet

On our first night we were introduced to the Gourmet Barbecue.  This included marinated chicken, beef skewers, hamburger patties and prawns with a variety of salads.  This was served buffet style.  Because it was our first night I thought all meals would be served in this manner but it’s only the gourmet bar-be-cue nights that are a buffet.

BBQ night - potato salad

BBQ night – potato salad

On our next night we had chicken with a lime butter sauce, potato rosti and seasonal vegetables.  This was perfectly fine although not something I’d like to recreate at home but what I did find at the Beach House is that they provide good honest cooking that is perfectly edible and the type of meal everyone in the family will enjoy.

Chicken with a lime butter sauce

Chicken with a lime butter sauce

We had quite a few pasta nights and these were served with a bowl of salad and plenty of garlic bread.  As we were doing a lot of energetic things during the day, I really looked forward to these carb-nights however, it did occur to me that $30.00 is quite a high price for a bowl of pasta.  But you’d be hard-pressed to find a meal that good at a lower price anywhere on Santo.

Spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese

My one issue with the pasta is that I don’t believe any salt (here I go again), was added to the pasta’s cooking water.  You do always need to add a little salt to bring out the flavor of the pasta however, again, I don’t think the people of Vanuatu are used to adding salt to their cooking.

Pasta night with garlic bread

Pasta night with garlic bread

My favourite night was the Santo beef night where we were able to experience the wonderful organic free-range grass-fed beef.  Again, I was hoping this would be served with either a bearnaise sauce or a horseradish cream but it was smothered in a creamy balsamic sauce that underwhelmed me.  However, the beef was amazing.  We asked for it to be cooked rare and it definitely was.  This meal seemed to be better value for money.

Santo eye-fillet of beef with creamy balsamic sauce

Santo eye-fillet of beef with creamy balsamic sauce

I didn’t actually ever order a dessert but for Archie and Alfie it was an essential part of the day’s experience.  There is always a choice of desserts and the dessert menu consists of things like brownies and ice cream, sticky date pudding and ice cream and caramelised bananas with ice cream.  For both boys, their favourite was definitely the caramelised bananas.

Caramelised bananas with ice cream

Caramelised bananas with ice cream

We stayed at the Beach House for almost two weeks where the average stay is usually five to seven days.  So the menu is geared for a stay of a week or less and so is on a one-week rotation.  We found it a little repetitive however, you can walk across the sand to Moyyan or go into Luganville and perhaps try the Chinese.

Creamy chicken pasta

Creamy chicken pasta

I don’t know if our palettes are salt-conditioned but we all found the food to be under-seasoned and we were continually reaching for the dish of salt.  I also found that towards the end I was desperate for something spicy but when you’re cooking one dish for all guests, I guess you have to choose dishes that everyone will enjoy – not everyone likes spice!

Chicken casserole

Chicken casserole

Overall, we all found the food at the Beach House to be the most consistently reliable on Santo.  Dinner is always served on the dot of 7pm which is remarkable for people living on ‘Island Time’.  Dinner is always generously proportioned and the food prepared is mostly organic.  While everything we ate was well received and greatly enjoyed, I would have preferred more bar-be-cue nights as to me, cooking outdoors is synonymous with summer.

A perfectly blue ocean

A perfectly blue ocean

Verdict:  Satisfying home cooking.

Reclining before dinner

Reclining before dinner

Barrier Beach House:  Barrier Beach, Espiritu Santo

Ph:  + 678 7105360

 

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Comments

  1. The pictures look like you have the place to yourselves. Are there a lot of other guests or is it relatively quiet. Looks marvelous! I remember only having a few good meals in the South Pacific, but one of them really stood out. This looks like decent home cooking. But like you said, I’d be more interested in the beach and the relaxation. 🙂

  2. Just being in this warm and beachy place would make me happy right now.

  3. I’d much prefer to have home style meals than linen table cloths and hovering waiting staff on a holiday – but like you say you realise you need a little spice in your life after two weeks. It looks like you all had a lovely family holiday and you certainly picked a beautiful spot.

  4. Apart from underseasoned, the food looks really good. I’d enjoy every bite.

  5. Wow Charlie… I’ve never ever travelled to the South Pacific, but it looks divine! Thank you for sharing.

  6. I would have definitely thought they would have bbq-ed more, but it sounds like you guys ate well nonetheless! Though, to be fair, the no salt thing would have driven me CRAZY.

  7. I would have definitely thought they would have bbq-ed more, but it sounds like you guys ate well nonetheless! Though, to be fair, the no salt thing would have driven me CRAZY.

  8. This place really looks laid back – a great spot for relaxing for sure and at least the food was made from scratch. Charlie – I have thoroughly enjoyed being on vacay with y’all -at least through your pictures and posts 😉
    xxs

  9. Looks like such fun–and to me part of the vacation is not having to cook, not that I don’t love it when the timing is good. I want to be where Archie is…reading on the outdoor couch.

  10. It is always so interesting reading about places you have never been to and the food that they serve – thanks for sharing Charlie.

  11. It’s a shame the bread and pasta were under seasoned as they really aren’t the same if they’re seasoned after cooking. It looks as if you had a pretty good selection to choose from and a laid back atmosphere to eat in. GG x

  12. At least there was plenty of food for your hungry men Charlie, and it does look like decent home-style cooking for sure. I wonder how they’d go with me and my allergies? Poor things, I’d probably offer to prepare my own if they’d let me 🙂 xo

  13. It looks like decent if not knocks your socks off kind of food 🙂 Oh I was hoping that you would be wowed by the chicken with lime butter as that sounded delicious!

  14. I think there are not enough food places in the world that give you the homely feeling. We get excited when we find places like that with homemade freshly cooked and prepared food. I think you came across a great place, I would feel quite comfortable there and I think I wouldn’t even want to leave. =)

  15. I feel really relaxed just looking at your dishes, so I am sure the food was quite tasty and suited to the atmosphere 🙂

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  16. I like the sound of the breakfasts – though I think travelling with a jar of vegemite might help the bread situation! Lunches would be fine but wonder if there would be vegetarian options! Though as you say, it is not all about the food!

  17. I often question whether my salt intake is at a healthy level when I travel, but then I figure its just that they are preparing foods designed for westerners. I dunno! The tukka looks like good home cooked food, I wouldn’t say no.

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