The Tamarind Hotel - Barbados

4 January 2011

Barbados does old-school glamour like no other resort. Joan Collins, Simon Cowell, Michael Winner, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Michael Caine, Philip Green and the Aga Khan are representatives of a denomination who have all been sprinkled with Barbados’ unique blend of Bajan aqua-marine stardust. There’s the Caribbean and then there’s Barbados.

tamarind by elegant hotels barbados

It may be residual from the heady days when Barbados was the only holiday destination on Concorde’s schedule. With a mere four-hour time difference with the UK and a flight time of just three hours 50 minutes, flamboyant globe trotters could be sipping a rum punch under a verdant palm before they actually left London. A moment in time which coincided with the exotic world of Alan Whicker and super-cool paper dresses that airline stewardesses would wear on the glamorous runs to Barbados in the 60’s.

tamarind by elegant hotels barbadosOr possibly it was when former prime minister Sir Anthony Eden bought Villa Nova; a plantation house in the hills where he entertained the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret, subsequently putting Barbados on the high society map. Hot on his heels was the socialite Ronald Tree who built the legendary Sandy Lane Hotel in the 1960s as a place for visiting friends to stay; the first guests were Baron and Baroness Guy de Rothschild. Over the years the Kennedy’s, Aristotle Onassis and Viscount Astor would all visit.

In 2004, Tiger Woods chose Sandy Lane’s immaculate golf resort The Country Club for his wedding with its stunning views of Barbados’ platinum coast (named after the area’s powdery white sand). Having recently undergone a £100m renovation, Sandy Lane is back to its glittering and effervescent best.

As you seemingly float through reception on a gentle Barbadian breeze, waiting is a fairytale cornucopia of marble, grand flowing staircases, dazzling sea views, rose-coloured crystal and the glorious candy floss-pink sun umbrellas creating a vibrant David Hockney-like splash.

Sandy Lane may be Barbados’ grand old dame but she isn’t the only place to stay on the Platinum Coast. This stretch on the west coast of the island is home to several gems, including the newly redesigned Tamarind in Paynes Bay, St. James. Resting on a 750-foot crescent of pristine sandy beach, this contemporary paradise is from the Elegant stable of hotels and has a refreshing indoor/outdoor feel with lounges and funky orange pods transforming pool areas into exterior ‘living rooms’ with the crystal sea literally yards from your sofa.

The new Aqua School offers a fantastic range of complimentary watersports and instruction ranging from paddle boarding (think of it as a slow surf with a paddle!) to snorkelling and waterskiing. It’s a fantastic destination for a family too with The Flying Fish Kids Club which offers fun and educational activities for the little ones.

Right next door to the Tamarind is the The House, also from the Elegant group. This is an adults-only beautiful beachfront retreat. An intimate and stylish boutique hotel with a South Beach feel – think dark wooden floors and brilliant white sofas combined with accents of Caribbean flair and visionary Bajan art.

It is also home to Daphne’s, one of the most famous restaurants on the island. Twinned with Daphne’s in London’s South Kensington, the Barbados version is as equally glamorous with the same delicious modern Italian fare, except here you can dine to the accompaniment of crashing Caribbean waves as opposed to the gentle hum of London traffic! The sunken cocktail bar is a nice feature and the Daphne’s signature watermelon martini is a must.

After indulging in a couple of the above, you may be in the mood to sample a little Barbadian nightlife. If so, grab your Jimmy Choos and head to the Lone Star in St. James, the current hotspot on the island. An exclusive boutique, restaurant and bar – the latter which has been described a ‘temple of cool’. Try the Bajan flying fish with sweet plaintain. However, our favourite nightspot was lively Second Street in Holetown, St. James and in particular the Lexy Piano Bar with its relaxed retro vibe and extremely talented piano players.

A visit to Barbados would not be complete without a sail on its iridescent turquoise waters. We headed out on the appropriately named Good Times catamaran which was a perfect way in which to capture a different view of the Platinum Coast. Our crew were only too happy to point out billion dollar properties and drop discreet hints relating to former cruisers, (including Tony Blair), whom it appears is a regular visitor. There was also an opportunity to swim with placid hawksbill turtles, snorkel over ancient shipwrecks and delight in a rum punch or three.

For an island that’s only 22 miles long and 14 miles wide, Barbados has managed to beat off stiff competition from the likes of St. Barts, Jamaica and St. Lucia. In the timeless and unerring glamour stakes, Barbados’ old-school reputation is quite safe.

A Pool Garden View Room at the Tamarind is £165 per room per night including breakfast. Rate based on stay in low season.

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CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of the Tamarind Hotel, Barbados.