(Roseau, Dominique) The most talked about Caribbean restaurant at the moment is run by a small group of Quebecers, including chef Sutherland Haskell. The former chef of Vin Mon Lapin, one of the best tables in Montreal, has decided to start a new life in Dominica, to the delight of wealthier locals and tourists.

Let’s clear up any confusion before we go any further: Dominica is not the Dominican Republic. It is a small island located between Guadeloupe, to the north, and Martinique, to the south, renowned more for its wild nature and its hikes than for its beaches. It is also called the “nature island”. We visited in February, and ate at Lacou twice rather than once.

But it is in Soufrière Bay, on the southwestern tip of the island, that we first meet Sutherland. He stops for a quick “hello” on his way to the fishing boat where he’s picking up his mahi-mahi for the week. That’s the beauty of Dominica: a 30-minute switchback from the capital, a restaurant owner can buy magnificent fish straight from the hands of the fisherman.

As a child, Sutherland lived there for two years with his family. Her godmother still lives on the island. This is why, when he wanted to leave the Quebec metropolis and set sail, he chose Dominica. A new place where he can surf before going to work? It was the new lifestyle that the seeker of happiness was envious of.

In his early twenties, Sutherland had already made a first change of direction by abandoning his university studies in mathematics and statistics to devote himself to cooking. It was reading the essay The Third Plate, written by renowned American chef Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns, NY), that prompted him to enroll at the Institute. of tourism and hospitality in Quebec.

In the kitchens of the ITHQ, he met Jesse Hoffman, his partner at Lacou. Jesse has worked at the Montreal Plaza, among others. He was the first to embark on his friend’s “madness”. Then Alexandre Hallé Quinlan joined the tandem. Met a month before Sutherland’s move, at the bar of the Air Conditioned Room restaurant in Montreal, the man who had mainly worked in service, at the Bremner and the Majestique, had decided at the end of the drunken evening that he too was putting the heading to nature island! He now spends six months there each year.

A question of balance, Sutherland and Jesse also return to Montreal in turn, to see family and friends and recharge their batteries. Because Dominica may be full of natural treasures, populated by welcoming locals and stimulating expats, it lacks a bit of culinary diversity for chefs with seasoned taste buds.

The restoration of Dominica is limited to a few addresses of local cuisine serving typical plates composed of the classic trio protein, starches (called provisions) and vegetables. There are also a handful of very exclusive hotel restaurants, reserved for a wealthy clientele who stays on site. We also had the chance to have lunch and dinner at the new Coulibri Ridge Resort, owned by Quebecer Daniel Langlois. Its restaurant opens its doors a few times a year to day or evening visitors.

A very modern kitchen like that of Lacou, which opened in January 2022 in a historic house, was missing in the small capital Roseau. Without completely breaking the classic starter-main-dessert formula, the menu strongly encourages sharing and showcases as many island products as possible, including coffee and chocolate.

On the terrace or in the simple but elegant dining room, tourists in shorts and dressed up locals eat the catch of the day cooked in ceviche, tataki or simply roasted in the oven, local meats and local fruits and vegetables. season. Prices are in the upper range, for Dominica. We drank and ate very well for less than C$150, for two people. It’s far from excessive.

When we spoke to him again this week, Sutherland was delighted with the arrival of the first mangoes and the first grapefruits of the season. One of his fruit suppliers is also another ex-Montrealer, former train driver, called “Casper”. “We also found someone who can bring us lobsters every week,” exults the chef, who can also be seen in one of the episodes of the Expat Chefs series, this season, on Zeste.

The Lacou team has just had the busiest week in the restaurant’s short history. “We don’t do any advertising, but there is word of mouth. We are recognized as being the only slightly more gourmet table on the island. Hotels are happy to have a restaurant to send their customers to. »

Notice to those looking for a change of scenery, there is also a large apartment for rent above the restaurant and soon a bar in the basement. Long life to Lacou!