Husband and wife duo Charlie Ranken and Stephanie Harris are bringing the unique flavours – and exuberant colour – of the Caribbean and American Gulf Coast to Melbourne with the opening of Saint Lucia.

Why Caribbean food?

On a trip through the Caribbean and the southern US we were blown away by this exciting, flavoursome cuisine! We were surprised there wasn’t a bigger representation of it back in Melbourne and we thought, we’ve got to share this with people!

Tell us more about your first encounters with the flavours of the Caribbean.

We spent the trip tasting and trying as many dishes and flavours as possible, speaking to locals and chefs, absorbing as much as we could about this amazing cuisine. From there we set about developing a concept that incorporated a modern interpretation of the dishes and flavours we’d fallen in love with.

How are you making the characteristics of the cuisine unique at Saint Lucia?

We try to incorporate a playful and fun element to the dishes, given our inspiration comes from a holiday through the region! One of our favourites is the Kokomo Kone; we were thinking of foods that evoke the idea of being on a holiday and an ice-cream cone came to mind. We thought, let’s do something unexpected with this; how about a savoury version? The final product is a handmade ‘sunset’ waffle cone filled with jerk barbecue glazed fried chicken, slaw, charred corn, lime mayo and candied scotch bonnet pieces.

What quintessential Caribbean dish does everyone need to eat at least once?

Jerk chicken! It’s so flavoursome, a great balance of heat, sweet, spice and smoke. For us it wasn’t just the flavour but the whole experience. There were aspects that were so familiar to us: the chicken is cooked on an outdoor barbecue; it’s a casual and social vibe; everyone’s enjoying the warm evening air; you’ve just stepped off the beach with sand in your thongs. The dish itself is quite unassuming then you take a bite and pow!

The décor at Saint Lucia is so much fun, what can you tell us about it?

We wanted to create a warm, welcoming and comfortable place that inspires the idea of being on a holiday without relying on the typical ‘tiki’ styling. You’ll find lush greenery, natural materials like wood and rattan, distinctive colours found in the Caribbean and keepsakes from our travels. Quite often we’ll hear customers point to something and say “that reminds me of our holiday to…”; we love that.

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