In the French brasserie/bistro-style of dining the concept is simple – serve fine, refreshing and wholesome meals without sacrificing flavor or quality. It’s this concept that brothers Clement and Luke Ducasse have brought to The Bahamas with their restaurant Island Brothers & Cie (French for company) on the western end of the island.
The Ducasses have French chefs working together to produce a fusion between what the Ducasses term “momma’s cuisine” revisited in a new, lighter style to bring to diners what they want to eat – food that’s organic, fresh and healthy. The French Mediterranean cuisine is prepared with local products.
At Island Brothers & Cie (IB&CIE) they pride themselves on the quality products offered. Case-in-point, the restaurant’s signature items are their meats, which they source from Australia, Japan and Scotland to ensure they serve the best quality they can find.
“We’ve got some of the best meat in the world,” said Luke. “People know every time they come to the restaurant to have some meat they’ll be very happy. For people that really love meat, they’re never disappointed.”
Case-in-point, the Côte De Boeuf (Scottish Aberdeen beef rib selected by Olivier Metzger, 900 grams) which they serve tips the scale at approximately two pounds.
On my first visit to Island Brothers & Cie, located in the Lyford Cay Plaza, I had to order the Côte De Boeuf, a signature item, which I ordered with potato gratin dauphinoise alongside a green salad.
It has amazing taste and flavor that can almost be described as intense, having been harvested from animals that are grass-fed which means the meat is taken to the next level.
The Côte De Boeuf itself has its place in the history of classic French gastronomy. This delicious choice cut of beef is characterized by its natural fat covering and succulence from being matured and cooked on the bone. The well-marbled meat caramelized upon cooking, and coupled with the dry age maturing techniques, made for naturally tender meat with outstanding flavor. It was exquisite eating.
As outstanding as the beef was, the potato gratin dauphinoise refused to be outshone. The crème de la crème of potato dishes, it’s the most decadent of side dishes and an irresistible creamy potato side dish of potatoes cooked with cream and garlic. At Island Brothers & Cie, they get it right. (Actually, it’s a hard dish to get wrong.)
There is also a Côte De Veaux Aux Champignons (veal chop with mushroom sauce), and a Filet De Boeuf Black Onyx (beef filet from Australia’s Rangers Valley Farm, one of the most respected premium marbled beef producers that specializes in long fed pure Black Angus and Wagyu cross breeds to bring to consumers the highest quality, best tasting, consistently tender and delicious beef).
Wait staff Jason Hollingsworth suggested the IB&CIE charcuterie board as a starter, which he said is a must and he proceeded to whip out the display of their offerings on my recent visit, which included a Corsican charcuterie Coppa, Lonzo and a saucisson truffé (truffle sausage), which certainly assail your sense of smell in a good way; but the one that drew me was the pungent, intoxicating smell of truffles emanating from the truffle sausage. Anything with truffles, I have to have it.
The IB&CIE board is composed of the Island Brother’s selection of 50 grams each of their charcuterie which turned out to be a pretty healthy portion. It was outstanding and although all of the offerings were delicious, my favorite of the three was the truffle sausage. As the evening progressed, I noticed many diners opting to start their meal with the charcuterie board which seems to be top seller.
The Island Brothers’ sweet ending simply rounded out a delicious meal. I opted for the tarte tatin, a French-style apple tart (because when in Rome you should do as the Romans do, so when in a French Mediterranean restaurant, well …) which combines sweet apples and pastry in a heavenly dessert. And the staff will warn you that the portion sizes are generous enough to be shared. It came drizzled with caramel sauce and crème anglaise, which I enjoyed with a cappuccino for my perfect ending.
Outside of the delicious meats, their main concern is freshness which means doing everything from scratch, which obviously makes for a more compact menu.
Where some people may be accustomed to dining at restaurants with huge lists covering the gamut of pizzas, pastas, meat, poultry and fish, and prepared in almost every way imaginable – Island Brothers & Cie has the same concept, but instead would only serve one of each. (And at some point in the evening they’re going to run out of certain things on the menu, because they cook from fresh. Luke says if they’re in a slow period they would opt to roast four chickens as opposed to 10, and once they’re gone – they’re gone.)
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Island Brothers & Cie also offers a wonderful selection of libations from champagnes to wines, and an impressive cocktail selection which Luke himself curated with a master French mixologist in his bid to bring European flavors to the island. And you will find Luke himself behind the bar ensuring that his cocktails are served up consistently delicious every time.
On the set 11-cocktail menu are delicious offerings like the Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s, lemon juice, ginger ale, simple syrup, cucumber and fruit); Spritz (Aperol and Proseco); B-Mule (vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint and ginger beer); Rum Dum (Plantation three star, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white and dark rum); Bye Bye Baby (fresh raspberry infused vodka, lime juice and simple syrup); and Jailbreaker (gin, Chambord, lime juice, fresh mint and ginger ale).
There are even cocktail/rum recommendations offered to complement and pair with the four-item dessert menu. Calvados is recommended with the tarte tatin; the Rum Plantation XO with the chocolate moelleux (molten chocolate cake); a Vodka special infusion cocktail with the cheesecake; and Limoncello with the verrine citron meringuee (lemon meringue pie, revisited).
Before Island Brothers & Cie in its bistro-brasserie style of dining opened its doors, the Ducasse brothers’ concept was originally to do a café on the western side of the island, but it morphed into the restaurant it is today, because they felt the demand was much bigger than just a place for coffee, drinks and bakery items.
“We’re not trying to be pretentious; we’re not trying to overdo it. The only thing is we like using very high-quality products, so we’ve got very good beef in our restaurant and we try and work with fresh fish all the time, or lobster…whatever is on season. The freshness is our main concern, and every day we do everything from scratch.”
The restaurant opened its doors in August 2018 and in the 10 months they’ve been serving up momma’s upscale cuisine, they’ve changed the menu many times to ensure that their offerings are always fresh for people that are in the Lyford Cay area and can dine at Island Brothers & Cie regularly.
“In France, we have a daily special for lunch, so every day on the menu you can come and have something different,” said Luke. It’s a style of dining that he thinks is catching on with local Bahamians.
With that said, they produce three menus daily covering lunch and dinner, and brunch on Saturdays.
“For me the most important is to make local Bahamians discover what we do. It’s good to work with people that understand what we’re doing – the Europeans and everything, but for me, making people discover something they’ve never had, or never tried, or never seen before is even more exciting.”
The Ducasses have recently also introduced a Brazilian BBQ concept to the restaurant which simply involves fire, smoke, large cuts of meat and simple seasonings. When they fire up the grill, Luke said it’s an event as people can watch the chef prepare their food, and then enjoy eating it.
While they pride themselves on the cuisine offered, service is also of utmost importance to the restaurateur who says every client is important, and that it’s a concept they’ve ensured that their staff are well aware of.
“There is no person…not because they spend more money they’re more important, or because they’ve got more money they’re important. Everyone to me is very important. As soon as they walk into the restaurant I want them to have a nice experience.”
And ensuring that the vision for Island Brothers & Cie remains at a high standard, they have brought in a French chef and sous chef to ensure that the kitchen work is quick and smooth as everything is done by-the-minute. The service team, he said, has also been trained to serve Parisian style.
“The way we work is very Parisian in the sense that we’re a small team and work at some speed because people want to enjoy a nice meal, but don’t want to wait forever to get their food or their drinks, so when I arrived on the island and went around, you often wait for a long time, and that’s good when you have time, but not good when you don’t – it gets a bit frustrating,” he said.
Island Brothers & Cie, located in the Lyford Cay Plaza, can seat approximately 50 inside and approximately another 40 outside. Restaurant hours are Tuesday through Saturday 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.